ATLANTA MUSIC NEWS: Kristen Englenz shines

Soul Food Cypher celebrates women in hip-hop, plus new music from Lesibu Grand, Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Mike Mattison, and more

K Englenz By Leona Tryon Web
Photo credit: Leona Tryon
OH EVENIN’ STAR: Kristen Englenz’s debut album is out now.

Over the last three years, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Kristen Englenz has spent much of her time traveling back and forth between Nashville and Atlanta, although she still calls Atlanta home. On Friday, March 6, she returns to the Eddie’s Attic stage to play the release show for her proper debut album ingénue — and yes, that’s ingénue with a lowercase i.

“I thought it was more visually pleasing, interesting, and balanced,” Englenz says. “However, I have found that most people are capitalizing it anyways, so I may have to get over that.”

The album is the follow-up to Englenz’s 2015 The Extent of Play EP, and was recorded by Ken Coomer of Wilco and Uncle Tupelo fame at Cartoon Moon Studios in Nashville. As the story goes, Englenz had been enlisted to sing back-up on Decatur-based songwriter Mike Killeen’s album Ghost, which Coomer happened to be recording and producing. When Coomer heard Englenz’s parts, he approached her to produce ingénue. Coomer also plays drums and percussion throughout the album, and one early single, “Pray for Rain,” features the golden voices of the Blind Boys of Alabama singing as well.

But despite the celebrity factor, ingénue arrives as a strong opening salvo for Englenz.

Jon Latham, Mike Killeen, and Total Babe (Emily Backus, Meg Brooks) open the show with short sets as well.

“We really worked on how to craft these songs, and which songs to choose from about 50,” Englenz says. “The whole enchilada. Going down to FAME (Studios in Muscle Shoals) to record with Blind Boys of Alabama was another level of experience as well. I can’t really express how profound it was to have legends like that want to sing on words I wrote in a trying time and just take it to this even more profound historic level. Needless to say there have been a lot of tears in reflection.”

Early singles such as “Got Me With Goodbye” and “Rebound” show off a fleshed-out collection of instrumental arrangements surrounding a voice that sounds more charged and confident than ever.

It’s an impressive step up in production, performance, and overall presence, all of which are a far cry from the one-take cuts that were used for the first EP.

“I’d say the EP was like sketching out an idea, and this album feels like a finished painting,” Englenz says. “I have become more confident in my voice which is likely the biggest difference in life and recording. Voice in the sense of singing,” she adds, “but (also) voice in the sense of a level of confidence in who I am and having self-worth, that (tells me) maybe there is value in sharing that.”

The album hit record store shelves on February 28, and also features contributions from a crew of burgeoning, high-caliber Nashville players including Coomer on drums, Jason “Slim” Gambill and Joe Garcia on electric guitar, bass player Ted Pecchio, Robbie Crowell on keys, and Englenz holding down everything from guitar, piano, and French horn to glockenspiel. For the Eddie’s Attic show, Englenz is backed by a slightly different lineup that includes Jon Latham on electric guitar, Irakli Gabriel on electric guitar, Cory Nichols on bass, and Chris Benelli on drums.

In February, Lesibu Grand unveiled a new video for the song “Mi Sueño,” the closing number from 2019’s mini album, The Legend of Miranda. Based on the songwriting of bass player John Renaud and Tyler-Simone Molton, the group revels in a blend of Pixies-style indie rock, classic new wave, horn flourishes, and classic soul sounds. “Mi Sueño” is a bit of a departure from the group’s typically baroque rock style, but it’s a song no less steeped in heavy layers of quiet Southern surrealism that’s all about a dream within a dream, and the cultural, subliminal, and literal meanings of the word dreams. Directed by W. Addison Wood, the video blends drifting imagery of Molton, mirroring scenes from historic black films such as Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort, South Carolina, May 1940, and Spencer Williams’ 1941 film The Blood of Jesus (1941), with Zora Neale Hurston’s untitled fieldwork footage from the late 1920s.

Lesibu Grand plays the Atlanta Room at Smith’s Olde Bar on Saturday, April 4, with Howling Star and Awleen.

Also in February, Slow Parade’s Matthew Pendrick released a sophomore LP, titled Hi​-​Fi LowLife. The album features a laundry list of players, including drummer and vibes player Paul Stevens, bass player Will Pass, Chandler Galloway on keys and vocals, Damon Moon playing bass, Luis Steffanel on flute, and Liz Brasher singing on the second song, “Spoonful.” Pendrick handled vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and keys. Moon produced.

Songs from the new album, such as “Waiting on the Smoke to Clear,” “Ebb & Flow,” and “Baggage Claim” find Pendrick and Co. moving away from the more cut-and-dried roots-based songwriting of the group’s 2015 album, Big Plans, to embrace a more creative and heavily stylized sound.

On March 20, Grammy winner and Tedeschi Trucks Band singer Mike Mattison will release his second solo album, titled Afterglow, via Landslide Records. The follow-up to 2014’s You Can’t Fight Love was co-produced by Mattison and drummer Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell, and features an eclectic array of blues, Americana, and rock ‘n’ roll numbers. The album also features contributions from guitarist Dave Yoke, bass player Franher Joseph, keyboard player Rachel Eckworth, guitar player Paul Olsen (Scrapomatic), and keyboards by the late Kofi Burbridge, who died in 2019 due to complications related to an ongoing cardiac condition.

And last, but not least, on Sunday, March 22, Soul Food Cypher returns for its regularly scheduled gathering from 6-9 p.m. at The Annex Bookstore (748 Marietta Street N.W.), this time with a celebration of women in hip-hop. Tiye hosts. More details will be announced here as they become available.

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