Austin and Elliott | 13 Songs Plus

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Folk: Modern Folk Folk: Alternative Folk Moods: Type: Acoustic
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13 Songs Plus

by Austin and Elliott

Cabin-grown original songs with catchy melodies and thought-provoking lyrics, delivered by bracing harmonies and lone acoustic guitar. It's love gone wrong and death done right.
Genre: Folk: Modern Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Dance on the Killing Floor
3:26 $0.99
2. When I Go
3:28 $0.99
3. O Death
3:43 $0.99
4. Too Tired
3:34 $0.99
5. Everything Looks Like a Hammer
3:25 $0.99
6. Flycatcher
2:32 $0.99
7. Liza Jane
4:25 $0.99
8. Rocking the Cradle
3:42 $0.99
9. Truth That Hurts
3:35 $0.99
10. Blackwater Dam
4:20 $0.99
11. Snow Globe
4:00 $0.99
12. All God's Children
3:23 $0.99
13. The Evil Genius Lost His Touch
3:47 $0.99
14. Caroline
3:09 $0.99
15. Still Waters
2:49 $0.99
16. Starlet with a Needle
3:55 $0.99
17. Wish It Would Rain
3:13 $0.99
18. Hearts of Stone in a City of Glass
3:34 $0.99
19. Hard Not to Fall in Love
2:37 $0.99
20. One More TIme
3:12 $0.99
21. How Far Time Flies
3:28 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Austin and Elliott tap into traditional folk with a modern outsider's sensibility. With thought-provoking, often irreverent lyrics, Chris Elliott's songs reach for both scathing irony and genuine beauty. Adding Lisa Austin's blended harmonies, this tension is dramatic: two voices telling tales of love gone wrong and death done right.

Based in Western Massachusetts, Austin and Elliott is comprised of singer/songwriters Chris Elliott (vocals and guitar) and Lisa Austin (vocals, bass, guitar, percussion, and 6-string banjo.) After years of performing on their own as solo artists, they began collaborating in 2003, with Lisa adding harmony vocals to Chris’s songs. Since then, they’ve steadily deepened their musical partnership, incorporating new instrumentation and honing their twin vocal attack.

Their second record, the 5-cut "Truth That Hurts," is their first full-band effort, produced by Lorne Entress (Lori McKenna, Catie Curtis, Mark Erelli) and featuring guitarist Duke Levine (Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jonatha Brooke, Ellis Paul) and bassist Paul Kochanski (Resophonics). Dealing with themes of love gained and lost, the CD's original compositions are rich with memorable melodies, cutting lyrics, and striking harmonies.

Also available is their debut CD "13 Songs Plus", which is packed with 21 songs performed in stark, powerful fashion. Greg Grant of the Online Folk Festival has this to say: "Just two voices and an acoustic guitar, but the songs are impressive, particularly the mythic folk ballad "Blackwater Dam," which has a timeless quality difficult to achieve."

Influences? Think duos like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Richard and Linda Thompson, Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Richard and Mimi Farina, the Handsome Family and Timbuk 3. The more you listen, you'll hear: Natalie Merchant, Bob Dylan, the Decemberists, REM, Robyn Hitchcock, Randy Newman, the Pogues, Pixies, James McMurtry, Todd Snider, Grace Slick, and more. Experienced live, each song has a distinctive feel: tender or cynical, soothing or raucous, doomy or bright.

Born and raised in Binghamton, NY, Chris Elliott, since moving to Boston in 1994 to escape food service jobs and go to grad school, has become a fixture of the underground acoustic scene in New England. He starting writing funny songs in his teens, and when he got a beat-up Ovation guitar while at Bard College, the satirical edge of his writing turned more poignant. Going on to an MFA from Emerson College, he has developed a vivid, literary writing style that ranges from darkly serious to deadly funny. He made an early splash in Boston in 1996 with the tune "Nothing Too Major," which appeared on the compilation "Show Up, Sign Up and Play" alongside tracks by Mary Gauthier and Jess Klein. That same year his unusual handmade acoustic guitar was won in the WUMB 91.9 FM/Borders Books and Music Songwriter Competition. The guitar was crafted by luthier Alan Carruth, and its deep, powerful tone accommodates Chris' distinctive style, which alternates soft fingerpicking with vigorous, sometimes dissonant, strumming. According to Club Passim's Matt Smith, "his songs run the gamut from bitingly ironic to honestly beautiful." Or in the words of Marilyn Ray Beyer of 91.9FM WUMB: "Laugh now, think later... A poet in a songwriter suit." He was a finalist in the 2009 Rose Garden Songwriting Competition.

