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A little more than a year ago, on February 9, 2010, Madison Violet appeared as part of John Platta€™s On Your Radar series at the Living Room in New York Citya€™s East Village.
Although it is sporadically written that fiddler Natalie MacMaster is a relative, they are not related. Brenley MacEachern was born in Montreal and grew up in a small Scottish community in the town of Kincardine on the shores of Lake Huron.
Brenley started writing, but harshly appraises her efforts as a€?pretty rough.a€? She didna€™t really know how to write using the guitar, so a couple of times shea€™d get together with another guitar player and sing the melody while he played along, but never liked the end result.
Both Brenley and Lisa thought they were going to work in the medical field, Brenley as a lab technician and Lisa as a pharmacist. Lisa states, a€?I was in grade 12 and was asked to do a musical comedy touring show called the Cape Breton Summertime Review. From online interviews we learned that Brenley had bought a looping machine and had looped her own voice.
The longer they played together, the rootsier their sound got, the old record collection seeping in more and more. Of particular influence was an album they discovered around 2005 by Nick Lowe called The Convincer (released in 2001), which had a feel that reminded them of the old a€?Charlie Rich days.a€? The writing was a€?so strong,a€? said Brenley, it convinced them to go back to their roots.
When they sold their albums at shows, the fans took note of the more-produced sound on the CDs as opposed to the stripped-down sound of their live performances. Les Cooper, a big Alison Krause fan and a local Toronto producer, was their choice to guide their most recent album, No Fool for Trying. I forgot to ask if the pedal steel on the first track, a€?Ransom,a€? was a result of the girlsa€™ insistence. While I love their latest CD, Ia€™m going to have to attest that I love hearing them rock out on their earlier work.
Brenley was exposed to music from the time she was very young.A  There were two cousins who played guitar and everyone on her fathera€™s side of the family sang. Brenley started writing, but harshly appraises her efforts as a€?pretty rough.a€? She didna€™t really know how to write using the guitar, so a couple of times shea€™d getA  together with another guitar player and sing the melody while he played along, but never liked the end result. Lisa states, a€?I was in grade 12 and was asked to do a musical comedy touring show called the Cape BretonA  Summertime Review. When they started out, and Brenley asked Lisa to jam on fiddle and sing a bit with Zoebliss, an a€?ambient trip-hop band,a€? they were light years away from their current style. These elements seem fused together as we listen to a woman breathe in and breathe out of a blues harp, its reedy voice alternately sobbing, wailing and crying out in ecstasy.
Audience members taking first notice of Trinaa€™s big voice will be struck by her prodigious lung capacity and her talent for blowing blues harp better than any guy theya€™ve ever heard.
Continuing an august tradition, Trina came east from the Minnesota north, echoing Bob Dylan. In junior high, she was part of a select group of students chosen to participate in an improvisational theater group, started by a speech teacher, Ert Jones-Hermerding. A series of formative experiences occurred when Trinaa€™s Improv group teacher encouraged her to audition for the Minnesota State Fair. After high school, she attended the prestigious Berklee School in Boston and received a degree in Professional Music.
Around 1997, events swirled around her and the insecure and changing nature of the music business turned life into a winding hairpin-turn-laden path. Through her association with the managers of Sine, Trina became friends with Jody Klein, the son of Allen Klein (ABKCO, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles). Then, Von Freeman, who did marketing and promotions for a top 40 station in Cinncinnati, Ohio, saw her play at Sidewalk and was impressed.
