Husband and wife duo Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion release their latest album Bright Examples in the UK in September followed by a six date UK mini-tour between Sept 27 – Oct 2. The album was co-produced by Andy Cabic (lead singer/songwriter of Vetiver) and Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver). Members of Vetiver provide instrumental accompaniment and feature guest artists include Gary Louris (vocals), Mark Olson (The Jayhawks, vocals), Neal Casal (guitar), Kevin Barker and Charlie Rose (pedal steel, flat picking guitars). For those wondering about Sarah’s surname her father is the famed Arlo Guthrie (son of Woody). The couple have toured extensively both as a duo and as part of the “Guthrie Family Rides Again” tour with Arlo.
The album has an overall dreamy late 60’s / early 70’s feel-good country rock leaning inspired by the work of Gram Parsons and his band the Flying Burrito Brothers, a definate move away from their earlier folk influences that compare well to Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch. The vocal harmonies are sweet and uplifting, creating a gentle signature sound which is underpinned by a great wall of guitars.
The closing track, apersonal favourite, is clearly influenced by Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, as far as favourites go this has to be the stand-out track for me.
Sarah Lee and Johnny first met briefly in Raleigh, North Carolina, then, via a mutual friend, Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, they ran into each other again in Southern California, where they’d both gone to live. Johnny had gone to L.A. to join a band called Freight Train after his stint with Dillon Fence, who’d toured with the Crowes, and Sarah Lee was working in a record shop. Irion had also previously spent several years as an influential member of Queen Sarah Saturday. Upon Sarah Lee moving to California, a series of events led to her becoming, first her father’s tour manager, and then discovering her own latent musical talents. Irion recalls, they realized that despite an earlier shared interest in punk rock, they were now both drawn to the music of the late country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons and his band the Flying Burrito Brothers. Johnny taught Sarah Lee a few chords and one thing soon led to another.
Sarah Lee and I tried to do a Gram song and we did it pretty good”, Irion says. “Then we decided to get married, which brought us to the South. Then there was a year of doing solo stuff and we did a show together, just kind of an impromptu thing, and it went really well. We decided to take it on the road. Then we had a baby and…
They promise not to wait five years to record their next album!
“Its sweet, dreamy moodiness and electric guitar give it an almost West Coast psych-Americana feel…Irion’s warm but bittersweet voice and Guthrie’s, pure and breathy, work beautifully together and alone.” Mojo (4 Stars)
“There’s an impressive cast list here, but it’s the subtle interplay and snug harmonies of Guthrie and Irion that really shine. Bright Examples is imbued with the hazy tones of the Laurel Canyon folk boom, an effect further enhanced by Irion’s spooky resemblance to early Neil Young and Guthrie’s occasional flutter into Joni territory. These lovely songs are rich, melodic and often memorable.” Uncut (4 Stars)
Tues 27 London The Slaughtered Lamb www.electroacousticclub.com £12, 7.30pm
Weds 28 Leeds Brudenell Social Club www.brudenellsocialclub.co.uk £12, 7.30pm
Thurs 29 Bedford Civic Theatre www.bedfordcornexchange.co.uk £12, 7.30pm
Fri 30 Chichester The Chichester Inn West Sussex www.rootsaroundtheworld.info £10, 8pm
Amazon UK: Bright Examples