Belly Floppin’ & Solo Sloggin’… Tanya’s Back in 2013.

9 Dec

p03278tk339Newport, Rhode Island – it’s a chic sort of town these days.  Super Yachts line the portside and wealthy Mainers drop in for long weekends to wine, dine and admire the cliffside mansions.  Head to Middletown and it’s a slightly different vibe.  Beyond the oldest Tavern in the USA and the Meeting House of Newport, lies a middle-ground, a sort of unnoticed community.  It is here, that two sisters got together – by circumstance, by blood-ties, by coincidence – whatever the reason: the result grew into Throwing Muses.  It is over three decades since Tanya Donelly and Kristin Hersh began writing and performing songs that would, at first listen, seem to have been plucked from the arse of Devil Obscura.  At just fourteen years old each, the lyrics and perceptions to come forth from these combined minds, mouths and fingers, are testament that experience and imagination are two of the same – just separated by a blurry line – a visceral, subjective sense that noone could lay claim to unveil.imagesCAOM26D5

Releasing their first EP in 1984, Stand Up – and then a full-length LP in 1986 (untitled debut), they would regularly ship themselves and their gear, over the bridge and into the bright lights of the city of Providence, Rhode Island – to play shows to tiny, sometimes, non-existent audiences.  Kristin always took the reins in the early days – with Tanya opting to act in a supporting role, and contributing to a handful of songs on each record.  Tanya’s vocals and songwriting soon stood out as melodic as opposed to dischordant; sensuous and just – more – accessible.  She wrote Green, Pools in Eyes and River.  Later on, with the 1991 release of The Real Ramona (to be their final, official Throwing Muses record with both Kristin and Tanya together), Tanya held her own on Honeychain – and of course, Not Too Soon.  Ultimate track, Two Step also carried their weights equally and beautifully.

So, it is now verging on 2013 and where has life taken Tanya, post-Throwing Muses and Belly days?

It would be too easy to say that she has taken the path most travelled by some peers who have given up the full-time Rock Chick thing in favour of a steady income, a mortgage and a knitting company.  But that wouldn’t be entirely true.  Ok, so Kelley Deal (The Breeders) has created her own scarf and knitting business which seems to be going down very well with rock fans and those not, alike.  But what of Tanya Donelly, the woman who dueted with Thom Yorke of Radiohead; the girl who flashed her backside (go Tanya!) on national British television on Later With Jools; and topped most billboard charts with her Belly hit, Feed The Tree?

She got the mortgage.  She got the (beautiful) kids.  She is yet to start her own knitting business.  Well, two out of three ain’t bad, right?!

In all seriousness – Tanya Donelly has evolved over the years to become the songwriter and performer that she probably always was, once the glitz and glamour of the Belly days were stripped away.  Never one for the superficial fame lifestyle – choosing instead to focus on the fleeimagesCAVV14S1ting moments in our lives that actually mean something – mean something, in real life.  Being a Mother, practicing as a post-partum Doula, and writing music that you believe in.

1997’s release of Lovesongs For Underdogs retained much of the volume of the previous Belly records, Star (released on Sire in 1993) and King (released in 1995) but ventured into what, it turns out, would be a pre-cursor for Tanya’s later, solo work.  Manna, Mysteries of the Unexplained and Swoon all showed these qualities – that of vulnerability and soul that you might miss, in the harder, faster, obscure work from both Belly, the Breeders and Throwing Muses.  But that’s not to say it wasn’t there… It always was.  You just had to be open to it.imagesCA5RURID

Tanya has never wanted to make it too easy on us – what would be the point, otherwise?  Shrouded in mystery, covered in honey, peppered with gruesome – her lyrics have always alluded to the strange, the fantasy and the untangible parts of ourselves that we dare not touch.  It’s what makes her who she is – and Belly who they were.

But where does this leave her today?

2012 has been a year of sporadic live shows in the New England region of east-coast America – with Tanya hooking up with Buffalo Tom pal, Bill Janovitz for several charity shows – including a Hot Stove, Cool Music fundraiser for young people in the USA in need of shelter (you can catch the next one in Boston on January 12th, 2013) and a benefit for The Children’s Room back in December 2011.  She has also been a significant part of renewing the old ways of recording – taking part in a live recording on an Edison Phonograph – when cylinders were used to record voice.  Apart from this, Tanya has been appearing with author, Rick Moody (author of The Ice Storm; Garden State; and recently, On Celestial Music) with collaborations between song and prose – their work together can be heard in the near future (more details to follow).  She is also working on a graphic novel with Cambridge/Boston-based artist, Louisa Bertman – due for serial release sometime in 2013.  Also in the pipeline for 2013: A brand new album – or installments of the new album – from Tanya.  The record is said to be an amalgamation of Tanya’s own solo work, alongside talented friends and musicians, authors and poets. 

There have also been recordings of Stevie Wonder, Tom Waits, Neil Young and the Smiths covers…  As well as a recent live-streamed show from Cambridge, MA – which saw Tanya branch into the Jazz genre and demonstrate her incredible ability to do justice to whatever challenge comes her way.  It seems as though Throwing Muses and Belly were only a slice of what Tanya can do – and perhaps the rest, and the best, is yet to come.

The tail-end of 2013 will see Tanya perform with friends and musicians, The Magnetic Fields (brainchild of Stephin Merritt along with Claudia Gonson and buddies) at NYC’s First Night celebrations on December 31st.  I couldn’t, personally, think of a better way in which to see the new year in…

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As for sister, Kristin – she is busy recording the latest Throwing Muses album – as well as side project 50 Foot Wave.  She remains steadfast with drummer Dave Narcizo and bassist Bernie Georges and there are plans for shows in 2013, too.  She is also working on (several) books – and of course, you can still get a copy of Rat Girl (Paradoxical Undressing) – her autobiographical novel.

Tanya’s official website is currently under construction – but check in at: www.tanyadonelly.com for more information and updates.

Kristin’s official website can be accessed at: www.kristinhersh.com

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