Elizabeth McQueen and the FireBrands
Elizabeth McQueen and the FireBrands
Coming of age in Columbia, Maryland, where her family moved when she was 10, McQueen followed piano and vocal lessons with stints in a variety of bands in her high school years as something "on the side." Like mmmany teens of her day, she enjoyed modern rock acts like The Smiths, Depeche Mode, The Cure and P.J. Harvey. But as she entered college, it was the rootsy pull of favorites like Costello and The Band that led her to voraciously explore the charms of classic country music. By the time her uncle turned her on to Rockpile and a college professor hipped her to Bill Kirchen & Too Much Fun, McQueen had found her musical home within roots music. After graduation, she landed a job doing social work, but making music had a growing allure.
"I realized that as an adult you get to pick what you do," McQueen explains. "You don't have a syllabus and required courses. And if you get to pick what you do, that means that you should probably pick something you like." So she moved to Austin, reckoning it was an ideal locale to hone her musical talents. McQueen quickly began assembling her group The Firebrands - guitarist Andrew Nafziger, bassist Lindsay Green and drummer Eric Hughes - and making a name for herself on the local club scene. Though Austin acts like The Derailers and Dale Watson fed her love of true country, hearing The Conrads rock barrooms inspired McQueen to develop her own approach to neo-traditional music making.
"What Elizabeth McQueen is doing these days is a far cry from Patsy Cline, Connie Smith, and Kitty Wells, and certainly miles away from the crop of Nashville angels," observed Jerry Renshaw in the Austin Chronicle. "In a marketplace that's saturated with traditional female country singers, that difference, along with her charm, talent, and attitude, may be just what she needs to really stand out." And stand out is just what she did with the 2002 release of The Fresh Up Club. It earned her favorable comparisons to the work of singers like Rosanne Cash, Carlene Carter and Kirsty MacColl in the new wave years from publications like the Village Voice and No Depression. And as the Santa Monica Mirror noted, "If pub rock had been launched in Texas instead of England, Elizabeth McQueen and the Firebrands' The Fresh Up Club is what it might've sounded like." So it was only natural for McQueen to delve deeper into the roots of the music she found so inspirational for her next recording.
"It's kind of spoke to me like the whole 'Great Books' thing, that there's this great conversation in arts, literature and science among those who came before and after and in the present. To me, the pub rock scene was a microcosmic example of that great conversation. The pub rock guys were looking at this particular brand of American music, and saying, man, that's the coolest stuff. I want to play that.
But when they played it, they naturally t took it somewhere else. And when so many people that you like came out of one scene, you can't deny it." But as one listen to Happy Doing What We're Doing attests, the album is anything but an academic exercise in musical history. Instead, it's a vivid demonstration of how the vital lifeline of inspiration keeps sparking delightful new iterations of trusty styles and themes. "It's just cool, fun songs.
They have rhythm & blues, country, rock and everything mixed into them. But mostly it's that the songs are really good. That's what attracts me. "I just love this music and I love listening to it and playing it," McQueen enthuses. "A good three chord rocker played with plenty of fun, excitement and moxie is as good and as valid today as it ever was.
The real authenticity comes from the joy of doing it." note: Elizabeth McQueen is now a member of legendary western swing band Asleep at the Wheel Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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