I laughed at this album when it came out due to the long title – the full title is 90 words – but one day I was driving in Tallahassee, FL and I heard the drum break on “Fast as You Can” and I was hooked. This album is undeniably sad, but boldly so. Her lyrics sparkle with wit and that voice…well, Fiona, call me anytime. Add to that Jon Brion‘s lush production and criminally under-praised Matt Chamberlain on drums, and this is a record I go back to routinely.
If you don’t know already, Sound Opinions is a radio show (WBEZ) / podcast where Chicago music critics, Greg Kot and Jim Derogatis, talk about music and generally kibitz. I don’t always agree with their reviews – what fun would that be? – but they have such a great rapport and are clearly passionate about music that it’s a joy to listen. I spend most Sunday mornings padding around my kitchen, making this or that, with these guys in the background.
Speaking of food, I love to cook so I get a lot of cookbooks as gifts. Right now I’m working my way through this one, which is half about cooking goat, and half unintentionally hilarity. Between recipes there are long interludes about the couple’s personal life. It’s like reading someone’s blog, if all they talked about was goat meat and their boyfriend.
Jon Elling, the man at the heart of Grand & Noble, grew up in Los Angeles and Jacksonville, Fla. His bi-coastal upbringing is partly responsible for his wide-open songwriting style. “I got the full L.A. experience, including muggings and drive-bys,” Elling recalls. “A bullet went through our house just over my head. Meanwhile, in Florida, my grandfather taught me how to call alligators. As a teenager, I would use it as a party trick when we drank under the bridge by the river.”
As Elling’s songs evolved, the group morphed from a backing band to a cohesive unit. “Scott Stukel joined on keys and bass and he really helped flesh-out the existing stuff and also contributed music for new songs;Matt Tanaka came in on drums and Ben Janikplayed lead guitar. Last summer, we rented a studio and started working on our first record.”
Elling and Stukel finished production and mastering of Grand & Noble in 2011. The band is currently playing shows in the Chicago area to support the album, with a lineup featuring Elling on guitar and lead vocals, Luke Sagadin on drums and bass player Joe Swierupski.