In 2008 Trina collaborated on one track on Vicki Gelfana€™s album Uncovered, a€?Long Train Running,a€? that old Doobie Brothers chestnut. Brixton Boogie, an album made in Germany, released in 2009, came about in a typical a€?Trina Hamlina€? manner. Ever the independent, Trina prides herself on not having a a€?Berklee stampa€? on her music. To try to define Trinaa€™s style, just for fun, a friend who was in advertising did a marketing study on Trina, using fans whoa€™d known her since she was a child and those whoa€™d come to know her as an adult artist. Ita€™s difficult to express how much enjoyment I got out of hearing the old chestnut, a€?Wild Women,a€? written by Ida Cox and sung by Wool&Grant on a recent John Platt Sunday Morning Breakfast Show on WFUV-FM. Their joined voices provide a wealth of pleasure, no matter what direction their music takes them. A big formative experience came from Ina Maya€™s connection with a member of a frienda€™s family, Davidine Small, whose mother and uncles were vaudevillians and musicians. One of Ina Maya€™s big money gigs was the town Christmas party at Abbott Hall in downtown Marblehead. After high school, she moved to Manhattan and went to Barnard College, the womena€™s school affiliated with Columbia University. In a short-lived episode after college, Ina May moved to Santa Cruz, Calif., to continue working in a rock band with her boyfriend. As she described it: a€?I booked myself at coffeehouses and colleges as a solo act but after a few months, the bass player from the rock band moved to town from where hea€™d been in California to play with me. One of my solo gigs without the band was at Sandya€™s (also a famous jazz club) in Beverly, Mass. As she saw it: a€?I missed playing out live and New York gigs were always high pressure showcase kinds of things. The next change in her life came through her friend Jon Albrink, a session player and singer who also had bands playing his original music. It was the era of singing sister acts such as The Lennon Sisters (The Lawrence Welk TV Show) and The McGuire Sisters (The Arthur Godfrey TV Show).
Bev felt intimidated by the jazz people who surrounded her and stopped doing music for a time. She was finally on her own and became involved with protesting the Viet Nam war and in overarching societal problems.
She got introduced to and became heavily involved in the womena€™s movement, resulting in a greater level of self-awareness.
Bev gave birth to her second child in 1982 and The Human Condition re-formed as a world-beat band, singing in different languages about international struggles.
Ten years ago, Bev formed a trio called The Dissident Daughters with two women were recruited from the Brooklyn Womena€™s Chorus.
Beva€™s involvement with Ina May evolved from a Dissident Daughters recording project with Ina Maya€™s husband Daniel. While Bev brings a higher political sensibility and Ina May writes a greater amount of personal songs, they complement each other.
She got introduced to and became heavilyA  involved in the womena€™s movement, resulting in a greater level of self-awareness. The following fall they showed up at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance (NERFA) Conference. Within about six to eight months, she had met her future musical partner, Brenley MacEachern.
Brenleya€™s father is from Cape Breton, so she spent two weeks of every summer with family there, a€?down east,a€? about a mile away from where Lisa grew up. I took the last couple of months of school off, faxed in my work, and finished high school that way. During a rehearsal session with Lisa, she left to get something and, from another room heard her own voice again, but with Lisa having added her own. When Lisa and Brenley compared the collections a few years back, it was a€?pretty uncannya€? to recall the number of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton albums their parents had. They have one EP and three full CDs out to date a€” Mad Violet (2002, EP), Worry the Jury (2004), Caravan (2006) and No Fool for Trying (2009).
The fans would buy the earlier CDs and come back and ask if there wasna€™t a recording that captured their live sound. Brenley began writing in a folkier rootsy style for the two of them, and Zoebliss fell away, since the other members of the band had day jobs and couldna€™t keep pace.
In between harp passages, her massive vocal instrument surges, the melody and beat strong and steady, accompanied only by her hand beating against a tambourine. While shea€™s too young to be the prototype for the a€?Girl from the North Country,a€? she could serve as its archetype.
On her live album, One NightStand, Seattle, WA, for the first time, I heard her play some terrific boogie-woogie licks, some soaring ballad accompaniment, and as a jokey aside, a few bars of classical piano passage. So, shortly after winning the talent show, Trina started taking piano lessons, from a woman from Sri Lanka, who taught out of her house and used the Montessori method. A contest was held each year and the winner would play the following year with a 36-piece orchestra.
