Kara Grainger - Press
SXSW review: Kara Grainger
By John T. Davis | Thursday, March 19, 2009
It was a pity that Kara Grainger and band were engaged for so long in setting up and plugging in. The upshot: A 45-minute timeslot (midnight at the Ranch) was whittled down to time for only five songs. And Grainger, a guitarist, songwriter and vocalist of the Australian persuasion, definitely needs more time to stretch out.
Not that what was on display wasn’t choice. Employing an electric piano, B-3 organ, horn section and her own bottleneck slide guitar, Grainger placed her musical GPS about halfway between Memphis and New Orleans. She divvied up her short set between new and unreleased songs (the deep Stax-esque groove of “If She Won’t, I Will”), a blues chestnut (Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen”) and songs from her debut released last year (“Dreamed I Was the Devil” and “Sky Is Falling”).
As a vocalist, Grainger has a throaty register that distinctly recalls Bonnie Raitt (the Ozzie accent falls away when she sings). It is a comparison of which she will soon tire, if she hasn’t already. But there you have it.
Midway through her performance, the room seemed to fill abruptly, as though ordinary, non-SXSW folks nursing their lite beers had been sucked in from the adjoining sports bar. Blame it on the cheap cocktails and the late hour. Blame it on free music. Blame it on the siren song of the slide guitar. But for my money, something in Grainger’s passionate performance reached out through the door, grabbed people by the figurative scruff of the neck, and propelled them inside.
5th January 2009
"...while the fetching Kara Grainger and her boys put an irresistibly funky stamp on 12-bar standards" -Tony Hiller on the Woodford Folk Festival
12.12.2008 -- Review by: Don Zelazny
One of the best new voices on the Americana scene this year belongs not to an American, but an Aussie, Kara Grainger. She brings the whole trifecta of singing, playing and writing to her disc Grand and Green River. Kara grew up in the Sydney area and played guitar in bands during high school. She did a showcase at the 2007 Austin City Limits Festival as well as at the Americana Music Association.
The disc features some great players, among them Jeff Young (Jackson Browne), pianist Joel Guzman (Los Super Seven), bass player Reggie McBride (Stevie Wonder, John Lee Hooker) and drummer Richie Hayward (Little Feat). Besides writing or co-writing most of the tunes Kara also adds electric, acoustic or slide guitar to most tracks. Also on the album is a duet with Blue Note singer Amos Lee (who Kara opened for on his April tour of Australia), “On My Way.”
Grand and Green River opens with a bluesy number, “What You Wanted,” loaded with Hammond B3, harmonica and horn section. Kara shows her soulful and expressive voice on the slower country-tinged ballad “Cannot Be Denied.” Another highlight is the slow bluesy number that highlights her voice and adds smoky sax and piano is “I’m Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Song.” There really is not a bad tune on the CD. If you haven’t heard of Kara, check her out. You won’t be disappointed!
Austin Monthly - Straight From The Studio
Equal parts Bonnie Raitt and Rickie Lee Jones, Aussie songstress Kara Grainger (who plays with an all-Austin band) delivers a mature collection of blues and roots music on her full-length solo debut, Grand and Green River. Grainger's soulful voice and emotive guitar work soar above her band's tight accompaniment. The joyous combination of the two make makes her sometimes depressing lyrics palatable - even jaunty. Your toes will be tapping and your head bobbing while she sings, "In just one night, lost everything I had." But give it a chance; it sounds better than it reads
Austin Daze - Soulful Kara Grainger at Saxon Pub
August 18th 2008
Kara Grainger’s new CD release “Grand and Green River” flows with soulful melodies and energetic arrangements. Her songwriting skills and musicianship are apparent throughout reminding me of Bonnie Raitt. She is playing the Saxon Pub as her CD release party in Austin
Album Review - MAG
The ex-Sydney singer who is now predominantly based in the US delivers another album of rootsy/folk/soul - whatever the hell that means. Grainger's voice has always been strong and sweet, and on this recording, it's exquisite.
