Wingdale Community Singers are novelist Rick Moody (Garden State, The Ice Storm, etc.), Hannah Marcus (whose past collaborators include American Music Club, Red House Painters and Godspeed You Black Emporer), David Grubbs (Squirrel Bait, Bastro, Gastr del Sol, Red Krayola, etc), and artist Nina Katchadourian. Moody recently served as guest editor of the venerable MagnetMagazine.com; you can read the fruits of his labor here:
The Wingdale Community Singers have tried, in their brief history, to make music that as the old community feel of folk music, and the reliability of these old styles, as well as the complexity and lyrical dynamism of contemporary modern music. On Spirit Duplicator, they both reveal a continuity with the music they love, as they also try to move the idiom a little further. It’s an album of deep feeling, great harmonies, and great songwriting, that could have been made almost anytime in the last fifty years by people sitting in a room playing together. And, in fact, much of it was made this way, a group of people well past the youth that drives much popular music, all of them with busy complicated lives, sitting in a room, playing and singing for the love of doing it. Press response to the next album has been excellent as you can see from the sampling below. I hope you’ll give your copy a listen and consider covering via feature or CD review
The folk-inspired Wingdale Community Singers are the novelist Rick Moody and the musicians Hannah Marcus, David Grubbs, and Nina Katchadourian (who is also a noted artist). They have a new album, “Spirit Duplicator,” of old-timey songs that they deliver with a wink and a nod-their name comes from the upstate town that’s known for its creepy, sprawling, and shuttered psychiatric hospital. John Donohue/New Yorker 11/9
It’s easy to get the impression that the Wingdale Community Singers represent some kind of homage to Harry Smith-approved old-time Americana. The quartet’s shows are as intimate as a front-parlor picking session, and its songs are shaped by a love of soft harmony vocals and simple gestures on various stringed instruments. Just check out the group’s heartfelt version of the Carter Family’s “Death Is Only a Dream.”
But a name implying some sort of gospel ensemble or Sacred Harp revival act is really more colorful evocation than hard evidence. The group’s new album, Spirit Duplicator (Bar/None), is a wellspring of original songwriting, inviting the listener into a realm of gentle sadness and acute observations, while mapping day-in-the-life occurrences with poetic glances and seductively down-tempo arrangements.
The outfit has a pedigree: Its founders are novelist Rick Moody and singer-songwriter Hannah Marcus, along with Brooklyn College prof David Grubbs (Squirrel Bait, Gastr del Sol, Red Krayola) and Nina Katchadourian, a visual artist who also wields a dandy alto. Everyone writes and sings, so the community vibe is genuine. That also accounts for the rewarding artistic swerves, as the musicians by turns embrace honky-tonk tradition (“Tears in My Tequila”) and the passing sagas of characters on a Brooklyn street corner (“Naked Goth Girls”). The music’s modesty is a virtue, the cap to a pickle jar of homemade insights.-Steve Dollar/Time Out NY 10/21
After a long day patrolling the frontiers of high art and post-rock, Spirit Duplicator finds David Grubbs slinging his holster onto the sideboard and putting his feet up. These 15 songs are in easygoing US folks and country form, plus a couple of hoax hymns (“AWOL” and “On the Carousel”) and a sniff of rock’n’roll (opener “I’m in the Mood to Drive”). Grubbs’s collaborators in The Wingdale Community Singers are friends and neighbours from Brooklyn: novelist Rick Moody (author of The Ice Storm), singer Hannah Marcus and conceptual artist turned accordionist Nina Katchadourian. Moody and Marcus are the songwriting core of the group — Grubbs plays electric guitar and piano, and steers the music through the stripped-down arrangements. Though Grubbs rarely sings, plenty of moments bear his fingerprints, for example the delightful break for accordion, trumpet and piano on Katchadourian’s “Aviary.”
As with Gillian Welch’s work, these songs are steeped in a deep affection for old American music, but they certainly have a literary side, not to say a Brooklynite clever clogs side. “Rancho De La Muerta” has infanticide in verse one, and by verse three the landowner is taking potshots at busybody botanists. “I Was Once a Young Man” introduces a disillusioned farmer, who then refuses to be the subject of the song, while “My Les Paul” is witty about the traumas of guitar purchase. Maybe “Montreal” is too whimsical for its own good, but its great to hear intelligent lyrics, and The Wingdale Community Singers sit well alongside The Magnetic Fields and Vancouver’s Veda Hille. A love of harmony singing underpins
everything here, and nowhere is that love clearer than on the closing cover of The Carter Family’s “Death Is Only a Dream.” CLIVE BELL/The Wire October
My first listen to Spirit Duplicator was less than rousing. “I’m in The Mood (To Drive) – the disc opener and my introduction to The Wingdale Community Singers – is beset with dark vocals, sparse guitar chords and minimal, stuttering percussion, and I found myself wondering when the tune would actually start, that perhaps the band was stuck in the slow lane or, worse, park. The plodding pace was irritatingly distracting, and the itch to get things moving had my trigger finger popping the fast forward button, zipping me through the songs until I found something that I could grab on to.
That came on the disc’s eleventh track, the subdued, two-step beauty “Tears in My Tequila.” After drinking that up, I headed back to the beginning, and I figured this out: my own impatience nearly kept me from grasping the power of the somber openness and beauty of many of these songs.
Thankfully, upon return, it hit me – The Wingdale Community Singers demonstrate most ably the principle that less is more. This became more evident with each repeat visit to this record -these tunes are airy and wide open, with the vocals – often delivered with a campfire kumbaya mellowness – taking center stage and the instruments providing just enough balance to remind the listener that they are there, and this formula works for this band.
