January 21, 2014

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #28: Desirae Garcia


I’m strong for my size, but I’m small / …and I don’t want to carry your load anymore,” Desirae Garcia sang these words as her opening lyrics for this chapel session at the La Foret campgrounds during the Meadowgrass Music Festival last year (same day we recorded Dawes). The words are indicative of how effortlessly direct her songs can seem in their simplicity, but one listen will show how those unassuming songs pack a punch through their quiet and insistent assertion.

I first wrote about Desi (who is also 1/5 of the celebrated Colorado Americana outfit The Haunted Windchimes) on my springtime mix, with her song “Hardly Are You Lonely,” off her Ill-Fitting EP (Blank Tape Records). I marveled at how her songs navigate dark waters with fearlessness, a flower on the ocean floor. Desi also sings with Planes, who contributed a hummably retro track to my summer mix this past year.

Her work with the ‘Chimes is wonderful, but I’ve so enjoyed watching her bloom through songs all her own, and this chapel session is long overdue for such a light. All through her leanly-sculpted melodies shines a beautifully resolute voice.

This is a simple session that I think will stick with you.

May 25, 2013 – Taylor Memorial Chapel at La Foret
Meadowgrass Music Festival


Honest Song
The songs that Desi pens are ephemeral in the sense that you could almost dismiss them in a wisp, in a moment. But Desi doesn’t let them, or herself, be dismissed. The songs sometimes seem unfinished and stop abruptly, or pause like a thought you lost — but that’s my favorite part, because they just drive you back to listen again. This is indeed an honest song. video is here

Bed of Roses
This song is from her Ill-Fitting EP, from where the collection of songs draws its name. “You weren’t listening to a word I had to say and now I’m ill-fitting…” she sings, with the sweet additions here of a delicate Casio melody from Alex Koshak (a multi-instrumentalist and drummer in town who plays with roughly 27 bands) and Desi’s bandmate Inaiah Lujan from the Haunted Windchimes on guitar and vocal harmonies.

I like this thing there where Desi sings and two talented gentlemen croon her gentle backup harmonies. For a song that honestly addresses things like flaws, struggles, and enemies, it sounds damn charming. video is here

Dances Fantastic (Nena Dinova cover)
This is a pretty amazing cover, of a 2002 song originally by Neva Dinova (Saddle Creek). Where theirs is sonically spacey and full of weird wonderful sounds, Desi’s version is sweetly direct, but with that hint of darkness. The effect is a bit unnerving, like some David Lynch soundtrack contribution. Wonderful.

Second Hand Love (Connie Francis cover)
Finally, Desi gave us a bonus cover song, because we couldn’t decide which one we wanted. We’ll take both, definitely. Desi’s rendition of this 1962 top-ten hit single turns it from a shuffling two-step dance number over to something spare and much more sad. video is here


all three chapel



Also, good news from the chapel and the mixing studio! We are working concertedly to get caught up with releasing all the wonderful sessions we have recorded in the last few months. You have the following to look forward to:

Vandaveer (with Ark Life joining for one song)
David Wax Museum
Small Houses
Alex Dezen (of The Damnwells)
Gregory Alan Isakov

Yeah! Those are coming in that order, in the coming weeks and months.

[photos and video as always by Kevin Ihle, audio production by the wonderful Blank Tape Records]

October 10, 2012

Fuel/Friends Chapel Session #18 :: The Barr Brothers

The music of Montreal’s The Barr Brothers unfolds slowly, richly, and often jaw-droppingly. When the idea arose for us to tape a special chapel session during the Meadowgrass Music Festival in the tiny old adobe church on the grounds of La Foret, nestled in the woods of Black Forest (look!), I wasn’t very familiar with the band. Our sound guys were huge fans of the brothers’ previous work with The Slip, and I just knew that they had a harp player I wanted to hear a bunch more from. Their redolent, gossamer sound is absolutely perfect for the church — compelling, and achingly beautiful.

