Silver Thread Trio
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Silver Thread Trio

Tucson, Arizona, United States | SELF

Tucson, Arizona, United States | SELF
Band Americana Folk

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When you see three stylish young women with instrument cases in downtown Tucson, you might figure they were packing Fenders and planning to plug in and rock out.

But the Silver Thread Trio is coming from a distinctly more delicate place.

The local act performs vintage folk songs in three-part harmony along with a growing repertoire of original songs. The result, more often than not, is pristine and haunting.

The women, who performed at the finale of the All Souls Procession, are recording their second album next week and have several shows scheduled, including a gig at Plush on Friday night and a patio date at Club Congress next Friday. It's quite a pace, especially since one-third of the trio is pregnant. Caroline Isaacs, 37, is due on Christmas Eve.

And it's not like they don't have other jobs. Isaacs is director of the Arizona chapter of the American Friends' Service Committee; Laura Kepner-Adney is a jewelry maker who tends bar at the Rialto Theatre; and Gabrielle Pietrangelo, 32, teaches music at Borton Elementary School.

But their dedication to music is strong, says guitarist Kepner-Adney, who is 28. And because they strive for a flawless performance style, it helps that all three are perfectionists, she added.

"The key element is practice," she said.

"We meet usually about six hours per week, in addition to practicing on our own. Once the harmonies and instrumental parts are down, that's when we can finally add the little elements that turn a song into music. Intuition comes from years of that much practice and just getting to know each other so well as musicians."

The trio had a great springboard for their work together, having met in the Old Soul Sisters, a large vocal ensemble that was directed by Pietrangelo.

The three women were inspired to create a smaller, and therefore more practical group out of the desire to do something more focused.

"Originally, we were doing a lot of classical pieces, with the goal of playing weddings and bringing home some cash," Kepner-Adney remembered.

"Our style slowly developed, and we realized that we were more interested in the dark side of old folk music and Americana in general."

And while songs about love lost aren't typical requests at weddings, the trio has found a sense of artistic gratification, writing and performing slightly darker songs.

Said Kepner-Adney: "We work primarily with traditional American or English folk songs. I like to say that my favorite thing about folk music is that it lends you the flexibility to make sad songs sadder. We do our own arrangements to make the songs our own.

"We also draw from those songs to write our own."

Where their first album focused on the trio's own versions of traditional Americana songs, their next album will be a mix of originals and covers. Though they are recording this album at Loveland Studios in Tucson and putting it out themselves, the group acknowledges the opportunity that was given to it by its first label, Old Bisbee Records.

The label, based in the artsy town of the same name, is owned by Stuart Oliver of the Dusty Buskers, a folk-bluegrass duo.

"Stuart has been a huge supporter ever since we started," Kepner-Adney said. "I think his vision of Old Bisbee Records included us as one of the original groups (we were the third recording on the label)."

Most new groups don't have the funding to create a quality product, and "Stu made that happen for us," she said.

And while they appreciate every nudge in the right direction they've received, they have earned a name for themselves (and a few Tucson Area Music Awards) through hard work.

The Silver Thread Trio is enthusiastic about their future and their chances at fulfilling a particular dream: performing on "A Prairie Home Companion."

The public radio staple will broadcast live from the Tucson Convention Center on Jan. 30.

A popular, nationally broadcast show that glorifies folk music and good, old-fashioned moxie? The Silver Thread Trio was made for such a golden gig.

Are you listening, Garrison?

--Adrienne Lake - Arizona Daily Star


Caroline Isaacs, Laura Kepner-Adney and Gabrielle Pietrangelo of local act Silver Thread Trio have voices that give their words wings. While they’ve composed a few songs from scratch, they specialize in breathing new life into century-old folk/Americana songs by writing meticulous arrangements that capture the best of what each of these women has to offer.

They added more instruments to provide texture in this performance, but harmonizing was their pillar, as evidenced by the silence of awestruck onlookers. The ubiquitous Sean Rogers contributed rhythms on his upright bass; a washboard with brushes and a glockenspiel added soft touches that complemented the Silver Thread Trio’s seamless harmonies. They occupy a precious place in Tucson’s music scene, where delicate, seasoned voices and an attention to detail triumph over blaring guitars and accompanying feedback.
--Mel Mason - Tucson Weekly


The Silver Thread Trio locks in on traditional tunes, standards and originals
Harmonies are back.

Many independent and alternative artists—from singing duos to so-called freak-folk bands—have re-infused popular music with the musical values of two- and three-part vocal arrangements. The all-female Silver Thread Trio is one of the most exciting purveyors of vocal harmonies in the Old Pueblo.

The 3-year-old group has recorded one praised album, Silver Thread Trio, which was released by Old Bisbee Records in December 2008. Since then, the three women of Silver Thread—Caroline Isaacs, Laura Kepner-Adney and Gabrielle Pietrangelo—have become a mainstay on local stages; in fact, the trio has two gigs coming up in the next couple of weeks.

The music of the Silver Thread Trio usually comes from eras and cultures previous to ours.

“A lot of the songs that we do are at least 100 years old and go back to the old country, whether it’s here or overseas,” said Kepner-Adney.

“These are songs that were from English folk tunes that changed to fit the cultural traditions of the New World. One of my favorite pastimes is buying old songbooks on Amazon and singing folk songs from all over the world. We do a lot of research to find the right material for Silver Thread Trio.”

All of the songs on Silver Thread Trio are arrangements of traditional tunes, or standards by the likes of Johnny Mercer, Mississippi John Hurt and the Carter Family, with the exception of one original by Kepner-Adney. Her tune, “Danny,” sounds like a recently rediscovered baroque gem. The trio already is working on other originals for a follow-up album.

