Wednesday, March 23, 2011

music issue 2011 - Sandpaper Dolls

When "Don't Worry, Be Happy" hit the pop charts in 1988, many Americans were introduced to A cappella singing – and quickly dismissed it as a goofy trick. Bobby McFerrin's overly optimistic song nonetheless exposed an approach to pop music that continues today in unexpected places - like Louisville.

In an era when even the most obviously sexy pop group has little chance of succeeding in the music business, three women have joined to sing together, unencumbered by instruments that need to be played outside of one's own body, and unconcerned about the business of the music business.

The Sandpaper Dolls were all veterans of the local music scene when they met each other at downtown's late Jazz Factory. Suki Anderson worked there and had sung with the soul group a.m. Sunday. Amber Estes sang with the jazz groups Liberation Prophecy and the Todd Hildreth Trio. Rebecca Dennison sang with folk singer Jamie Barnes.

Anderson approached Estes about working together. Estes said, “We slowly peeled members and instruments away until we were left with just the voice. We decided on an A cappella trio and had a couple of people in mind, but then realized, who has a better voice than Rebecca? So we got together and sang in Suki's dining room and made animal noises until we had a band.”

In addition to more obvious vocal inspirations - The Staple Singers, The Pointer Singers, The Bulgarian Woman's Choir - the women have also been encouraged by composer Philip Glass, deep soul from Donny Hathaway to the Budos Band, and the experimentation of off-center pop artists like Bjork and Tom Waits.

They self-released a full-length live album, “Live at 21C,” recorded in the downtown hotel’s atrium, in 2009. Future goals include not only a studio album and touring, but also, according to Estes, “creating a silent movie soundtrack and forming a creepy choir.”

c. 2011 Velocity Weekly

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