Interview & Review by Robert Urban for GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE
Praised from New York to Atlanta, Corinne Curcio has an eclectic style drawing on several musical genres including Acoustic Pop, Rock, Blues, Folk, Swing, and World Music. Her third solo CD, “From My Balcony“, showcases her instrumental versatility on guitar, keyboard and bass. With her sultry voice and well crafted lyrics, Corinne weaves a rich musical tapestry. She is also a member of the duo (formerly trio) Estrogen. All her CD’s are available on CDBaby.com
Review & Interview
From My Balcony is the new homemade (or shall I say "apartment made"?) cd release by Brooklyn, NY-based guitarsist/singer-songwriter Corinne Curcio. Composed, produced performed and even manufactured in simple, honest fashion by the artist herself - From My Balcony is one of the cleanest, most evenly mixed indie "home-recordings" this listener has ever heard.
Even better - It's 13 songs offer a most pleasant listening experience. This is due mainly to Corinne's strong, confident guitar playing and her mature songwriting skills. Whatever the cd may lack in terms of big studio, hi-end production values is more than made-up for by it's straight-forward yet unassuming approach and rock solid musicianship.
Corinne the guitarist plays with two VERY assured, well-trained hands. I can recall how it struck me whenever i saw her perform live. How does one put it? "Exactness" fits. Her scales, arpeggios, and especially her chordal work are soooooo precisely played. In a pitch-perfect way she seems to hit every note dead in the center of every fret she tackles. The resulting effect is that guitar, in her able hands, come off sounding like a fixed-tuning instrument - e.g., a piano or a harpsichord. This makes for assured and convincing accompaniment to her equally pitch-perfect singing voice.
Corinne the singer/lyricist/songwriter can be said to be a pop/rock "classicist". She is so well-informed and so immersed in the great traditions and styles of rock/pop songwriting that stretch back to the 1950s - her performances and recordings are almost more "chamber" than "rock show" in setting and feeling.
Classic (and classy) 60s-inspired rock-influences abound throughout From My Balcony. One can hear shades of mid-Beatles, Arthur Lee of Love and XTC's "Mayor of Simpleton" era (track 1 "My Melissa"); early southern rock ala Johnny Rivers, surf-rock stylings, and Brit invasion-like dense vocal harmony clusters (track 2 "Do the Tragedy"); a certain Peter & Gordon/Gerry & the Pacemakers/Herman & the Hermits sound - (track 3 "The Lads from LIverpool"); American 50s black-inspired-blues as translated by the like of the early Stones, John Mayall, Yardbirds, etc. (track 4 "This Gray Day"); vintage rockabilly (track 7 "A Matter of Degree"); and blues ala Cream/Booker T. Jones "Born Under a Bad Sign" (track 11 "Back Luck").
This listener's favorite cuts on From My Balcony include track 4 "Flood Water's Risin'" (inspired by Psalm #69) which exudes a late-60s, early Jefferson Airplane, transcendent charm, complete with sitar-guitar, as when east coast USA-folky rock met eastern music (east as in India); track 9 "Whispers of Maybe" - a haunting, self-introspective song about the possible roads of life (taken or not taken?). It features an especially catchy/spooky hook of a chorus - recalling early albums of bands such as Moody Blues and Love; track 10 "Lazy August Afternoon" - here Corinne really shows-off her love of the Beatles, (especially Paul McCartny). The song offers up a big, bouncy, light-hearted, "simple-pleasures" depression era big band flashback kind of song in the vein of "Martha My Dear"/"When I'm 64/Lovely Rita Meter Maid" and the like;
Track 13 "Man in the Moon" - is quite a remarkable song - both musically & lyrically. With Joni Mitchell as one of her icons, this song could be said to be Corinne's "Song to a Seagul" and/or "Clouds". The acoustic guitar finger work is precise, delicate, understated yet powerful - and altogether lovely in its execution. Anyone with some life experience - those in, or passed, the "middle of the road" - will be especially moved by the simple existential-truths revealed in the innocent questions Corinne raises in her interrogation of the Man in the Moon.
In today's too-much-information world of hyper-media-train-wreck entertainment, it's rare to find genuinely contemplative, quietly distanced reflections in song that stand on their own and draw the listener in out of the common din of life. From My Balcony accomplishes this and more. It's titlle rings true. In tracks such as "Man in the Moon", "From My Balcony" and "Lazy August Afternoon" - while listening one can really envision Corinne Curcio up there - at her apartment somewhere in Brooklyn - courting her muse -- her observations stretching out across her view of the human universe. - Robert Urban, URBAN PRODUCTIONS ,NYC
- What brand/model/year instrument(s) do you record and play out with?I only have one functional guitar right now - It’s a Tacoma Chief C3. While it’s a nice sounding guitar, it’s too fragile and tempermental. A too humid (damn that Siberia gig), or too dry (damn my apartment, the face has cracked) environment ruined it. I never had this kind of problem with my 1990 Guild D3. Gee, I loved that guitar! So I use the Tacoma for everything. I have other guitars - a Baby Taylor that I use as a travel guitar when I rehearse; a 12 string ovation that the late Zonna gave to me and a Guild dreadnought that I bought on Ebay. All of them need to be adjusted!
