t. griffin coraline
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t. griffin coraline

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The best kept secret in music


"t griffin coraline"

Singer-songwriter Griffin has collaborated with Vic Chesnutt who he bears more than a passing resemblance to stylistically. What makes his skewed folk so appetizing is his ear for uncommon accompaniment - found sounds, noisy loops, bowed marimba, horns, cello, and female vocal harmonies. Check out his dynamite new CD, Redbirds. - Bosler - the Village Voice

"Light in the Aisles"

'...a brilliant little diamond in the rough - an intimate collection of ocasionally witty, slightly warped and often sad reflections on relationships and pop culture, set to a gorgeously alluring slo-core minimalism... Think Vic Chesnutt meets Tom Waits in a series of New York apartments." - Minneapolis Star Tribune

"T. Griffin"

"His music suggests some vast new genre of spaghetti-western-techno-gypsy-folk."
- Portland Willamette Week

"Folk and Noise"

"... an addictive combination of acoustic guitars, urban-realist lyrics and spare samples." - Minneapolis City Pages

"Light in the Aisles"

"... like a walk in the rain through a deserted grave yard haunted by the ghost of Nick Drake." - Uno Mas

"Light in the Aisles"

"... unearthly, yet private-sounding songs." - The Big Takeover


"... puts the singer-songwriter within the ranks of Vic Chesnutt, Elliott Smith and Chris Knox." - Seattle Weekly


"...the best late-night companion this side of Tom Waits' Mule Variations." - St. Paul Pioneer Press


"A perfect late night alone album." - TapeOp


REDBIRDS (forthcoming)
"Missouri" played on KEXP, Seattle

T. Griffin solo recordings:

Light in the Aisles (2001)
Tortuga (1999)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Based in Brooklyn – not the encroaching Brooklyn of million dollar apartments and chain stores but the Brooklyn that can still be found on forgotten piers and under highways – the T. Griffin Coraline is a collaboration between songwriter T. Griffin and violinist/singer Catherine McRae. It’s a hushed, intense duo of twin lead vocals, junk-store samples and acoustic instruments that expands at times to include a ghostly orchestra of strings, horns and bowed percussion featuring members of Lambchop, godspeed you! black emperor, Melomane and Zaftig.

Fans of those bands or of Vic Chesnutt, Tom Waits or Daniel Johnston take note.

T. Griffin’s star has been burning under the radar since 2000’s Tortuga garnered rave reviews and a small but passionate following for his haunted narratives and the estate-sale electronic folk that he dubbed “porch techno.” In August of 2001, Light in the Aisles was released to an initial flurry of raves, but touring and promotion for the record were cut short by world events occurring in his front yard that fall.

Says Griffin: “I was supposed to go on tour that fall, but like a lot of New Yorkers, I didn’t feel like travelling, so I didn’t go. I read a lot of newspapers. I did some soundtrack work. I didn’t write songs for a long time, but when I did I guess I still had newsprint on my fingers.”

Those songs became REDBIRDS.

REDBIRDS was recorded in a basement that had last been used as an illegal $50-a-month apartment for Latvian sailors working in nearby Red Hook. The sink and hand-made medicine cabinet are still there, stocked with the medicines and shaving equipment of the last occupant. His pictures are still on the wall. The makeshift shower he used serves as the vocal booth.

REDBIRDS is full of ghosts of the sea and reverberations of unnamed catastrophes, and it’s not hard to imagine that the dreams of the sailors who lived in the aparment-turned-studio have soaked their way into the songs, and into the sound of the record itself.

For example, the lyrics of the opening track, Broken Bird:

she said: “the pictures of the sailors trapped in their submarine
and the notes that they wrote from the engineroom airpocket
have haunted my kitchen TV
it cries all day on the countertop, and screams when I try to turn it off.”
I’d tell her to come over here to stay, but mine’s the same way.

(check the audio page to hear the full song.)

Work on REDBIRDS was interspersed with a series of projects that would end up bringing McRae and Griffin together to finish the record as a duo. When Griffin was commissioned by downtown theater group HERE to compose a live score for a radical reworking of Ibsen’s The Master Builder to be performed in an abandoned spice factory on the Brooklyn waterfront, he invited Catherine McRae to help him perform the score. Every night for 6 weeks they were hunched over a battery of toy keyboards, samplers and odd acoustic to create the otherworldly sounds that filled the enormous makeshift auditorium. Through that experience they developed the magnetic chemistry that they brought into the studio to create Redbirds. They also developed the magical ballet of acoustic instruments and live looping that has become their live show.

Says McRae: “We want to bring some of the texture and ambience that we work so hard on in recordings to our shows, but we didn’t want any of it to be canned. People should see the sounds being created. It keeps that connection to the acoustic music which we love and that immediacy in performance. So we use toy samplers, walkmen, loopers, whatever we can to kick up the sonic dust.”

Redbirds will be released in the fall of 2004 and The T. Griffin Coraline will bring their space-age Carter Family live show and the songs that they honed in that Brooklyn basement to the rest of America. And it's hard not imagine that some of the dreams left behind by the sailors living in a Brooklyn basement that soaked into REDBIRDS will find their way out into the radio stations, CD players and iPods of America and beyond.


Between them Griffin and McRae have worked with diverse artists such as Vic Chesnutt, Patti Smith, Nick Tosches, godspeed you! black emperor, filmmakers Jem Cohen and Pete Sillen, theater directors Richard Maxwell and Anne Bogart and photographer Michael Ackerman. Most recently they put together and led the 9 piece band that backed Vic Chesnutt for a three night stand in New York.