Kate Isenberg
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Kate Isenberg

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF

San Francisco, California, United States | SELF
Band Folk Acoustic


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



""Best Lyrics of 2010: Finalist""

"One of the best CDs of 2010." - INDIE ACOUSTIC PROJECT

""What the Editors Are Spinning: Kate Isenberg's THE TIME COMES ON HUMMING TRACKS""

Kate Isenberg's new CD, "THE TIME COMES ON HUMMING TRACKS" (2007), has been chosen by senior editor Teja Gerken for "What the AG Editors Are Spinning," a selection of the very best in new acoustic music. (May 2007 issue) - ACOUSTIC GUITAR magazine

""Infectious...impeccable songwriting""

Through lyrics jumping with references to fireflies and lovesickness, Kate Isenberg rides in on her third effort, The Time Comes on Humming Tracks. From her dripping sentimentality and intricate guitar work, Isenberg’s songs call to mind dreamy songwriters like Laura Veirs; and like Veirs, Isenberg’s material is rooted in natural imagery — April showers, melting ice, “grey turf,” streams and skies.

On “Streetcar to Grace,” she challenges the saying “All roads lead to Rome,” tying it, in some slightly confusing way, to having been done wrong. Isenberg is looking for the truth here, and continues to do so even after the song meets its imperfect end (her guitar cuts out in an arrhythmic way, while the drums keep pounding their battle march into the fade).

On “James,” a tune beckoning home a lost love, the narrator is driven to an ice cream stand, asking the question, “How could love go and leave me all alone with only a jingle man to ask me how I am?” “She Knows” focuses on telling the truth as Isenberg sings through all the things she’d like to tell the song’s subject: “If I ... never take a stand and tell her ... how I love the way she interrupted my soliloquy, [I’ll] make sure she knows.”

On “Fireflies,” guitar harmonics jump around like little dancing bugs, as Isenberg sings about missing the truth altogether in a relationship (“How blind was I”). On this track, slide whistle, shaker and the fits and starts of Isenberg’s guitar work especially well together, showcasing one of the most impressive arrangements on the album.
It’s this sort of instrumentation that makes Isenberg’s work so infectious. If there is a downside to The Time Comes..., it is in the somewhat non-emotive arc of Isenberg’s voice. More nuances between her “soft singing” and “singing hard” would make these songs soar even higher. This is, however, a small detractor from the album’s impeccable songwriting. (Three Roads Records)

-Kim Ruehl - PERFORMER magazine

""[Isenberg] sounds like the Indigo Girls on 'Galileo,' like Lucinda Williams on her less country-ish songs""

Imagine that it is the end of winter in a place that has four typical seasons. You are in your apartment, wearing fuzzy pajamas and a warm robe. Outside of your window, the wind stirs up the chill but the true harshness of winter has already subsided. You have just gotten over your winter cold, and you feel happy just to feel well. You are curled up on your favorite chair, your hands wrapped around a mug of hot tea. It’s dark tea, with a rich smoky flavor and you’ve accented it with a spill of cream and a dash of honey. You take the first sip, and the chill of winter fades away. You feel healthy and warm, not quite ready for spring but content to just sit at the end of winter in the comfort of this moment. Hold on to this feeling. This is the feeling of Kate Isenberg’s new CD THE TIME COMES ON HUMMING TRACKS.

The lyrics of the ten tracks on this CD hold in perfect balance this moment between winter and spring. They tacitly acknowledge that life is filled with winters … that there are difficulties in relationships, that there are complications within each of us, that there will sometimes be a chill in the air. But they flow along with the knowledge that there is spring beyond every winter, that there is possibility within people and their relationships, that there will always be warm cups of tea to ward away the cold. This idea can be summed up by a line in the first track (“Streetcar to Grace”) which conveys simple truth: “I think I may be lost: the first step to found”.