- What kind of guitar set-up did you use to record “From my Balcony”?I plugged my Tacoma, which has a pick up installed, into a Peavey Backstage amp that I miked, and I also miked the guitar directly for a more acoustic sound. Were the guitar sounds created by using mic’d amps, direct line-in or by using digital amp “modeling” devices? The sounds either came directly from the amp, or were added later using Cakewalk’s effects.
Were all the acoustic guitar sounds achieved from real acoustic guitars?Just the one acoustic guitar
- Any special/favorite amps/instrument tones/effects/approaches/techniques you've used/discovered in recording and/or performance that you really like?
I’m very non-technical. I used whatever sounds good to me and appropriate for the style of the song. Some reverb, some flange, some chorus, some distortion.
- I hear a variety of early/mid/late ‘60s influences in your guitar and songwriting approach including surf, folk, Brit invasion and psychedelia. Who are your favs and main influences as an instrumentalist? Which artists? Which bands?
Well, The Beatles were the main reason I started to play the guitar, though I do recall having a plastic, toy guitar before they hit our shores. Other later influences would include Joni Mitchell, Richard Thompson as both a solo performer and as a member of Fairport Convention. Steeleye Span,The Incredible String Band, XTC… so there’s a definite British Folk/Rock influence on my songwriting and guitar playing.
Musically speaking, your songs are sophisticated, complex at times even dense compositional constructions. (especially by today’s simplistic pop standards…) Did you study music and/or guitar formally?
The Beatles were my first music teachers. I did cover versions of their songs when I was a teenager, with my brother Richard. We listened intently to the bass and the drums and guitars, so we could re-produce their sound. I think from learning to play their music, and really, figuring out the chords and lead lines from them and other albums I played over and over taught me musical structure.
I did study some theory and guitar books on my own, including ragtime, Celtic, Bluegrass, finger picking and blues. I also took a couple of classes on songwriting and various styles of guitar. I’ve absorbed a lot over…44 years of playing (is it really that long?) I find that most of the artists I listen to and respect have more sophisticated and complex and interesting music.
- Can you relate any special feelings or experiences about being aLGBT player in the mostly straight, mainstream music world... especially regarding your formative/learning years on your instrument?
I think it was more about being a woman guitarist than a gay one. To this day I still get the question “You play guitar?” from men when I carry the guitar case through city streets. Women guitarists were perceived as “soft” and folky, like Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell (both of which, btw are excellent guitarists). You could count on one hand women rock guitarists.
- For an openly out glbt player - how do you think the overall music scene differ today
from years ago?
Well, there are a number out of musicians nowadays, which would have been an impossibility when I was growing up. You can see it the enormous growth in terms our our own radio stations and shows, and programming on Logo.
- - Any special thoughts on your guitar, and what it's meant to you in your life?
Oh, it gave me a voice. A way to express the music I loved and was inside of me. I was very shy as a child, teenager and young adult, and it was difficult for me to speak up. My father seemed to be always telling me to lower the volume on my “garbage music” But the guitar was something I was good at, and I could be creative and express the feelings and joy that was inside of me. Writing songs and exploring many styles of guitar has enriched me and my life.
- Being a New York City resident, you must have had the chance to see some awesome live music concerts. What are some of your all-time favorite live concerts? Also, what live concerts really influenced you in your youth?
I actually didn’t see a lot of performances as a young teen. I saw Ravi Shankar and Joan Baez. I did most of my concert viewing on TV - all those bands of the 60’s who were on Hullabaloo and Bandstand and Ed Sullivan. But during the 80’s I saw Patti Smith, and Bob Dylan and Tom Petty live. Some years ago I saw the great guitarists and songwriters Richard Thompson and Patti Larkin in concert. Lucinda Williams is another artist I really like. A great venue was The Bottom Line where singer songwriters regularly performed which, alas, is no more.
- Poetically speaking regarding all the “Rear Window” observations you write about on “Balcony” - there is a kind of reclusive, twice-removed, pensive, somewhat distanced perspective and flavor to the album’s song lyrics. One might say Emily Dickenson or Joni Mitchell-like. Are you more reclusive at this stage in your music career and/or life in general? "
I think “reclusive” is a bit strong. Introspective - yes - but not removed. Many of the songs are very personal and hold a lot of feeling and meaning for me, and I hope, others. I think the lyrics are filled with emotion and feel they are among my best. Most were written last year during a songwriting challenge called FAWM (February Album Writing Month) and 5090 FAWM (50 songs in 90 days). I can honestly say this period was the most creative and prolific of my musical life.
But getting back to the “reclusive” comment…I’ve been on an economic spiral for a number of years. I’m not able to take a real vacation - Songwriting during the July 3rd through October 1 of last year was my vacation. It will be my vacation again this year. I found it very enjoyable to sit on my balcony and relax, playing the guitar and writing.
- - Any advice for new, upcoming openly queer musical artists?
- While it’s certainly important to sing about the LGBT experience, I wouldn’t want artists to limit themselves from writing about other facets of their lives as well. Don't be afraid to speak openly about all that's in your heart and in your life.
- What are your current and future musical projects? Including any new cds, touring and other promotions.
I’ve written a number of songs already this year, so I’d love to record another CD. I’d also would like to finish the second Estrogen (below) CD with band mate Carol, co-write again with the third member Lori (who lives in Atlanta) and certainly perform again. I just want to continue to grow as a musician, songwriter, and person!
Visit Corinne's website and check out "From My Balcony" at:http://home.earthlink.net/~corinne54
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