Alyssa Graham recommends Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy

Alyssa Graham and Serge Gainsbourg

Alyssa Graham and Serge Gainsbourg

Alyssa Graham’s recommendation: “Two of the greatest influences on my music, my life and my worldview are Neil Young and Nick Drake. I have spent numerous hours and days listening, loving and disappearing to these two profound and magical artists. However, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about two of my more recent obsessions, namely Francoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg is one of the most interesting, creative and diverse artists I have ever explored. Gainsbourg has experimented in jazz, funk, pop and rock. He often explored morbid sexuality and suffering and recorded concept albums with themes like Lolita and Nazis. He is “limitless.” His music is always progressive and always deep and it challenges me to go deeper into my own music and expression. When talking about Serge Gainsbourg and how he influenced French pop music it is impossible not to point out the sensual, lush and dreamlike voice and music of Francoise Hardy whom Gainsbourg often worked with. Hardy’s beautiful and spare sound can always lull me into a deep peaceful meditation. The subtle arrangements and the whisper and hum of Francoise’ vocals allow me to imagine and create in a continuous world of beauty and euphoria. She is a constant source of inspiration for me and was a big influence on my current project, The Lock, Stock & Soul EP.”

New To Serge Gainsbourg and Francoise Hardy? Alyssa suggests you start here: “Gainsbourg’s 1971 concept album Histoire de Melody Nelson is a great place to start. Often referred to as his “Lolita-esque” pseudo-autobiographical album, Histoire De Melody Nelson is a combination of funky guitar styling, dark string arrangements and spoken word like vocals. A quintessential Gainsbourg creation. A new super deluxe version coming out this month. Also, 1971, Francoise Hardy’s LA Question is truly a masterpiece. Subtle and spare, seductive and romantic, La Question is brilliantly produced and offers everything you could ever want from this dreamy and stunning artist.”

Suzanne SantoAbout our guest author, Alyssa Graham: Alyssa co-led a band called Blindman’s Holiday in college, and the group was quickly recognized by Entertainment Magazine as one of the best college bands in the country. The hype helped the band nab touring gigs with The Band, Lisa Loeb, and The Wailers. Alyssa then enrolled at The New England Conservatory and released her debut album, What Love Is, in 2005. The album was chosen by All About Jazz as one of its “Best New Recordings of 2005” and set the stage for her 2008 release, Echo, a collection that was named one of the “Top 10 Vocal Albums of the Year” by iTunes. Alyssa most recently released Lock, Stock & Soul, an album that features contributions from Meshell Ndegeocello (bass) and David Garza (vocals) and is described by Team Graham as “a full-circle return to Graham’s longtime musical loves: Neil Young, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan.” You might hear a bit of Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell in there, too, as well as echoes of Norah Jones, and for good reason: For this record, Alyssa was able to snag Grammy-winning producer Craig Street, who produced Jones’ breakthrough Come Away With Me, and Jesse Harris, who penned Norah’s smash Don’t Know Why. Alyssa has friends in high places and utilizes them perfectly on this collection.

Suzanne Santo of honeyhoney recommends Eddie South and Radiohead

Suzanne Santo and Eddie South

Suzanne Santo and Eddie South

Suzanne Santo’s recommendation: “One of my favorite musicians of all time is a jazz violinist from Louisiana named Eddie South. I only have one record called Eddie South: The Dark Angel of the Fiddle: The Complete Standard Transcriptions that I listen to over and over. It is an instrumentally driven compilation (sans vocals) of the most gorgeous violin playing I have ever heard. He gave the instrument a dark yet delicate voice that I have yet to hear anyone else recreate. His gifts as well as his struggles as an African American musician in the late 20′s and 30′s are a true inspiration to me.

The other artist/album I can never get enough of is Radiohead’s In Rainbows. That record takes me through a gauntlet of emotions that leave me either wanting to go for a run, get it on or quit music and become an assassin. I come from the “mixed tape/cd” era where I want to feel a little bit of everything when I listen to music.”

Suzanne SantoAbout our guest author, Suzanne Santo: Suzanne Santo was working as an actress and tinkering in music when Ben Jaffe, a musician who recorded music for TV and film, went to one of Santo’s solo gigs. From there, the duo formed the band honeyhoney and were quickly signed to Kiefer Sutherland’s Ironworks music label. (Kiefer went on to star in and directed their video for Little Toy Gun.) Given Santo’s killer looks and the band’s history with mass media, it may be easy to write the group off as simply a solid band that aspires to end up on sitcom soundtracks. But that’d be a huge mistake. The band’s latest record, Billy Jack is layered with banjos and acoustic guitars, evoking equal parts of Gram Parsons, Rickie Lee Jones and Buffalo Springfield. This is roots music with a modern twist, complete with tight arrangements and Santo’s heartfelt vocals. Amazingly, the band is able to walk the mainstream line (they opened for Christina Perri on her tour) and still keep their head in the Dust Bowl. Be sure to check out their rollicking live shows on these upcoming tour dates.

MP3: Turn That Finger Around by honeyhoney from their album, Billy Jack