A lifetime's dedication to her art has made Annie Gallup something of a high priestess among people who take songwriting seriously. Unabashedly imaginative and richly sensual, her elaborate song-length works of fiction crackle with wordplay and pulse with insistent rhythm. Borrowing forms from ancient folk tales to modern poetry, Annie sings over her bluesy guitar figures as if sharing secrets. Not many songwriters take the kinds of risks that Annie does, and barely any can pull them off with such deft, startling mastery.
Annie grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, daughter of a printmaker and a woodworker. She studied dance as a child — dancing and performing came to her naturally — but music, country blues in particular, was her secret obsession. As she taught herself to play guitar (hiding in her room after school, copping licks from old Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson and Dave Van Ronk albums that she found at the public library) it never occurred to her NOT to write songs for herself to play. So by the time she began performing publicly in the early 90s (after attending the University of Michigan School of Art and then moving west to chase her incurable wanderlust) she had internalized a songwriting style that was very distinctively her own, and that had evolved from her fascination with country blues, her love of words (Alice Munro, Grace Paley, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Dobyns), a dancer's sense of rhythm, and the sort of playful inventiveness that comes from doing something purely for its own reward.
Annie's seventh CD, Half of My Crime , released by Waterbug Records (www.waterbug.com) in March, 2006, is a collection of duets with bass players taking the roles of bass, rhythm, lead, voice and synthesizer, A melodic and compelling collection, it features Sean Kelly (Boulder Philharmonic), on upright bass; Michael Visceglia (Jorma Kaukonen, Phil Collins, Phoebe Snow, Al Green, Suzanne Vega), on fretless, electric and processed bass; and Don Porterfield (Pierce Pettis, KateCampbell), on fretless bass. The characters that inhabit the fourteen songs on Half of My Crime are wounded and wounding, seeking love and lost in confusion, full of mystery and longing - portraits so real they seem to move beyond their frames.
Pearl Street , Annie's sixth CD, (Fifty Fifty Music, 2005) is a song cycle of linked narratives that was written as a one-person performance piece and premiered at the Performance Network Theater in Ann Arbor in 2002. The superbly crafted, interwoven stories of Pearl Street unfold over a backdrop of acoustic and electric guitars and electronic rhythm loops. Annie's fifth album, Swerve (2001) , was recorded at Theater 99 in New York City on vintage analog equipment with a phenomenal band featuring Michael Visceglia (Suzanne Vega) on bass, Denny McDermott (Steely Dan) on drums and Billy Masters (Dar Williams) on electric guitar. Her critically acclaimed fourth album, Steady Steady Yes (1999) , which was recorded live and unaccompanied, captured the riveting performances for which Annie has become known in her live shows - focused, dramatic and totally exposed. It follows her groundbreaking 1998 release, Courage My Love , which was thought by critics to be a breakthrough artistic triumph. Fusing elements of spoken word with engaging melodies and a trademark delivery, Annie has created her own musical sub-genre.
Annie is the winner of many songwriting competitions, including Kerrville New Folk, and was awarded a Michigan Arts Council grant in 2001 to write and perform her first one-person performance piece, Stay Me With Flagons . She has been on the road, performing at concert venues throughout North America since 1994, driving enough miles to make it to the moon and almost back. Annie has been heard on NPR's All Things Considered in an interview with Noah Adams. She recently moved back to her hometown. She tours solo, and as a duo with bassist Sean Kelly.
Annie Gallup is a fierce writer, a teller of ravishing, compact stories, as funny and sensual as she is literate and subtle, and a vibrant performer, with an idiosyncratic but immediately accessible, deeply expressive way of kind-of-talking, kind-of-singing her songs. While it's easy to keep all the emphasis on the words and their delivery (and too readily pigeonhole her as some sort of neo-beatnik folksinger), I am continually impressed by the music as well, which seems at once casually created and intensely crafted, at once sparse and rich; and she may not get too loud but without question she rocks.
Why Annie Gallup's profile lacks the status of a Sam Phillips or a Kathleen Edwards boggles the mind. With more edge, flair and imagination than either, Gallup truly deserves widespread recognition. Possibly Pearl Street might just give her that boost that she so richly deserves. For sure, this disc raises the bar and then some. Pearl Street is clearly a career-defining recording.
The avatar of "spoke folk" shines brilliantly, again proving herself to be one of the most original and significant singer songwriters of her generation. Just the lyrics of Pearl Street , taken alone at face value, are priceless, worthy of the closest scrutiny and study. Annie's vision and synthesis of her world's elements are as unique to her as is her expression of them. Much more than a superlative song poet and instrumentalist, Gallup consistently makes incredible records. This is the furthest out of her recordings to date, and the hand with which she pushes the envelope is very sure, and it's right.
Described as "a collection of linked narrative songs", Pearl Street is "spoke-folk" singer-songwriter-cum-beat-poetess Annie's sixth album release. The term "narrative songs", though, is a barely adequate description of this truly extraordinary work; it's not just a bunch of story-songs like any ol' singer-songwriter could've cobbled together, but a full-blown statement of Annie's tremendous originality and innate inventiveness. The whole project is characterized by an almost phantasmagorical quality that's probably due largely to Annie's own compelling and quirky delivery that's at once highly streetwise and strangely melodic (a bit like Laurie Anderson at times, but with arguably a more interesting range of expression). Pearl Street is confident and ambitious, and yet stimulatingly enigmatic. Definitely challenging, but immensely rewarding. Here comes another contender for album of the year...
She sounds like the musical daughter of Joni Mitchell and Lou Reed, simultaneously confident and vulnerable, a practiced storyteller and poet whose stream-of-consciousness narratives of strange but vivid characters share space with diamond-cut confessional vignettes of off-center and sometimes reckless romances.
The unpredictable narratives of Annie Gallup's songs take you on journeys whose destinations are never clear until you reach them. Even her most straightforward lyrics possess a fantastic almost subliminal quality that brings to mind the magic-realist fiction of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
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