The extent of her professional musicianship can get lost on the casual listener who might get immersed in her ability to belt out acoustic versions of southern rock and blues. She sang classical as well as pop and learned sound engineering, which she enjoyed, and even did some classical conducting. She moved to New York and sang with bands, providing mainly harmonica, accordion and tambourine accompaniment, still noodling around at home. Island Records brought her aboard and she made demos that found their way to producers of the TV show a€?Dawsona€™s Creeka€?.


She began working with ABKCO as a a€?development deal,a€? making demos and recording with people like Jimi Zhivago (Ollabelle) and Fernando Saunders (Jeff Beck, Lou Reed). He gave her his business card and later had Trina flown out to Ohio and featured her on a€?One Earth Partya€? radio-sponsored live shows where she performed with pop icons like Paula Cole, Duncan Sheik and the Goo Goo Dolls. Shea€™d met drummer Bill Dobrow and bassist Jeff Hill at the club the Living Room (both of them later played with Rufus Wainwright). In our August feature article on Susan Werner, we mentioned how much Trinaa€™s back-up harp work can raise the level of excitement in a song. That said, however, she admits, a€?I probably dona€™t realize how much I draw from my experience at college when Ia€™m in a musical situation.
The overall opinion went beyond folk, blues, pop or acoustic rock (she certainly encompasses all of those). The overall opinion went beyond folk, blues, pop or acoustic rock (she certainlyA  encompasses all of those). Her teacher, George Walkey, hired her as a helper for his group guitar lessons at the Marblehead Y. During their visits from New York, everyone made up songs and wrote plays, then performed them. She played the venerable Postcrypt Coffeehouse and other concerts on campus, opening at one point for legendary jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams. A drummer hea€™d met in California also moved in, and we met some local musicians, and we started doing some of my solo gigs as a band. I opened for Paul Pena who wrote (Big Old) a€?Jet Airliner.a€™ He invited me to sing with him that night, and I jammed with him onstage. Musicians that I knew were able to play a€?cluba€? dates, weddings, anniversary parties, bar mitzvahs, etc., and I thought it would be good for me to get better as a singer and to learn material, not just work in a band based around me a€” and to earn money.
Her oldest sister bought some stock arrangements and thata€™s how Bev learned to sight-read music.
She listened to the greats like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald and thought a€?I cana€™t do that.a€? She played the role of the musiciana€™s a€?old ladya€? for a couple of years and then ended the marriage. It was liberating for Bev to finally see her own involvement in an abusive relationship as part of a greater issue. The project never went anywhere, but Bev and Ina May had gotten to know each other through a song writing workshop and started singing together.
They got to know each othera€™s life stories and saw that they had similar sensibilities as young performers. On city streets, it might take the form of a long-limbed beauty wearing high-heeled knee-high boots. As they described their evolving life paths to me, the phone line hummed and crackled with their energy.
The street they grew up on is called a€?Fiddlera€™s Rowa€? because every house on the street has had someone in the household who plays fiddle. In the second semester, I started dating the guitar player, hanging out with the a€?wronga€™ crowd, having way too much fun and playing guitar all the time. Lisa hadna€™t yet sung on stage with Brenley due to her fear of being heard, and Brenley, having not been aware that Lisa sang, was thunderstruck at the sound of their voices together. My two closest friends and I would sit together on the school bus, squished together, and sing three-part harmonies on Rankin Family songs. The same similarity applied to the number of fiddle albums, Gordon Lightfoot, Beach Boys and Elvis Presley records.
They changed their name to Madison Violet for the most recent CD, to reflect their evolved style. Playing in Australia for three to four months of the year also gave them a chance to evade the Canadian winters.
Brenley commiserated with the ethos of their fans, saying she also gets disappointed when she buys an album and the layered production obscures the nature of the songs shea€™d heard live.
His decision to strip the sound down to a bare minimum met some resistance, both women wanting more instrumental backup, especially from feisty Lisa. She was 7 years old when she started taking step-dancing and piano lessons.A  At 9 years old, she and her three closest friends would go to the local community hall every Wednesday evening for group fiddle lessons. I used to sing in the church choir, which was fine, because it was a group and you could kind of hide behind things, as with being a fiddle player, you can hide behind your instrument.