A native of Western Massachusetts, Lisa Austin began playing live in earnest after moving to Boulder, Colorado in 1998. With a voice that recalls Natalie Merchant, she was a Lillith Fair semi-finalist for an opening spot at the 1999 Colorado Lillith Fair, and since then she has played and sung in many venues throughout Boulder and Massachusetts. While Chris takes a more cerebral approach to music making, Lisa is the more intuitive, creating original harmony lines by ear and unearthing the emotional core of songs. In addition to singing, she plays guitar, 6-string banjo, bass and percussion, adding energy to the live show. Her songwriting is dark and traditional-folk inspired, filled with rural imagery, reflecting her love of and reverence for the natural world. She often sings from unique points of view, such as a fisherman drowning at sea or a westward journeying pioneer who discovers his family dead on Christmas Day. In addition to music-making, Lisa is involved with animal rights and spay/neuter advocacy.

"Lisa Austin and Chris Elliott couldn't be more suited for one another musically and their new 5-song sampler quantifies that statement. Both possess excellent singing voices and when they're combined, there's few duos that can touch them. On Truth That Hurts, Austin and Elliott have also made a bold move to enlist producer Lorne Entress to oversee the production while hiring guitarist Duke Levine and bassist Paul Kochanski to beef up the instrumentation. The result is an engaging five songs lush with musicality and poetic prose. The song "Liza Jane" could easily be nominated as "Song of the Year" at the next Boston Music Awards show with its superb lyrics and mesmerizing musical accompaniment."
Doug's Top 5 June 2007 - Metronome Magazine
Review of Truth That Hurts

"This five-song EP from Massachusetts-based singer/songwriter duo hits all the right chords with beautifully crafted tales of introspection and woe. Nicely harmonized vocals, reminiscent of Aimee Mann, compliment immaculately produced instrumentals. Featuring accomplished local musicians such as Duke Levine, these five songs come fully realized and are sure to please."
- Northeast Performer

"The first time I heard Austin and Elliott’s song, “Hard Not to Fall in Love,” off of their EP, Truth That Hurts, I knew I had come across something spectacular. It’s a brilliant song, written by Chris Elliott, and delivered emotionally by Elliott and Lisa Austin. In a world where love songs can often be cliché or too gooey, Austin and Elliott went creatively beyond that and created a perfect love song.

In this performance, the finger-picked guitar riff by Elliott is quite impressive and fills the role of most of the instrumentalism. There is some subtle slide guitar work during the bridge of the song, performed by the producer of this tune, Lorne Entress. The only other ingredients are the great vocals of Austin and Elliott. Elliott sings most of the tune, but Austin sings along on the bridge and in the hooks.

This intimate approach isn’t the only reason this tune works. The lyrics are a great. My favorite verse is, “It's hard not to watch the water shine. Everybody stares at the things that make them blind. And you're so bright from afar. Not to fall in love with you is hard. It's hard.”

The song appears to be about a couple trying not to fall in love, because their geographical departure from one another is eminent. Elliott sings, “It's hard not to hold on and believe, as fortune on the rail carries you away from me. Letting go is the hardest part.” Austin and Elliott again sing together, “And not to fall in love with you is hard. It's hard.”