In addition to those breathtaking harmonies, the music of Silver Thread Trio incorporates subtle instrumentation such as guitars, banjos, washboard and spoons. And the album includes several guest musicians—like Sean Rogers, Stuart Oliver, the Rosano Brothers, Rudy Cortese and Jimmy Carr—on horns, keyboards, percussion and other stringed instruments.

The arrangements by Kepner-Adney and Pietrangelo, whether for instruments or voices, make the Silver Thread Trio’s music sound simultaneously traditional and contemporary.

In that spirit, the Silver Thread Trio plays gigs with folk artists, soul and country acts, garage and jam bands, and jazz groups. The trio has proven to fit into almost any bill.

“We opened a show for the Sand Rubies and Gila Bend,” Kepner-Adney said. “And there was one guy who came up to me after that and said, ‘You know, your music isn’t my thing at all, but I thought you sounded really tight.’ That was a huge compliment.”

Exposure to a wide range of musical contemporaries also has broadened Kepner-Adney’s musical tastes. She said she studied opera in college, but before Silver Thread Trio, “What I was listening to was mostly country.”

Pietrangelo worked as a singer-songwriter in the late-1990s, and released a solo album as a result. Isaacs and Kepner-Adney play in the country band Dirty Me, and they are the backup singers for various incarnations of the Michael P. Big Band.

Each of the members of Silver Thread Trio has other pursuits outside of music. Kepner-Adney designs jewelry for her business, Wingflash Designs (www.wingflash.etsy.com), in addition to tending bar and refinishing furniture. Pietrangelo teaches music and art to elementary school students, and is working to create a music curriculum for teachers, while Isaacs is the director of the Arizona branch of the American Friends Service Committee.

The three women came together for the first time in the large vocal ensemble Old Soul Sisters, which Pietrangelo directed for several years.

“That was a trip,” Pietrangelo said. “It was organizing 12 women to rehearse, to perform, and then getting them all the material. I ran it very democratically, so it was a lot of cooks in the kitchen. It was a lot of energy running that group.”

When Silver Thread Trio formed from the ashes of the Old Soul Sisters, the three women knew they wanted to sing together, but they weren’t sure what form it should take.

“At first, we sort of had this vision that never came together,” Isaacs said. “We were going to do weddings—you know, make a little money on the side.”

They also thought it was time to start challenging themselves vocally, she said.

“Old Soul Sisters was pretty basic folk stuff—you know, call and response—and with Silver Thread, we wanted to do some harmonizing,” Isaacs said. “We three had a little more musical background, and Gab and Laura really had a lot more musical background.”

Pietrangelo described the Silver Thread Trio method as being “so much more anal than a lot of our other musician friends.”

Isaacs added: “It’s rare that you can hear a song and bust out with three-part harmony just like that. It takes serious construction and writing. The two of them put a lot of time and effort into that.”

It starts at the piano, Pietrangelo added. “Then I’ll take the main melody and work out harmonic variations and the parts from there. Every three-part harmony has to be thought out.”

The payoff comes when the three voices blend, and the Silver Thread Trio creates and hears something they wouldn’t have experienced singing apart, Pietrangelo said.

“We all have unique voices: Each of us has a different color in our voice. But we have been singing together for so long, something happens with our voices, and somehow, they start locking in. It’s just so much fun.”
--Gene Armstrong - Tucson Weekly


Discography

Silver Thread Trio (Old Bisbee Records, 2008)
Tucson Songs (Compilation), "Who Killed Cock Robin?" (Le Pop Musik, 2011)
Luz de Vida (Compilation), "Mockingbird" (Music Against Violence, 2011)
Trigger and Scythe (to be self-released January 28, 2012)

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Bio

In Tucson, Arizona's desert rock soundscape, Silver Thread Trio plays the standout role of the muse. Saccharine and sultry, they inject a softness and grace into a music scene that readily soaks up what they have to offer in the way of ethereal vocal arrangements that can soften the hardest of hearts. Their seamless three-part harmonies are their signature, and they breathe new life into century-old gospel, folk, and bluegrass tunes, charming audiences with every performance. They are an arresting, original alt-Americana act.

The angelic voices behind Silver Thread Trio are washboard-strumming Caroline Isaacs, banjo-plucking Gabrielle Pietrangelo, and guitar-picking Laura Kepner-Adney. When they aren't busy mesmerizing audiences on stage, Isaacs runs a non-profit social justice organization, Pietrangelo is a yoga instructor and elementary school music teacher, and Kepner-Adney makes jewelry and tends bar.

Formed in 2006 while involved in a Tucson women's choral ensemble, they initially intended to hit the wedding gig circuit. Their very name, Silver Thread Trio, was the respectable moniker chosen while pursuing this musical avenue. When they realized the love songs in their repertoire often ended in tragedy and despair, they decided it was time to ditch the nuptials and involve themselves in the local music scene.

No stranger to collaborative efforts, Silver Thread Trio has contributed vocals for local and national acts such as Brian Lopez, Howe Gelb, Marianne Dissard, Ryanhood, Calexico, and Amos Lee.

Trigger and Scythe, their highly anticipated sophomore release, is the follow-up to their stunning 2008 self-titled debut. Thanks to an exceedingly successful Kickstarter campaign, the Tucson community eagerly helped them raise almost twice the amount they needed to produce this latest record. They have tapped engineer Jim Waters (who recorded Sonic Youth in the 1990s) to oversee production, and are going all-out to capture the essence of their sound. They have toured extensively all over the state of Arizona and have plans to expand their reach to a wider national and international audience.

To learn more about Silver Thread Trio, visit their web site at www.silverthreadtrio.com.

RIYL: The Be Good Tanyas, The Wailin' Jennys, Po' Girl