In the clatter of the train wheels, the chanting in the churches and the classrooms, the cadence of our footfalls as we run, the bellows of our breathing, the hammering of our heartbeats, we live our song.
Her words describe personal passion and doubt, but the undercurrent of musical expression seems primitive, reaching back to a time when drumbeats carried our messages on the wind.
Tallish, maybe 5 feet-9 or 10, shea€™s beautiful and has that magnificent instrument for a voice.
Money was scarce and the family had no piano, but she saved her money, drew a piano keyboard to practice with, and took lessons anyway. Trina would listen to what her brother was trying to play from a book, and walk over and play it by ear. The first thing they did was to sit on the floor and play games with flash cards and sticks to learn rhythm. She was the lead singer for the band Blue Leaves until around 1994, when the band broke up and she started to go solo. She got some additional people on guitars and recorded the album at the home of producer Marilyn Da€™Amato who operated an a€?in-housea€? recording studio.
Although she broke a guitar string during her first song, she played harp until her friends backstage replaced the string and got the guitar back to her. She describes the song, like many others, as one that came upon her by itself one morning and was finished by evening. Her house concert in Seattle was changed to a beautiful old theater with a recording studio at the back of the hall. She asked when it was happening, and he said, a€?August.a€? This was not far off, and she needed to check her schedule to see if she could do it. The consensus centered on the phenomenon of Trinaa€™s musical ability to funnel emotions for her listeners. The relationship with Island ended.A  Trina had been performing as a solo act since the fall of 1994, and wanted to tour and develop. I knew it was Ina May and Bev because Ia€™d heard them before and their sound is immediately recognizable. Both women started making music when they were very young and both of their paths make fascinating stories. She would help tune studentsa€™ guitars and at the end of the class, would sing and play a song.
Although she cana€™t be sure, Ina May thinks that Davidine might have helped her get her first local gigs.
Paul Penaa€™s producer and booking agent were there and approached me about working with them.
The gig organizer told Ina May that a€?Danny Weiss would be playing the evening gig and was a genius.a€? Ina May was skeptical.
Always a high-energy person, Bev had a full-time job and was a single parent throughout this time. Their first gig as Wool&Grant was a co-bill with Bev and The Dissident Daughters at The Good Coffeehouse in Brooklyn. Lisa and Brenley were trading snippets of mutually shared childhood background a few minutes after they met. I was going to go to college at Saint Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and study science the first year before studying pharmacy.
The fearful part was having my lips on that microphone and knowing that it was raw and everyone in the audience could hear what was coming out of me. When I characterized Gordon Lightfoot as a Canadian-bred country influence, Brenley countered that, as a touchstone, he was a lot folkier, less country-like than, for instance, Neil Young, one of her major influences. It would make him furious, when Trina would effortlessly mimic what he was struggling to learn. While she never felt that she wanted to be in theater, she a€?enjoyed the whole process of it.a€? a€?I guess I was on the path at an early age, of being some kind of an entertainer,a€? she states. The first time, still in junior high, she played piano and sang one of her own songs a€¦and wasna€™t chosen. The words and music came together, and she played chords on that song that she didna€™t know she had in her. Everyone in her audience makes contact with the particular emotions they need to feel when they listen to her. While she never felt that she wanted to be in theater, she a€?enjoyed the whole process of it.a€?A  a€?I guess I was on the path at an early age, of being some kind of an entertainer,a€? she states.
Shea€™d bounced between three clubs in the East Village: Sine, The Sidewalk Cafe (where we first saw her) and CBGBa€™s Gallery (next to the original CBGBa€™s and catering to acoustic acts). Therea€™s something of a country twang in Ina May Woola€™s voice that increases the veracity in her songs about lifea€™s travails and victories. Her mother graduated from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston and was an oil painter and then later a prolific printmaker. She played kidsa€™ parties in junior high and high school and would get $10 for each party during which shea€™d lead singalongs.