Austin and Elliott's, “Hard Not to Fall in Love,” off their CD, Truth That Hurts, is a fantastic love song. If you’re a fan of well-crafted, folky songs with great lyrics and an intimate delivery, this song will be your absolute favorite."
- Listeners' MP3 review of "Hard Not to Fall in Love" (Apr 14, 2008)

"Just two voices and an acoustic guitar, but the songs are impressive, particularly the mythic folk ballad "Blackwater Dam," which has a timeless quality difficult to achieve."
Greg Grant - Online Folk Festival
Review of 13 Songs Plus

"Here we get great value with no less than 21 tracks on the album from Boston-based duo Austin & Elliott. Lisa and Chris perform widely on the circuit, giving audiences a chance to hear their original work, and this album will extend this pleasure to a much wider audience.

There are no lush strings or complicated arrangements on offer here. These are songwriters with a love of words expressing emotions - personal or otherwise - to the pure accompaniment of guitar.

"When I Go" is a case in point. It has a spare accompaniment, but even that could be superfluous when the listener gives attention to the harmony of these voices and the strong lyrics. The magic continues on tracks like "O Death," with its haunting theme and delivery. It could be a rendition of a song written centuries ago. The guitar takes off at a stronger pace on "Caroline," an old-style story-song that is well worth a close listen.

Tracks with titles like "Still Water," "Truth That Hurts" and "Started with a Needle" give you an idea of the beautiful, laidback style of this wonderful duo, but show how to tackle all sorts of subjects with quiet determination and thoughtful lyrics. This is a fine collection of original material well written and thoughtfully performed."
Review of Truth That Hurts

"Not too long after packing 21 songs onto their first CD, 13 Songs Plus, it is no wonder that Chris Elliott and Lisa Austin cover four of those on this five-song EP. Why do it? For one thing, the previous CD, while hardly lo-fi, was very basic—two voices and guitar. From a folk standpoint it worked beautifully, but Chris Elliott's songwriting occasionally broke out of the folk mold, keying more on pop hooks and melody. The duo must have wondered what they could do with those more mainstream tunes. When producer Lorne Entress showed interest, the opportunity to record in a band setting was too good to pass up. Entress gathered Austin and Elliott plus himself, bassist Paul Kochanski and guitarist Duke Levine and headed into Thomas Eaton Recording and Busterland Recording to lay down a handful of tracks, thus Truth That Hurts.

That the title track was chosen as EP title is no surprise. There is something very fifties in the writing—the light shuffling 6/8 rhythm and the updated and less R&B Mickey & Sylvia approach, maybe—which is very pleasant to the ear. And while the bare-bones version is nice, this one, enhanced by both the percussion and production, is taken well out of the folk and into the pop genre.

The new arrangement of Too Tired borrows from mid-sixties Brit rockers, having a Gerry & the Pacemakers twelve string hook which is unmistakable. The solid beat drives everything to its logical conclusion. And the end? It's straight out of early Liverpool.

A step toward Americana follows, Liza Jane adding mandola and a bit of dobro to the mix. It works, but the real magic here is the song itself. A strange view of some sort of unrequited love (which the man accepts wholly), it sings of a family-not-a-family while the melody and tempo belie the dysfunction which must surely exist. I mean, it's a tragic head-nodder, if that makes sense.

The total surprise here is the one track not borrowed from 13 Songs Plus—What a Woman Knows". Call it folk with attitude or acoustic metal, it has a Black Sabbath "Iron Man" chord progression beneath Lisa Austin's spot-on vocals. Austin and Elliott unplugged? Maybe. But it sure grows on you.

Everyone has a song which reflects him- or herself and Hard Not To Fall In Love is a classic example. A beautiful ballad, one cannot listen to it without thinking that Austin and Elliott are singing it from the heart and for each other, even though that may be far from the truth. Such is the magic of music, though, and this one plucks heart- as well as guitar strings.

Like 13 Songs Plus, Truth That Hurts shows great promise. It shows that Austin & Elliott are no one-genre musicians. It shows heart. It shows progress. One of the things some people love most about music is watching musicians morph into better musicians on an ongoing basis. This could be the beginning of a long ride. It will be fun watching (and listening)."

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr
Frank Gutch Jr - Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange (Apr 26, 2010)



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