So there alongside the brightly painted folk-art frescos in the dusty, rarely-used chapel, with us and the miller moths, Andrew and Brad Barr were joined by the other half of the band: classically-trained harpist Sarah Page (who Brad met when she shared an apartment wall with him as her neighbor), and Anders Vial on keys, percussion, and other assorted instruments. They make some kind of magic when they all play together.

This session was recorded in the last days of spring, on Memorial Day weekend — but I knew as soon as I heard it that this was definitely an autumn collection of songs, for when the leaves were orange and the air smelled of woodsmoke somewhere. The season is here, and this one is extremely special.


Ooh, Belle
To start things out with some mind-blowing sonic coolness, that sound sending shivers down your neck at the beginning of this song is a long thread that Brad wrapped around the guitar string and slowly pulled back and forth to play the notes — riveting.

There’s something in this song that feels as round and golden, as unflawed and naive as a garden at the start of it all. “The nearer we came to salvation, the further we fell,” Brad sings.

Old Mythologies
I bought a Joseph Campbell book (The Hero With A Thousand Faces) for $2.15 at a used bookstore the other weekend, on the recommendation of one Joe Pug, who was shocked I hadn’t read it. Lately I have been very curious about how these “old mythologies” and stories of heroes can weave their ways into our lives, and what we choose to keep or break apart. Flowing out of the innocence of “Ooh, Belle,” the hand-slapped rhythms that Andrew and Anders lace through this song feels like a heartbeat accelerating.

Let There Be Horses
Anders found an old organ in the little room annexed to the main chapel, covered in dust and full of good histories, so we ran a mic in there so he could play the keys here on it. Once he figured out all the flip-switches, it was wheezy and perfect — and I deeply enjoyed weaving some of the uniqueness of the building into the song itself.

And this chorus? “Oh, let me hear music like you hear music, like you were just born / and oh, let there be horses, let there be danger, let there be one song.”

YES. Nothing more that needs to be said about this song: completely stunning, a benediction.

Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Neil Young)
Whoaaa. This is one of my favorite versions of this song (off Young’s 1970 album After The Gold Rush) that I’ve ever, ever heard. I know these are fighting words but this is arguably more sublime than the original. In addition to the pendulous tension the plucked harp notes add throughout, those three-part harmonies during the extended breakdown? Holy shit. Each time through adds another layer and becomes even more heart-stopping. The two brothers, in particular, sound like fractal rays splitting off the same light.


(see “Old Mythologies” on Kevin Ihle’s video page)

[marvelous photos also by Kevin Ihle; more on the Fuel/Friends Facebook]

May 22, 2012

Meadowgrass it up this weekend

This Memorial Day weekend you’ll find me in a yurt on the grounds of Black Forest’s 400 wooded acres at the La Foret conference center (the historic summer home of local philanthropist Alice Bemis Taylor) for the fourth annual homegrown Meadowgrass Festival, just north of Colorado Springs.

I’ve never been to this fest before, but it’s growing in stature and quality (last year Damien Jurado, Horse Feathers, and John Doe from X played!) and sounds like it will be simply incredible. Denver luminary Nathaniel Rateliff is headlining Friday night before he heads off to the UK to open some more shows for Mumford & Sons, and the incomparable alt-country progenitors SON VOLT will rock Saturday night in their only Front Range show of the summer! Also notable in the lineup are The Barr Brothers and Alela Diane, as well as local blues-wunderkind Grant Sabin, and The Flumps. Sunday morning will feature a Bluegrass Mass (!), Telluride style.

Many musicians stay on-site, and the festival welcomes back any artist that’s played there in the past to come enjoy the fest’s current iteration, so I am hoping for a neat Doe-Bay-feel to the environment with little division between artist and festivalgoer.

I’m very much looking forward to the campfire jams both nights for folks who are camping, where everyone is encouraged to bring their instruments and head on down to the fire pit. There’s a swimming pool on-site, Bristol Brewing beer tent, and all kinds of cool events for the kiddos, like the Millibo Art Theatre and also Mountain Song Community School where the little ones can make musical instruments.

WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS! I have a pair of day passes to give away (you pick the day: Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) to a lucky reader! Email me if you would like to be entered to win, and I hope to see you all out there.

Come for the weekend: twenty-one bands are playing!

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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