She didna€™t play acoustic for a while and hung out with rock musicians, did studio work and was in a rock opera, The Last Words of Dutch Schultz.
It took her a while to extricate herself from that relationship, but she managed to do it around 1966.
She learned to use the concept of a€?story songsa€? to make a political point, and on the first album, wrote about a working-class woman, a€?Janie,a€? from Ironbound, N.
Ina May has learned more about harmonizing from working with Bev, who is still a choral director.
I learned what I know about songwriting as well as what I know about guitar playing from Brenley,a€? Lisa said.
I didna€™t think I had the stomach to be a doctor and I thought that the closest I could get to the medical profession was to be a pharmacist. While theya€™d initially steered away from their parentsa€™ tastes, they both admitted to a secret love of American country music.
The teacher, Stan Chapman, was heavily involved in the careers of many a professional player in the younger generation in Cape Breton. Behind his back, when she was around 12 or 13, Brenley would sneak into his room and play it whenever he went out to play with his friends. I would be about a foot away from the microphone until the lead singer would turn around and look back and then I would put my mouth up to it and pretend that I was singing into it. She finally bought a piano and tried taking lessons as an adult, but as it turned out, her love of music was not accompanied with a matching talent.
As it became apparent that her brother wasna€™t cut out for music, it was finally Trinaa€™s turn. A couple of years later, at the age of 16, she played and sang a combination of two covers, one fast and one slow.
There was one available in the house that she shared, but it took 2 years for her to pick it up and learn it. Trina describes her management experiences as a€?very free form,a€? people guiding her, but in an undirected sort of way. It was a blast.a€? Because the album was not completed at the time her songs first appeared on Dawsona€™s Creek, she was unable to garner much publicity from the TV exposure. If you remember that song all too well and think you were burned out on its excessive presence on FM airwaves in the a€?70s, think again. And ita€™s this underlying understanding of whata€™s happening that I dona€™t always give myself credit for.
Most were pass-the-bucket a€?tip houses,a€?A  where performers were not paid, and made their money from the collection at the end of each performance. Therea€™s a Buffy Sainte-Marie-like quaver and a power in the voice of Bev Grant that helps raise a persona€™s social awareness when it happens to be her goal.
It was a whole other world, some rock and pop and also some standards and jazz singing with pickup bands. Another band person was explaining to Dan how Ina May sings a€?this songa€? and a€?that song.a€? Daniel said in response (not aware that Ina May was standing there) a€?Oh, I know all that female stuff!a€? Ina May stepped up and said, a€?Oh, really? Bev was known as a€?the little girl with the big voice,a€? and sang songs like a€?Blue Suede Shoesa€? and a€?Heartbreak Hotela€? as well as Teresa Brewer covers.
As part of that group she made a documentary about the Miss America pageant protest in 1968 and she took many photos surrounding that event. She has written songs to illustrate those issues.] After the Human Condition disbanded, she formed the Brooklyn Womena€™s Chorus, a 40-person vocal group. While Ina May focuses on rhythm guitar and finger picking, Bev has taken on lead guitar work. September came and I went to a€?Frosh [Freshman] Weeka€™ and got the university out of my system during that week and never enrolled for any classes. She began with a fast song, a€?Ia€™ve Got the Music in Me,a€? segued into the slow one (a Kim Carnes song) and then finished up with the fast one, and she won. Additionally, she did a few gigs there, and was noticed by a man named Krisz Kreuzer who asked her to write words to some songs he was recording for an urban blues album.
Part of that is because I always felt a little bit off-kilter as a kid because I could hear, but I didna€™t always know what I heard. Together, Wool&Grant possess a sweet blend and a one-two punch that invites all kinds of a€?strong womena€? references.