Her phrasing is profoundly good and the musicianship, which nearly crowns Steely Dan heights of excellence, is damn fine too. Kudos to her for taking on one of my favourite Thomas Dorsey songs I'm Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Songs. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Grainger walks it like she talks it. Craving Records/Inertia
Album Review - Country Update
Kara Grainger's Grand and Green River is the fifth and most recent release from Sydney independent Craving Records, also home to female singer songwriters Tania Bowra, Jackie Bristow, Abby Dobson, and male/female duo Butterfly 9.
My first taste of Kara Grainger was standing in line for Pizza at the Byron Bay Bluesfest a few years back.
I was entranced by the sound of a powerful female voice drifting across the festival site. Pizza in hand I wandered off to seek out where where this sound was coming from, which led me to Sydney's favourite (late '90s) R&B/Blues combo Papa Lips, fronted by talented brother and sister Mitch and Kara Grainger. Grand and Green River follows on from her 2005 Secret Soul EP and is the result of her re-location from Sydney to Los Angeles, and her connection to a bunch of likeminded songwriters, musicians and producers there.
Sitting somewhere between the old school R&B/Blues/New Orleans groove of Little Feat and Bonnie Raitt and the new school '70s influenced soul of Amos Lee (featured guest vocalist), Ben Harper and Marc Broussard, she sounds like she's found her musical home.
This is not surprising considering the album was co-produced by Harper's producer David Kalish and Lee's producer Barry Maguire. It even features an appearance by legendary Little Feat drummer Ritchie Hayward.
It's a long way from Sydney to LA and it's a huge leap from Secret Soul to Grand and Green River.
There was a bit of an unfocused wandering spirit to her previous release, never quite nailing down her musical direction and drifting a little aimlessly across a few genres.
With this album there's a more defined sense of purpose, the songs, mostly collaborations, are stronger and she's certainly surrounded herself with the personnel to achieve those aims.
Featuring her formidable vocal prowess and slide guitar chops she leads us through a selection of predominantly soul searching, blues based material, leaning more towards a commercial, radio friendly Bonnie Raitt or a Mavis Staples than the contrived soul pastiche of a Joss Stone or an Amy Winehouse.
Jeff Lang & Kara Grainger - Live Review, Street Theatre, Canberra
May 5th 2008
Kara Grainger - Time Out Magazine Sydney
May 28th 2008
Kara brings the Blues to Eumundi
May 13th 2008
July 24th 2008
McGUCKIN ENTERTAINMENT PUBLIC RELATIONS
KARA GRAINGER/Grand and Green River: There must be something in the water in Australia that’s turning Australia’s female musicians into daughters of Bonnie Raitt. First we get Fiona Boyes that sounds like Raitt’s bluesy daughter, now we get Grainger who has Raitt’s soul/pop side down perfectly. Recording in LA, even reaching out to some of the cats that played with Raitt, Grainger delivers a heads-up performance that’s both high-octane and quality powered. A nice, solid debut that doesn’t copy Raitt but follows in her early footsteps nicely.
Vintage Guitar Magazine
June 28th 2008
Kara Grainger, the soulful songstress with the fiery guitar and sultry vocals, is set for the American release of her debut album, GRAND AND GREEN RIVER (Craving Records), on August 19.
"I'm really proud of this album. I love the feel and the groove and the playing on it," Grainger recently told Rhythms, the monthly roots-music magazine of Australia, where the album was released in late May and where she has been touring behind it with fellow Australian Jeff Lang.
GRAND AND GREEN RIVER was recorded in Los Angeles and produced by David Kalish (Rickie Lee Jones, Ben Harper) and features Grainger's distinctive vocal style and mesmerizing lead electric, slide and acoustic guitar work on honest, heartfelt originals like "Bring Me Back," for which she shot a girl-drives-classic-car video in Sydney; the love song "On My Way," which became a duet with Blue Note artist Amos Lee; and the emotionally charged "Sky is Falling."