If Kate’s music is the feeling of warm tea enjoyed on a late winter day, her voice is the honey which laces that tea. It is the light sweetness that stands out amidst the smoky depths of her lyrics and her instrumentals. Those instrumentals are like the strong herbs of the drink. THE TIME COMES ON HUMMING TRACKS is filled with a number of different sounds – piano, mandolin, banjo. This is not a tea that has been watered down. But through these rich intricacies, Kate’s voice brings sweetness. You may drink the tea for the warmth, but you enjoy it for the honey.

You want to know who else Kate sounds like, don’t you? That’s the information most people seek from CD reviews. Well, she sounds like herself. But if I got pinned down, I’d explain that she has the indie-folk sound of singers established in that genre. She sounds like Indigo Girls on songs like “Galileo”, like Lucinda Williams on her less country-ish songs, like Beth Hart when her voice peaks on “L.A. Song”. But these comparisons matter less than the feeling that you’re left with when you’re listening to Kate’s CD in the comfort of your own apartment, knowing that all winters end.


""Five-Star Rating""

All Music Guide has awarded Kate Isenberg's 2007 release, THE TIME COMES ON HUMMING TRACKS, with a prestigious five-star rating, the highest honor awarded by the industry-standard rating system. - ALL MUSIC GUIDE

""'What I was after with this album was an artistic goal: to capture the essence of each song.'" [Interview with Kate Isenberg]"

Kate Isenberg is an amazing local singer-songwriter who has been working hard to carve out a career for herself in the creative arts. Hopefully you got a chance to check out my review of her recent CD release, The Time Comes on Humming Tracks. In this interview, Kate tells us about her work and gives us more insight into that CD.

Q: Tell us about your work.

A: My work in the arts is multi-faceted, reflecting three major areas of interest: music, illustration, and writing. Currently, music is the pursuit I devote my after-work resources to.

Q: What has been your greatest success? Setback?

A: My greatest success, in general terms, has been to carve out a life that allows me to continue pursuing my arts at a serious level. Our culture makes this hard, since the arts don’t often pay enough to live on until one is very successful, which may be years down the road, if ever. My greatest setback seemed, at first, to be my decision to step away from magazine editing, several years ago. After working very hard for five years for national magazines, it seemed a shame to not step up on that ladder, which I was prepared to do, from a resume standpoint. But stepping away from that world forced me to commit to my artistic endeavors more seriously. And, in the end, it clarified what does compel me about journalism, such as reviewing books.

Q: What are some favorite projects you’ve completed and why?

A: This year, I released my third collection of original songs, a CD called “The Time Comes on Humming Tracks.” Unlike my previous two records, this one was mixed and mastered by professional sound engineers to match the sound quality of any album you’d hear on the radio or in a music store. But this CD also has a special place for me personally because it’s the first complete work I’ve released that feels artistically realized. I composed the arrangements myself—a huge pleasure and challenge—and recorded most of the tracks myself, at home on my computer with a set of good microphones. I’ve always been fascinated by multi-track audio, ever since I first borrowed a 4-track Tascam analog tape recorder, in 1996. On that Tascam, I experimented with layering vocal harmonies and guitar lines on top of each other, and I saw the possibilities an artist could have—given some technical know-how and a lot of patience—to create a complex and rich sound scape. New-folk indie artists like Sam Beam, of Iron and Wine, reflect this; Sufjan Stevens takes it to a symphonic level. During my ten years or so as a songwriter, I’ve always wanted to create a collection of original songs that were sonically richer than the solo guitar and voice aesthetic that, by necessity, I’ve most often performed with. It’s not just about more harmonies, more guitars, more instruments. With today’s digital multi-tracking capabilities (much more advanced than that Tascam’s), it’s very easy to layer tons of audio tracks on top of one another. The best songwriters and arrangers out there, in my opinion, are the ones who use every track in service of the song’s particular aesthetic, its unique “backstory.” What I was after with this album was not a technical stunt, but an artistic goal: to find the combination of guitar, mandolin, piano, bass, drums, harmonies, and (in one instance) slide flute to capture the essence of each song, and the essence of my songwriting approach.

Q: What are some of your personal and/or professional goals for the future?

