Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rebecca Pronsky is Coming To Town Tomorrow

Once in a blue moon, I'll post a preview to an upcoming show in Pittsburgh. This is one of those occasions. Friday, September 30, Rebecca Pronsky comes to the Funhouse at Mr. Smalls. The evening also serves a release show for local singer Ben Shannon's Farewell Mountain CD. He performs too, along with Emily Rodgers and Morgan Erina.  Doors open at 8 p.m. Show at 9 p.m. Get tickets at It's only $10!

It's been a while since we heard from Rebecca Pronsky, who hasn't released an album since 2013 (Only Daughter). That album earned her a spot of The Telegraph's Top 10 Country albums of 2013 list, which says quite a bit about Pronsky's songs. Though she's not a tried-and-true country songstress, her music - which includes releases that date back to late '00s -  has the best elements of country music: a yearning quality (due in no small part to guitarist Rich Bennett's sweet leads), music that tugs at your ear and says, "Listen" and - most significantly - compelling storylines. And not the traditional country plot lines either.

I'd bet good money that Pronsky could put fresh spins on tales of drinking, infidelity and the regret that comes with the first two, but her lyrics align her more with the best in singer-songwriters. On the new Known Objects she begins by getting a tad existential with "Bag of Bones," which looks at artistic self-doubt. The initials of "A.E." belong to Amelia Earhart, in a song that meditates on the newly discovered evidence that "Lady Lindy" did not crash her plane but landed on an island in the Pacific Ocean, where she was marooned.

The latter subject alone invites all sorts of speculation and could fuel a whole album of songs. (Maybe this country music moniker fits better than it initially seemed.) But Pronsky reduces it to crucial elements, which make a compelling tune, which leaves the listener wondering exactly what happened. Elsewhere "Snowing Sideways" depicts a romantic interlude by mentioning some of the scenery that can provide the most vivid images in your head while listening.

Delivering all those stories, Pronsky has a strong, brassy voice that occasionally lapses into a bit of natural vibrato. By natural I mean that she doesn't overdo it, or use it to overemphasize a turn of phrase. It simply sounds like a natural extension of the way she sustains a note. (And like some singer-songwriters, it doesn't happen in an upper register, rattling the fillings.)

Known Objects features a revolving group of guests, from jazz guitarist Ben Monder to the four-part harmonies on "Gondwanaland" and "Blue Skies" from Lucy Wainwright Roche, Greta Gertler, Emily Hurst (Las Rubias Del Norte) and Deirdre Struck (Lascivious Biddies), who add a rich, warm quality to those songs. Even without the guests, Pronsky's songs all sound distinct from one another, sequenced in a way that the moods, tempos and sonics vary with each track, still creating a full program.

Considering her Brooklyn home and her skill at winning the ears of current country music fans, she ought to rechristen herself the Queen of Brooktucky. Or Brooklynville. Or Nashlyn. (I'm from an area that's occasionally called Pennsyltucky so what do I know?)

All goofy stuff aside, Pronsky should be even more widely known than she currently is.

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