The album also showcases some of America's most celebrated musicians, including blues-jazz guitarist Eric Johnson, Reggie McBride (Stevie Wonder, John Lee Hooker), Jeff Young (Jackson Browne), Richie Hayward (Little Feat), Arnold McCuller (James Taylor) and GRAMMY Award-winning pianist Joel Guzman (Los Lobos).
With a voice called "honeyed" by The Tennessean, Time Out likens Grainger's mix of jazz, blues and modern country to "an unusually potent brew" -- making her music perfect for the thousands of Starbucks Coffee outlets it's playing in across the United States and Australia.
Grainger began her musical journey in high school singing and playing guitar and quickly joined (with her brother, Mitch) the Sydney-based blues outfit Papa Lips and toured throughout Australia. On her own, she's toured with musical greats like Eric Johnson, Amos Lee, Robben Ford and Little Feat. She currently calls LA her home base but plans to spend a lot of time in Austin soaking up the rich music scene.
Kara Grainger's upcoming shows include:
July 19, Saxon Pub, Austin
July 26, Lorraine's, Marble Falls, Texas
August 22, Saxon Pub, Austin (ALBUM RELEASE SHOW)
August 26-31, National Country Music Muster, Australia
Australia's Roots Music Monthly
June edition 2008
GRAINGER AT YOUR DOOR
KARA GRAINGER GATHERS A US SUPERGROUP FOR A STRIKING DEBUT
By Sam Fell
Due to circumstances well beyond my control, I just missed Kara Grainger's support slot to Jeff Lang early last month, which caused me no small amount of chagrin, as I'd been listening to her debut solo record all week and had been looking forward to seeing it up there on stage. As it turned out, Grainger was doing an acoustic solo set that night, not fronting the band as she does on Grand And Green River, but nonetheless, her voice, songwriting techniques and guitar mastery on their own would have been enough to sate my musical soul.
Grainger, who has been based in LA for three years now, would best be known to Australian audiences as the guitarist and vocalist of Papa Lips, the Sydney based blues combo who trekked the east coast for years throughout the mid-'90s, and also, for a short time, as the guitarist for the Steve Prestwich Band before moving to America in 2005. She's certainly not wonting for experience, and so Grand And Green River, her first record fronting her own band, is indeed rich, full and lush, a fantastic rootsy record, chock full of the blues, a slight pop undertone, all overlaid with her haunting voice - a debut to be proud of.
"Yeah, to me it sounds like a combination of Los Angeles and Texas," Grainger tells me over the phone, not long after Melbourne Jeff Lang supports. "That wasn't intentional actually, because a lot of the roots and raw sounds is just honest playing, but it was produced in LA with a guy called Dave Kalish (Rikki Lee Jones, Ben Harper), and he's kind of a perfectionist, which is what gave it that pop sound. So it ended up being quite slick, some of the songs. Not in a bad way though, I find the rhythm sections and the groove make you feel good, so I think it came out well. That's what I mean when I say it'd a combination, you know? There's that tight LA sound, but it's got all the roots and a lot of emotional playing too."
One listen to Grand And Green River and you'll know what Grainger is talking about. It's a mixed bag, and some tracks are indeed quite slick, but overall it's got a sass about it, some attitude perhaps, which lifts it clear of what you may be thinking 'pop' is, and placing it down in the deep south where America isn't a dirty word. Grand And Green River was four months in the making, as far as recording goes, it seems that was time well spent. As well, Grainger has roped in here, some fantastic musicians to back her up - the record almost reads like a who's who of session players: Eric Johnson on guitar, Reggie McBride (Stevie Wonder, John Lee Hooker) on bass, Hammond player Jeff Young (Jackson Browne), Richie Haywood (Little Feat) thumping the tubs, and Los Lobos keys man Joel Guzman rounding it out. Its a veritable supergroup I tell you.
'Well, that was mainly through being the producer's friend,' Grainger explains how she came to play with all these swingin' cats, 'And through a few trips to Austin, that's how I met Eric Johnson, and my brother and I actually opened for him in Australia a few years ago. And Richie, I love Little Feat, they're one of my favourite bands, so we called him up and he came around, no problems. I'm a real fan of his drumming.'