A: I hope to increase the amount of time I’m able to devote to my arts. This is a funding question, in large part, and requires that eventually the art pay for more of its own development. More time means more opportunity to devote myself to my craft, and to specific goals: another full-length CD, a longer work of fiction, a collection of my comic strips, for example. All of these are laborious endeavors with a necessary quota of unproductive time: time to daydream, time to be a novice, time for false starts. Then the productive time can begin, with more exploration and fool’s errands along the way. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the time required to market artistic works in our media-saturated society. Marketing is essential to making an income from the art, though. So it follows that time—as much of it as possible—is necessary for any serious artistic pursuit, let alone three. - SAN FRANCISCO VOICE

""Best Album of 2007: Finalist""

The Indie Acoustic Project, a U.S.-based organization that culls the best acoustic recordings from around the world for its annual best-of contest, has named Kate Isenberg's album THE TIME COMES ON HUMMING TRACKS as a finalist for the honor of Best Album of 2007 in the female-singer-songwriter category.

The IAP's distinguished winners list from recent years' contests includes Greg Brown, Allison Krauss, Vienna Teng, Kaki King, Catie Curtis, and Nickel Creek. This year's list of finalists also includes Cary Brothers, David Grisman, and Steve Earle. - INDIE ACOUSTIC PROJECT

""Exquisite production...sparkling voice""

Exquisite production spotlights this out Bay Area singer-songwriter's fresh, sparkling voice and intricate guitar arrangements while painting aural nignettes of urban lesbian life and love, as in the opening "Streetcar to Grace." --Eds. - CURVE magazine

""Best Unknown Folk Artist""

Kate Isenberg's debut album, "The Time Comes On Humming Tracks," is an excellent record. Her easy flowing, literate lyrics fly above her often intricate guitar work. I first discovered her work when asked to review her CD for another publication, and was so impressed with the album that I had to include her on this list.

Apparently, I'm not the only one paying attention, as Isenberg has since received great press from "The San Francisco Chronicle" and "Bitch" magazine, to name a few. Currently, her only dates are in the Bay Area, but that's sure to change as more people find out about her music, which calls to mind the work of Laura Veirs and some of Michell Shocked's early work ("Anchored Down in Anchorage," for example). --Kim Ruehl, "Folk" section editor, About.com - ABOUT.COM

""A soft-spoken marvel of a recording""

Feel like a good story? Bay Area native Kate Isenberg proves that the form is alive and well on "The Time Comes on Humming Tracks." Isenberg's affecting collection of acoustic vignettes deals primarily with reminiscences and regrets, and she tells them with alluring imagery and a charming, plainspoken delivery similar to Suzanne Vega's. "Time's a fearless foe with whom to play a childish chicken game," Isenberg observes over warm currents of mandolin on the gently rolling opener, "Streetcar to Grace"; it's a theme she revisits with intriguing detail throughout the CD, on departed-friend tribute "Celia" and the radiant "Coming Home," a nostalgic meditation that pulses and sparks with the intricate interplay of guitar, violin, train-track percussion, and multitracked vocals. A soft-spoken marvel of a recording. --Todd Lavoie - SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN


GOLD RUSH TOWN (2010) Full-length CD. Independent release by Three Roads Records.

THE TIME COMES ON HUMMING TRACKS (2007): Full-length CD. Independent release by Three Roads Records.

DOLORES PARK CAFE ANNIVERSARY (2007): CD sampler. Released by Dolores Park Cafe, San Francisco, CA. Features "James" by Kate Isenberg (track 2, selected by the cafe from a Bay Area-wide pool of singer-songwriters).

HUNTING THE ZODIAC (2007). Film soundtrack. Features "Long Winter," by Kate Isenberg. International release, DVD sales.

THAT'S WHAT I HATE ABOUT FEMALES (2006). Film soundtrack. Features "Long Winter," by Kate Isenberg, performed live by Kate Isenberg and Vassi Johri. National screenings.

INDIE SAMPLER VOLUME 8 (2005): CD sampler. Released by Strange Bird Songs. Features
"No Need" by Kate Isenberg (track 4), selected by label from a nationwide songwriter search; other contributors include Amy Ray and Michelle Malone).

