JENNIFER DANIELS’ CHRISTMAS SHOW WITH SPECIAL GUEST, RAYNA GELLERT
Sunday, December 16th
8:00pm / doors at 6:30pm
Advance general admission: $12
At the door: $15
Table of 4 reserved seats: $60
Three incessantly busy interstate highways wrap around the foot of Lookout Mountain, a high ridge straddling Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. But tucked into the coves, bluffs and hollers above the freeways are hairpin roads, dirt paths, hidden waterfalls and stunning valley views. Mountain native, JENNIFER DANIELS, claims this territory as her own, despite traversing the interstates to make a living. As she puts it, “I sometimes think of my songs as vertical.” For 10 years now, the singer/songwriter has chosen a narrow, winding, mountain road less traveled than the broad highway frequented by homogenized pop superstars, cluttering the radio with disposable hooks and disingenuous, secondhand sentiment. For her, “part of the music is figuring life out. I can’t help but feel I have some Bohemian blood in me, searching for truth and beauty and love. You can’t serve the master of fame and fortune and the master of truth and beauty—no path exists for following both.”
Alongside husband Jeff Neal, who contributes tasteful guitar and mandolin support, Daniels first caught the attention of music fans in live settings—beginning in 1999—with her supple, dynamic voice and physical, absorbing delivery. It began in time-honored, grassroots fashion, with gigs in Chattanooga, Tennessee—just down the mountain from home—then short forays around the southeastern U.S. and then regular hauls up and down the East Coast and, finally, jaunts across the country, with as many as 200 dates each year.
On the road for long stretches, Daniels made Decatur, Ga’s legendary Eddie’s Attic—an acoustic-music listening room known for launching the careers of everyone from the Indigo Girls to Shawn Mullins—her home away from home. During this period Daniels was a regular contestant at the venue’s “Open Mic Shoot-Out” contests. On one particular night, she made it to the final, but fell just short of the top prize, edged out by a young upstart named John Mayer. Daniels won the contest later, topping another notable singer/songwriter, Zac Brown (whose Zac Brown Band now is blowing the doors off country radio) to do it.
Her stage reputation established, Daniels began establishing herself as a recording artist, independently releasing her 2000 debut, Fists of Flood, to raves in Performing Songwriter, which named it a Top 12 DIY Release for the year and said, “This is music that seems to have grown slowly from some rich, dark soil.”
Despite the occasional conversation with label execs, Daniels has chosen to remain independent, drawing upon her own resources for touring and recording. For Daniels and Neal, a sustainable, fulfilling life creating meaningful music and connecting personally with listeners holds far more reward than chart positions, heavy-rotation singles or SoundScan numbers.
Now, four studio albums and one live album later, Daniels has recorded her most ambitious effort, Come Undone, a song cycle in three acts. The album’s recording was fraught with more than just artistic significance, with Daniels and Neal spending sessions in wonder and anticipation at the pending birth of twins, their first children (if you don’t count songs and beloved dog Bob Marley). As Daniels notes, rather than heavy literature, “during tracking I was obsessively reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting!”
Significantly, for an artist who began her recording career with stripped-down arrangements—featuring guitars, mandolin, a little bass and not much else—on Come Undone producer Scott Smith goes for a fuller approach, with strings, electronics, a choir and a pipe organ at various moments, depending on what seemed appropriate.
“There was a whole new level of artistry, so we felt the production’s depth should fit the project,” Smith says. “The orchestration and sonic choices were a natural fit not only for the songs, but for framing Jennifer’s voice in a way it hasn’t yet been heard. The complexity of her voice—both lyrically and melodically —works amazingly well stripped down, with two guitars. So the challenge was to add to this while still retaining the intimacy of her message. There’s plenty of ear candy for anyone who wants to listen for it, yet those in love with Jen’s voice and the songs won’t be distracted.”
RAYNA GELLERT grew up in a musical family, and has spent most of her life immersed in the sounds of rural stringband music, heartfelt gospel songs, and old ballads. After honing her fiddle skills playing at jam sessions and square dances, Rayna fell into a life of traveling and performing. Her fiddle albums are widely celebrated in the old-time music community, and she has recorded with a host of musicians in a variety of styles – including Robyn Hitchcock, Tyler Ramsey, Sara Watkins, Loudon Wainwright III, John Paul Jones, and Abigail Washburn. From 2003 through 2008, Rayna was a member of the acclaimed stringband Uncle Earl, with whom she released two albums on Rounder Records and toured like mad. These days she’s touring with songwriter Scott Miller as well as with her own band. She lives in Swannanoa, North Carolina.