It just took me a few minutes to get it. Dave Stallard/HonestTune.com 11/2
I was interested to hear this CD because it’s Rick Moody’s band…Rick Moody, the writer, who wrote The Ice Storm and Garden State and Demonology and, with an oeuvre like that, he’s excused from being good at anything else. But Spirit Duplicator is good and it’s interesting. As one might expect from a novelist penning songs, every number is very literary, and while you may not fall in love with the melodies, you’ll find yourself keeping an ear cocked for the clever and insightful albeit world-weary lyrics. Every song tells a good story and features great character descriptions. One of the more tuneful numbers and my favorite on the CD is “Rancho de la Muerta”:
In his Stetson and his vest
Haunts the only bar in town
Where even Jesus came to rest
Where a man still has dominion
And the Migrants know their place
Where the jukebox comes from Nashville
And there’s always parking spaces
Hannah Marcus, who sings on every cut and also wrote or co-wrote most of the songs is very reminiscent of the Chapin Sisters in her vocal style. There’s a deliberate old-timey feel to the production on this CD. These musicians are obviously urban but the music and arrangements sound rural, even pastoral in spots. The contrast works. “My Les Paul” is a timely number and quite sweet, not intended as an homage probably, but I took it as one. “I’m In The Mood To Drive,” the first cut on the album, is also kind of fun. Oh, and I loved “Montreal.”-The Vinyl Princess/CaughtInTheCarsousel.com October update
It must be nice to have a top-notch novelist in your band – you really don’t need to worry about lyrics much. The second effort from old-timey-influenced Brooklyn quartet, the Wingdale Community Singers,
finds the group settling into cosmopolitan folk mode, highlighted by the lovely and strong-willed vocals of Hannah Marcus and Nina Katchadourian, the tasteful instrumentation of indie-rock vet David Grubbs (Gastr Del Sol, Red Krayola) and subtle and evocative lyrical imagery from acclaimed writer Rick Moody (“The Ice Storm” and “Purple America”). These songs may point to the past musically, but most have contemporary themes. Marcus confidently leads the way on numbers such as “Naked Goth Girl,” the gospel-tinged sing-a-long “AWOL” (“from the army of the lord”) and the Bakersfield country of “Tears in My Tequila.” Moody-penned tunes that he also sings, working within his limits, half speaking, half gently singing -such as the piano-led ballad “Let My Ship Pass By” – have a quiet power and seem more confident since I last saw the group at a party in Manhattan a few years ago. Various friends provide string instruments and trumpet backup, often evoking a kind of baroque chamber pop, but nearly all the songs have the simple appeal of good community folk, buoyed by exceptional song writing and sweet harmonies. The beautiful closing cover of the A.P. Carter classic, “Death is Only a Dream” is the perfect capper for a group that understands its roots. Brent Baldwin Style Weekly 9/22
I’ve only read one novel by Rick Moody. I wasn’t impressed. I’ve only listened to one Rick Moody album. I WAS impressed.
Rick and his friends Hannah Marcus, David Grubbs and Nina Katchadourian have crafted THE FALL album of 2009. Spirit Duplicator is perfect for the current season. A somber affair that is full of incredible vocal harmonies and wonderful lyrics.
I would LOVE to post the song “Let My Ship Pass By” as it is my favorite but the label is only offering the Carter Family cover below. So.why not pick up a copy for yourself? Lucas Stagl /staergetaleht.blogspot.com 10/5
Even successful novelists dream of making it in music. Shockingly, even successful novelists’ bands underestimate the power of a good press photo! (Yeah, this is kinda dark and out of focus, dudes!)
Wingdale Community Singers is the musical project of Brooklyn based novelist Rick Moody and singer songwriter Hannah Marcus – the two met after Moody listened to Marcus’ solo CD, and therefore began a friendship based on a shared interest in old folk, blues, and bluegrass. After some time the two attempted writing some songs in that idiom, shortly after finding an ally in David Grubbs, a veteran of twenty years of punk and experimental music. Grubbs brought a modernist sensibility and a rich facility with country music (from his roots in Louisville) to the lineup. The three recorded their eponymously titled first album, released in 2005. Spirit Duplicator is the follow up CD, an album of deep feeling, that could have been made almost anytime in the last fifty years by people sitting in a room playing together. And, in fact, much of it was made this way, a group of people well past the youth that drives much popular music, all of them with busy complicated lives, sitting in a room, playing and singing for the love of doing it. Paolo deGregorio/TheDeliMagazine.com 9/10
Wingdale Community Singers is the quartet consisting of David Grubbs, Nina Katchadourian, Hannah Marcus, and Rick Moody. The first thing that caught our attention here was the fact that Marcus was in the band. We were first turned onto Hannah’s music in August 2000 when she released her refreshingly cool Black Hole Heaven album on the Bar/None label. Spirit Duplicator is an extremely reserved soft folky/pop album that reverberates. The overall sound and feel of this album reminds us very much of Carly Simon’s first few albums (before Simon’s music became way too polished and commercial), both in terms of vocals and melodies . We have the feeling that these musicians were not out to make a hit album. This is one of those cases where we most certainly get the impression that the folks involved in this project made these recordings purely out of inspiration. Fifteen tracks here…and not one of them is a clunker. Particular standout cuts include “I’m in the Mood (to Drive),” “I Was Once a Young Man,” “Montreal,” and “Death Is Only a Dream.” Soothing and very satisfying. (Rating: 5+) Don Seven/Babysue.com 8/31