St. Paul de Vence At Centennial Park

St. Paul de Vence (duo)

Seattle indie-folk stars St. Paul de Vence – composed of Benjamin Doerr, Justin Froese, and Alex Malloy – released their first EP, When Our Boys Have Been Buried, in 2010. The band had been created as a side-project while its members were involved in other bands, but by 2011 St. Paul de Vence had blossomed, as if by accident, into something much deeper, culminating in the release of their eponymous full-length album in early 2012.

Inspired by the WWII experiences of Benjamin’s grandfather, Fortune Jean Giordano, St. Paul de Vence’s debut album brings to life stories of war-torn France, existence under Nazi occupation, and the fight for liberation. Following the war, Fortune returned to a nation in ruin with no prospect for work, so he set sail to seek a new life in America. The story of his journey – the pain, loss, love, and triumph – remained largely untold until Benjamin started asking questions and writing the answers in song. A by-product of the band’s song-crafting process, each member sings and plays a variety of instruments, including guitar, banjo, ukulele, accordion, autoharp, concertina, piano, mandolin, and percussion, filling their dynamic performances with variety.

Melding old-world instrumentalism with modern pop-folk sensibilities, St. Paul de Vence takes full advantage of the virtuosity of its members. Powerful multi-part harmonies and instrument-trading evoke the fireside sing-a-longs of a bygone era, and a focus on vintage acoustic instrumentation treats the listener to a rich palette of sounds only time can offer. Combining elements of ancient melodies and timeless stories with present-day flourishes creates an experience that fans of Mumford and Sons, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Head and the Heart and even Tom Waits are sure to recognize and cherish, just as the band cherishes them.

Le Wrens

It is Jonny and sibling Lizzy Gundersen who are the key artists in Le Wrens, a Seattle-based folk-country act that should stop people in their tracks. In fact, I vow to never write about these two in relation to their brother, Noah Gundersen. They are certainly artists in their own right, evident throughout their late release of Don’t Forget Me, an EP that unfortunately stops at four songs. Suffice it to say I want more for all the right reasons.

The first song on the album “Chances” captures the folk country feeling from the very start. It is subtle and smooth, unlike the in-your-face commercialization of pop country. Lizzy’s entrance into the song is so clear and precise… it’s hair-raising in the right way. Then when the rest of the group joins her with harmonies listeners are immediately transported to an existentially delightful place. It’s (pardon the Seattle pun) nirvana.

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