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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Gretta and Sarah Are Golden

The one cover Seattle chamber-rock band We Are Golden played at their CD release show Thursday night was a bittersweet Joni Mitchell number, “For Free.” Charming, vivacious, golden-voiced front woman Sarah Rudinoff introduced the song by geeking out on how she and composer-pianist-guitarist-vocalist Gretta Harley bonded over their love for Joni Mitchell. So it makes sense that they got their band name from the Joni Mitchell song “Woodstock” (which I didn’t realize until I started googling for some Golden images). We are stardust. We are golden.

Gretta teaches composition at Cornish College for the Arts (where then-faculty-member John Cage debuted his first composition for prepared piano, 70 years ago), and the beautiful arrangements and sterling transitions of the material she wrote with Rudinoff show her skills. For example, “Just Every Fisher’s Folly” hit me hardest from their set Thursday night, and when I told Gretta afterwards she said that a lot of people had said the same thing. It starts in slow, spooky 5/4 meter, transitions to that classic rock beat that could be counted 6/8 or 4/4, and explodes into a passionate, super-catchy chorus, before returning to that 5/4 verse again. I’ve listened to that song a few times today, and for hours afterwards, the chorus sticks pleasingly in my head.

Besides Gretta, the band features clarinet, cello, lead guitar, bass guitar, and drums -- and they all rock. Cello and clarinet get the tastiest parts, which makes sense, since they’re the least standard rock instruments, and all the players sparkled. Drummer John Hollis can kick the dynamics from spooky and soft to loud happening rock, with a rainbow of nuance along every step of the way.

I’ve known Gretta for years and it made me really happy to see her so happy, leading the excellent band, totally rocking the house, playing her splendid music.

* * *

Bumped into an acquaintance at the grocery.

“Where do I know you from?”

“I know I know you, but I can’t think of how.”

“Are you a friend of C-’s?”


“Well, nice to see you, whoever you are!”

* * *

-- photo from the Seattle P-I

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