UPDATE Parting Gifts Prep LP, Set Dates



The Ettes meet the
Reigning Sound. That’s not a metaphor, by the way. New album out NOV. 9. You need
it. Selected dates in December. This is your brain on Parting Gifts. Any


By Fred Mills


Part busman’s (and -woman’s) holiday and part accidental
combo, The Parting Gifts began life as proposed 45 teaming Reigning Sound‘s
Greg Cartwright with The Ettes’ Coco Hames. Cartwright had previously produced
The Ettes’ 2009 LP Do You Want Power, a studio summit that came about as the result of Hames having progressively
stalked Cartwright, starting with a cover of R.S. classic “We Repel Each Other”
on her band’s 2006 debut Shake the Dust and progressing through an extended stint that had The Ettes relocating to
rural western North Carolina near Cartwright’s home in Asheville. Okay, the
stalking part’s actually a joke between me and Hames, something we had laughed
about some time ago when I pointed out how musically simpatico she and
Cartwright seemed to be, Hames adding that she’d love to have his production
magic grace an Ettes recording. Indeed, it was a pairing waiting to happen,
given the garage/punk/soul/pop territories both Reigning Sound and The Ettes
mine. (The Ettes, in fact, recently got a big thumbs-up from Spin in a wrap-up of this year’s Austin
City Limits festival
, calling the band “Best Argument for the Continued
Proliferation of Garage Rock.”)


“Greg has these classic skills,” Hames told me in 2009. “He’s
consumed. He travels around with a little 45 player and a pocketful of 45s, and
wherever he goes he’s got to set it down and put one on. I mean, I like
records, but Greg – he can just hear
. ‘Here’s this… here’s that…’ I was telling him about some friends of
mine who are really good but no one really gives them a chance and there’s just
something missing, so I put on one of their 45s, and Greg listens then says,
‘Well, right there. It needs to end there.’ And of course the song goes on for
two more minutes. ‘And it doesn’t need this part either!’ And he’s right – he
can just hear it. I like to think that’s my same skill in songwriting, but it’s
nothing like [Greg’s]. It’s ingrained, and there’s so much experience and music
behind it.” (Hames also does a pretty cool blog – read it here.)


Fast forward through one, then a second, then a third
recording session in Nashville,
in late 2009 and into the spring of this year, with  additional musicians members from both bands
plus Patrick Keeler (Greenhornes/Raconteurs), Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) and a
small string section also pitching in: Hames and Cartwright unexpectedly had an
album in the can.


Cartwright, “I got up there to Nashville to
record, and it was going to be just me and Coco
and Jem [Cohen, bassist for the Ettes]. Then we started enlisting some people
to do certain things – Patrick Keeler from the Greenhornes came in to do some
drums for us, Poni [Silver, the Ettes] played drums on a track, I played drums
on one. It was a pretty organic thing where we brought in a song, worked on it,
then cut it. And it was kinda nice that different people were playing different
instruments on all these songs because it gave them different feels. I was just
so impressed with how easily things went that I was inspired to write more
material for the project.”



Of the pair, Hames detours from her garage/punk safety zone
most pronouncedly; on a cover of obscure early Stones track “Sleepy City” she’s
like Duffy portraying Ronnie Spector in a Phil Spector biopic, and on her own
“My Mind’s Made Up” she ditches the go-go heels for cowgirl boots and a
rockabilly twang to her voice. For his part, Cartwright (who wrote 9 of the 14
songs), though in a subtly poppier frame of mind here than with R.S., his
vocals and soulful style remain unmistakable, which ain’t a bad thing, mind
you! Yet when each singer tackles the other’s compositions-she on his sweeping,
romantic epic “Born to Be Blue”; he on her swampy, ‘50s-ish “My Baby
Tonight”-that’s when the real sparks fly, suggesting that if and when the Gifts
tour, this studio collaboration could turn into something really intriguing for
the stage.


The Parting Gifts made their unofficial debut in Asheville last month – as
opening act at a Greg Cartwright solo gig, no less, featuring Hames and
Cartwright joined by Cohen, before an appreciative crowd at Static Age Records.
They followed that up with a significantly higher profile coming out party a
few weeks later at Gonerfest in Memphis.
Their album Strychnine Dandelion arrives Nov. 9 In The Red and it smokes, period. They’ve also done a single for
the Norton Records Rolling Stones singles series that’s pretty ace as well.


We’ll have a full BLURT review on the album shortly. Meanwhile
you can check out the band on their Facebook page while listening to the songs
“Sleepy City” and “Keep Walkin’,”  below. They’ve also just announced a handful
of northeast shows:


December 2 – Maxwell’s, Hoboken

December 3 – Union Hall, Brooklyn

December 4 – Sonar, Baltimore


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