MUSIC STEW VOLUME 2 (2005): CD sampler. Released by Bazaar Cafe. Features "No Need" by Kate Isenberg (track 2, selected by venue in a Bay Area songwriter contest).

BETWEEN THE LINES (2005): Film soundtrack. Features "She Knows" and "Long Winter," by Kate Isenberg. National and international screening.



"Impeccable songwriting"--in the words of one reviewer--is what makes San Francisco-based Kate Isenberg stand out from other girls (and boys) with guitars. On her second studio album, GOLD RUSH TOWN, Isenberg offers alternately thought-provoking and funny stories of life's ambitions and detours. With clear, soulful vocals that can show-stop or whisper secrets; guitar riffs that make unusual chord progressions sound easy; and full-band arrangements of chamber-pop and tongue-in-cheek indie rock, GOLD RUSH TOWN is both sophisticated and accessible. Isenberg's listeners play her songs over and over not just for the ear candy, but also the food for thought. GOLD RUSH TOWN was a finalist for Best Lyrics in the Indie Acoustic Project's annual contest to recognize the best in acoustic songwriting from around the world.

A graduate of Harvard in English, as well as a writer and an illustrator from the time she could hold a felt-tip pen, Isenberg has always embraced the power of stories to deepen life's wonder. Many of GOLD RUSH TOWN's song-stories contain a final twist, compelling a close listen all the way to the fade-out. In the slow-build, anthemic "View of the Ocean," a stood-up would-be lover finds unexpected solace in a coastal drive. In "Kingpin of the Playground" (a mix of Police-style jangle and Shawn Colvin-style wit), the fickle light of fifth-grade romance casts a surprisingly long shadow. "Promiscuous Heart," which sets brooding electric and acoustic guitars against carefree toy piano, dramatizes the struggle to tame a mischievous heart, which Isenberg admonishes to "return the rhyme and the meter to the shelf." She is never afraid to question the role of rhyme and meter, which yields pop songs deeper for the self-awareness.

Isenberg drew on a talented team to flesh out GOLD RUSH TOWN's multilayered arrangements. In addition to her core band members (Aaron Brinkerhoff, drums; Fergus D. Lenehan, bass), Isenberg enlisted Jon Evans (bassist for Tori Amos), of the Berkeley, Ca., studio San Pablo Recorders, as co-arranger and co-producer. Accordionist/organist/pianist Julie Wolf (Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco), trumpeter Erik Jekabson (John Mayer), cellist Marcie Brown, and clarinetist Zack Pitt-Smith, together with Evans on upright bass and lap steel, helped create a richer, more diverse sound than on Isenberg's previous releases. As a recording enthusiast and an accomplished composer, Isenberg conceived and finalized all of the arrangements in her home studio. The result is a collection of songs in which each instrument plays a deliberate, distinctive, and integral character.

Growing up in the Bay Area, Isenberg began studying violin at age eight. In high school, she discovered the smart pop of Paul Simon, Brian Wilson, and the Indigo Girls. After teaching herself guitar in college, she began performing her own songs at top listening rooms as part of the duo Vice Versa, pushing the boundaries of her guitar playing to include alternate tunings. Her first studio solo album, THE TIME COMES ON HUMMING TRACKS, won diehard fans and critical acclaim (About.com "Best Unknown Folk Artist"; KFOG radio airplay; Indie Acoustic Project "Finalist, Best Singer-Songwriter Album of 2007").

Far from resting on this success, Isenberg pushes her musical boundaries even further on GOLD RUSH TOWN, from her vocal technique to her ever-evolving instrumental skills (which now include electric and acoustic guitar, violin, banjo, and mandolin). The result is her most evocative, substantive album to date.

Contact: info@kateisenberg.com
Press kit: www.sonicbids.com/kateisenberg
Publishing: Kate Isenberg/Three Roads Records (ASCAP)
On the web: www.kateisenberg.com OR www.myspace.com/kateisenbergmusic OR http://www.facebook.com/kateisenbergmusic