She says this so casually, like it's a common thing to have musicians of this calibre backing you up, but you can tell beneath the cool, calm exterior, that this was a buzz indeed. And speaking of which, the track, 'On My Way' from this record, also features vocals from one, Amos Lee. 'He was recording in the same studio, and he went over by a week,' Grainger explains of how this came about, 'He heard one of our rhythm tracks, which was that song, and thought it was cool, and Dave asked him if he wanted to sing on it, and he was like, 'well I guess I have gone over my time a week, I can do that for you'.'
See? It's all just too easy, but as I mentioned, all you've got to do is listen to Grand And Green River to know that Grainger herself is more than qualified to be leading these musicians, she's the one to watch for sure, and this record heralds that to a tee.
'I know I've got a great album, I'm really proud of it. I love the feel and the groove and the playing on it, so in that way it's like, I've done something I'm really proud of, whatever happens next, happens,' she laughs in closing, and you really can't blame her.
Grand And Green River is available on Craving Records through Inertia. Kara Grainger tours nationally through June with Jeff Lang, details in the Gig Guide.
Singer Kara Grainger evokes Bonnie Raitt's bluesy power
It's hard not to respect a lady like Bonnie Raitt, who sings with a tough-but-sultry, bluesy arc, and plays guitar with a graceful but fiery hand.
There's a whole lot of mid- and latter-day Bonnie Raitt in songs on Kara Grainger's debut full-length Grand and Green River, such as "On My Way" and "Sky Is Falling" Grainger's alternately throaty and honeyed voice floats over a slickly produced bed of bluesy accompaniment. There's a share of early Raitt in there too, Aussie singer Grainger's "Dreamed I Was the Devil" pulling in the kind of rollicking Dixieland vibes you heard in songs such as Raitt's "You Got To Know How," from 1972's Give It Up.
You lose a sense of Grainger's own personality, maybe, in all the Bonnie Raitt that comes to mind in Grand and Green River. But as well as Grainger works with this brand of bluesy, New Orleans-hot stomps — aided by a stellar crew on Grand that includes respected guitarist Eric Johnson and bassist Reggie McBride (who's worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder and B.B. King) — it's hard not to respect and enjoy her output, too.
She'll play at 3rd & Lindsley (818 Third Ave. S. 259-9891) tonight alongside fellow Australian/current Nashvillian Simon Bruce. The show starts at 9:30, and tickets are $7.
— NICOLE KEIPER, STAFF WRITER
The Daily Texan (USA)
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Aussie adopts AustinBy Justin Patch
On Thursday night at the Continental Club, expat Australian Kara Grainger will take the stage, hoping to win over the hearts of more Austinites. For the last few months, the rootsy Sydney-area native has been making regular stops in Austin, playing bigger venues and networking away from her adopted home in Los Angeles. The time spent in Austin has begun to pay off, as Grainger was recently booked for a slot at the Austin City Limits Festival.
“Things really seem to becoming together here in Austin,” she said, referring to her experience with venues, audiences, musicians and management. “I’ve been having a great time, maybe too good a time,” she says with that out-too-late, up-too-early look. It seems that Austin culture has been creeping into her life on all sides. “I’ve been listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan in my car for the last three weeks, I just love him.” She also dons a smart pair of cowboy boots purchased here which she insists are for work. “When you’re loading in and out four guitars and two amplifiers, you need a good pair of work boots.”
That’s probably some good advice coming from someone who has had a lot of experience on the road. For over a decade, Grainger has played the bars in and around Sydney and up and down Australia’s east coast. She has also opened for Austin’s own legendary guitarist Eric Johnson in Australia, Japan and the US.
With the next phase of her career and the release of her debut album, Grand and Green River, just around the corner, Grainger is taking some time to make a few more decisions before she hits the road again. She’s considering a move to Austin and is already writing songs for a new album.
