A few months ago, I featured this band’s version of Silent Night on 21 Songs For Your Christmas Week Playlist, and all of you music afficionados fell absolutely in love with them. Well, here we are again, this time with a full feature on this gifted Americana duo, Pretty Gritty, whose latest EP (released Feb. 2016) Lonely Road displays a significant maturity and growth in their sound that makes this album their greatest work yet. The album is packed with lyrics and melodies that will pull at your heart strings and deliver a knockout punch to your inner being with the emotional fortitude exhibited throughout it.
Pretty Gritty’s new EP features a mix of originals and covers that are prodigious. Their harmonies are pure and sweet as honey but smooth with the lingering captivating taste of your favorite beloved whiskey. The incredibly talented vocalists, musicians, and singer-songwriters have already made their mark across the Indie music arena with their fusion of blues, rock, bluegrass and country as their signature sound.
Comprised of Blaine Heinonen and Sarah Wolff, it is only a matter of time before this Indie Americana band breaks into the mainstream spotlight. Musically, Blaine and Sarah are a match made in heaven. Watching the two of them sing together makes you think that their music is a result of some sort of divine intervention, in whatever shape or form you may or may not believe in.
Their leading original number on the new EP, Best of Me, is a lyrical journey of hurt, love, and understanding. It’s the type of journey that Pretty Gritty is known for, as they continue to set the standard for what incredible song writing can convey, and the connection music can make with the listener. It is by far one of the most beautiful songs, both lyrically and melodically, that I have come across, in a very long time.
The duo, originally from Montgomery County, Maryland, has a knack for capturing the immaculateness of their vocals on their recordings, but the truth is, they are even more breathtaking in their live performances. Their harmonies and chemistry will draw you in and they will leave you wanting more when their performance comes to a close. (I have also witnessed their use of spoons during their live performances; therefore, let it be known that I am not sure there’s a single household item they can’t master as part of their instrumental repertoire when jamming!)
Lonely Road includes a series of unique recordings of covers by great artists such as Jeff Buckley, Dwight Yoakam, and Dolly Parton. Although you may be sitting there thinking thanks, but those artists– as well as their songs–have been done time and time again, the difference is that every cover this band has chosen to record encapsulates ingenuity, authentic sound, and a raw emotion that is completely its own. I have always been a big fan of Dwight Yoakam’s honky tonk sounds and A Thousand Miles From Nowhere (1993) ranks high on my list of favorites. Pretty Gritty’s cover does the song justice by adding a more haunting sound that really conveys the emotion of what the song is actually saying. Listen to these harmonies that grip you right off the bat from the very first note: PGMusic: A Thousand Miles from Nowhere.
Their cover of Jeff Buckley’s Forget Her (Recorded 1993 Released 2004) adds their signature sound that you will hear in all of their live performances, Americana styling meets ethereal Fleetwood Mac sounding harmonies in all of their glory. They have taken one of Buckley’s best works, and transformed it into an entirely different sound that makes this signature number a masterpiece. That is what resonates throughout this album and throughout every single one of their performances.
The other cover on the album is Dolly Parton’s Jolene (1973). Sarah and Blaine’s voices meld together to paint the perfect backdrop and portrait of a scorned woman’s devotion to the love of her life and the musical arrangement conveys the story appropriately for this classic number. Pretty Gritty- Jolene (cover)
Fans of musical artists such as Ray LaMontagne, The Civil Wars, Nickel Creek, and Thompson Square will develop a quick liking to these two. They resemble their style of music with an additional flair that at times channels Little Big Town’s powerful vocals and passionate persona, but yet they maintain a grassroots approach to their music that comes across as completely genuine. Sarah’s vocals are a cross between an edgier version of Jewel mixed with the amazing Aretha Franklin and Blaine’s vocals have a John Cougar Mellencamp quality to them that leads to the perfect ebb and flow of celestial yet tangible fuller sound when paired together. Pretty incredible that both of these singers sung in heavier metal bands prior to creating their new sound and band. Although known for their Indie Americana stylings, I can tell you that their version of A Great Big World’s Say Something made me develop a whole new appreciation for not only the song, but the larger, broader musical repertoire that Pretty Gritty is able to present. Recorded in their own home, here is Pretty Gritty’s take on it. Listen to this beautiful cover: Pretty Gritty-Say Something.
The song that made me a loyal follower of theirs from day one is This Heart of Mine off of their first full self-titled album, Pretty Gritty. It is a classic sounding country leaning number about taking a chance on somebody and asking them to be kind to thou’s own heart.
I’ll leave you with this cheerful new original Pleased to Meet You. Sarah’s vocals soar and it is hard not to fall in love with Pretty Gritty just a little bit more with this cute number that adds the perfect touch of playfulness that comes across in their energetic performances and interactions when they’re on stage.
Not surprisingly, having met both of them, they are both salt of the earth people whose passion is music and we are lucky to have that be the case. It has been almost two years since Pretty Gritty relocated out west to Portland, Oregon, where they have quickly garnered a following and are known as one of the acts to see around town. If you happen to be near the area, you should definitely catch one of their gigs. They left a big void when they departed the DC area and they are sorely missed out East.
Support these musicians and buy their newly released EP here: Lonely Road.
Sarah and Blaine, I really look forward to seeing you guys play again sometime soon. Looks like a trip to Oregon might be in order. I really think you are due for a concert back home, no? Until then, I remain a devoted fan of your music, forever.
Thanks for listening music lovers. Happy Spring!