Grace and Tony sing duets that are almost guaranteed to make you smile. One part traditional Americana music, another part gleeful musical fare, these two clearly have experience singing together. Their harmonies are natural and the charisma just oozes from the audio. Although the album came out in 2013, I still thought they worth our time covering here. It’s a really unique sound that will appeal to a lot of our readers who enjoy a twist on traditional music. Self-billed as “punkgrass” the duo has a real audio “presence” that shows they love what they’re doing.
The opening “Hey Grace Hey Tony” is a great toe tapper to get things going. The harmonies are bold and outgoing. “I can’t love anyone the way that I love you.” These lyrics are genuine as the two are a married couple as of last year. It’s rare that listeners get such a chance to listen in on such a fun-loving yet intimate kind of song. With an awesome bass line, upbeat drums, and endearing harmonies it’s the 40s-era melody with modern lyrics song that you didn’t know you needed.
“Holy Hand Grenade” keeps the dance floor jumping, but with a different spin. There’s still the great harmonies, but it has a sense of “big band” flavor without the horns. It swings, it packs a punch, and even tells a story about saving the day! It’s anthemic and fun, begging to be embedded in a film score. It’s related to the following title track “November,” which also uses the traditional instrumentation and killer lead vocal from Tony White (for those keeping score, yes the brother of Grammy-winner John Paul White). It has elements of heroism, adventure, and mystery. Rather than the typical “background music” relaxing folk I typically cover, this music is all-in-keep-focused music. It invites dancing, participation, and singing along.
The western character of “Chameleon” is infectious from the opening. It swings like an old school western track, complete with an awesome steel guitar line, and has a driving beat that really draws the listener in. This is such a unique song that words really don’t do it total justice, but it’s fair to call it addictive. It’s about a man who can solve problems by being able to understand his surroundings. He means to help. He is, like the characters that seem to dominate this album, heroic. Some of the minor chord work and the low bass vocals are just… stunning. This is clearly a duo working at an extremely high skill level. Oh… and… [spoiler alert] GANG VOCAL For. The. Win.
“Electricity Bomb” seems to be a metaphor above my pay grade, but the instrumentation and melody fit with the rest of the album, so I can dig it. “Where Emma Meets John” has a great adventurous, driving beat and aggressive strum pattern that highlights the lead vocal. It is about identity transformation, playing dress up, and changing perspective in life. We get to hear Grace’s vocals soar some on this track, which would be welcome in more from this great duo. As per the rest of the album, the best part of the track is the seamless harmonizing.
“Our song may be over, but you still resonate…” is the key lyric in the track “Resonate.” It’s a story of a man after a breakup. It’s about that lingering sense after a broken relationship when things are over, but you just can’t stop thinking about the person. It’s written, again, in a sort of “classic western meets Old World European” blend. I hear organ, mandolin, and a definitive “western swing” vocal timbre. It’s really an understated and delightful track.
Sticking with the “Old World” chord progressions, “Grassphemy” is one of the least conventional, but most endearing tracks I’ve heard in years. “How are we to know if it’s a certain way to go? It’s all we know.” It seems to be, as a song, a statement about their unconventional style. It’s a punk rock mentality with a bluegrass style. If there’s one song from this album that summarizes Grace and Tony “as an act,” this is certainly it. “Stop telling me there’s a certain way to sing… it’s what we need.” Yep.
The concluding “La Carrera” is unsurprisingly southwestern in influence. It provides a fitting end to the album, driving home their unique style in a forceful way. More than “punkgrass” it highlights the theatrical side of their art. The chord progressions are profound, the harmonies complicated, and the overall sound is… well, to reapply an overused word… epic! It’s a phenomenal track that even invites some Mexican-influenced horn parts. Muy bueno.
All told this was a surprisingly phenomenal album. Experimental styles can be great or a real disaster. What Grace and Tony clearly bring to the table is a lot of musical performance excellence. They did not just wake up one day abusing two different music styles. They are masters of a truly exceptional style that evidences mastery of two very different root musical forms. This is not the kind of thing that the average “strum a chord, sing a melody” country or singer-songwriter can do. This is definitely an album for the adventurous music fan, seeking something truly remarkable that is an experience to listen to as much as a sonic joy.