“I’ve learned lots of new things,” she says about making the album with producer David Kalish (Rickie Lee Jones, Ben Harper.) She begun thickening up the musical textures with horns and Hammond organ: “I love the sound [of the Hammond], but I never would have done it on my own. I guess that’s why you get a producer.”
Although her strengths lie in her abilities as a blues-rock electric and acoustic guitar player and her soulful gospel-tinged voice, she’s always thinking of expanding her possibilities. “I’d love to record a jazz album. I love Ella [Fitzgerald], Chet Baker, stuff like that.” However, for right now, Grainger is happy to be in Austin playing with veterans Chris Maresh and Rob Kazinel on First Thursday in June. If you’re up for a set of great roots rock, Grainger takes the stage at 10 p.m.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
Austin American-Statesman (USA)
Aussie singer-songwriter Kara Grainger plays the legendary Continental Club this evening. Backed by Chris Layton, Chris Maresh and Riley Osborne, Grainger combines her soulful voice and powerful slide electric and acoustic guitar stylings to create bluesy pop-jazz tunes. Her sound is somewhat similar to rocker Sheryl Crow’s, but with more of a folk twist. Look for Grainger during South by Southwest and on tour with Amos Lee beginning in April. 10.30pm, The Continental Club, 1315 S Congress Ave 441 2444. www.continentalclub.com
Martin 00028, 1962 Strat And A Harmony-Australian Songwriter Kara
September 05, 2007
Kara Grainger's an Australian native and current resident of Los Angeles, plays a sort of modified country-blues-pop, that
is hard to fit neatly into a genre. Her first release, Grand And Green River is out on Australian label, Craving Records. And
they are looking for a deal in the USA. Grainger played, with her brother, in Balmain (outside Sydney) in the band Papa
Grainger is set to play at the 2007 Austin City Limits Music Festival in mid September and her music is heard in hundreds of Starbucks as part of
that company's "Contemporary Grind" in-store music broadcasts. Grainger took some time to answer some guitar questions for Gearwire.
"My main guitars are a Stratocaster with a Rosewood neck from 1962 and a body from the 80’s, Martin 00028 Eric Clapton, Acoustic Harmony
with DeArmond pick up, and A new Hound dog Dobro with a 10 year old resonator and cone," says Grainger. " I’ve always gravitated towards
strats, 62 has always been one of my favourite ,the neck is perfect, not to wide, nice and smooth and perfect for playing blues and rock. The
body itself is not too heavy and I love playing in the out of faze positions for a more funky tone."
She says the Martin, now that it is a bit older is becoming a beautiful guitar for finger picking. It is the main guitar she uses for writing as well.
The DeArmond is a 1960s
"I picked up the Harmony in Australia and my guitar tech at the time put me on to the DeArmond, I was looking for a unique slide sound, and
when I put it through a booster pedal the amp breaks up really nicely and gives the guitar a really warm tone that breaks up nicely," she says. "I
use the dobro more for when I’m playing solo shows or with a small band, I’m learning to use metal picks at the moment but otherwise I’ll
sometimes use a pick and sometimes not. I like playing it through any good Fender Tube Amp, with my ibanez tube screemer."
Grainger also has a Gibson lap steel that she is learning to play, a 62 reissue Strat and a Gibson SG. She wants to get a "really nice" electric slide
guitar. While she says the Harmony is great it has limitations.
"I really like hollow body Hofners .Also Maton acoustic guitars have the best in built pick up system I have heard and also sound great not
plugged in, so I’d like to get one of those next time I’m in Australia. Also I’d love to own a Telecaster." says Grainger.
Like many musicians she also has a guitar that "got away. Usually this means it wound up in a pawn shop to pay rent but not in Grainger's case.
"I actually lost my Maton at a show in Sydney a few years back, I regret that because it was a great work horse guitar and had a lot of
memories," says Grainger.
Grainger will be touring around the Southwest for a few months then head to Australia for the release of her CD.
"It looks like I'll be back in the states in February for more touring and to release my CD here." says Grainger.
For more on Kara Grainger .
Patrick Ogle writes for Gearwire