Are you married?a€? and wound up telling him about her relationship problems after the gig. Her oldest sister had taken several years of piano lessons and learned electric bass, while her middle sister took up lap steel. Theya€™ve each brought earlier work to the new album and have collaborated on one of the new songs, a€?The Last Man on the Mountain,a€? about strip mining. As the two began to tour more as a duo and less with a band, it was their desire that their albums become more a€?strippeda€? down and attempt to replicate their sound as a duo. Lisa stated, a€?I dona€™t know what he does or how he does it, but just about every fiddle player who does it for a living thata€™s come out of Cape Breton was taught by Stan Chapman.a€?A  Lisa played for traditional Scottish square dances on weekends and in various folk bands.
As the two began to tour more as a duo and less with a band,A  it was their desire that their albums become more a€?strippeda€? down and attempt to replicate their sound as a duo. She dedicated it to her Uncle Murray, who used to coax her to sing that song impromptu in some of the tonier restaurants in New York City.
This is where she picked up the harmonica, purely by accident.A  Two college friends were in a blues band, a€?The One Eyed Jacks,a€? that shea€™d go to see after she got out of school.
Later I realized that when you change the words, the chords, the melody and the rhythm of a song, it might be called a€?writinga€™ a song.
Abruptly, her husband and a bass player friend moved to New York, where they looked for gigs.
I realized the first time I sang on stage, right from the get-go, that it was what I had to do.
Brenley has said that she never saw him cry and [paraphrasing here] thinks it woulda€™ve done him some good. That was her means of income, as opposed to working in a fast-food restaurant, a more typical fallback for a teenager.
Some elements in her learning progression included using her brothera€™s Eagles songbooks, and picking up songs from Crosby Stills and Nash albums from a frienda€™s father. She was asked to pick some songs, which were then arranged for her and she sang without playing piano (a€?weird for me,a€? she said). Using overdubs, Trina provided back-up harp throughout the entire song, as well as the harp solos that are in the forefront along with her lead vocal.
Working with Susan [Werner] has been amazing because she talks in those terms a lot and I know that I understand it.a€? All that Trina has experienced prepared her well for her supporting role with Susan. She was asked to pick some songs, which were then arranged for her and she sang without playing piano (a€?weird for me,a€? she said).A  She performed with the orchestra for 11 straight days in front of an audience of a€?about five thousand peoplea€? each time. She thinks that perhaps watching the leader play harp gave her some insight into playing it.
Shea€™d only heard him doing pop and rock on synthesizer at the gig and was flabbergasted to hear him playing a€?gorgeous acoustic jazza€? on a piano. She also recalls learning how to play Don McLeana€™s a€?American Pie.a€? Later, while dating a guitar player in college, she got introduced to the songs of Cat Stevens.
Dionne Warwick was supposed to play at the final a€?Grandstanda€? show, but couldna€™t make it, so Trina filled in, along with Michael Johnson, a pop singer, the showa€™s opening act. When another singer songwriter friend, for whom Trina sang backup vocals, asked Trina to play harp on a song, she demurred at first, but gave in. Theya€™ve been married 25 years now and Daniel has produced both of Ina Maya€™s solo albums. Within the first sentence that came out of my mouth, singing in front of a live audience, it was like I was struck by lightning a€” I know this sounds cheesy a€” Wow! Although the Montessori method eventually leads its students to sight reading, Trina refused.
A couple of months later, the consultant got back and said that Susan needed a band during her Gospel Truth tour.
The stage was bigger than anything shea€™d ever seen, and when the lights were turned on, she couldna€™t see the audience - just a a€?black wall.a€? These days, the audiences are a lot smaller in the clubs, and when she plays festivals, large audiences dona€™t faze her. Her friend taught her how to a€?benda€? a note, it gave it more of a a€?voice.a€?A  Trina did it and liked it, then started a€?fooling arounda€? with harmonica. Finally, her teacher forced her to leave, saying she had to study with someone who would force her to read music.
She listened to albums by harp players, but that didna€™t help, so she just kept experimenting on her own. She was fascinated by the rhythms she was getting - different than the ones she was singing. No matter what I throw at you, you land on your feet.a€? Given that Susan constantly needs to change things up to keep it interesting for herself, Trina is the perfect band mate for her.



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