On a Girlyman Mission

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There, I said it, I’m not embarrassed to be a Girlyman Groupie. 🙂

I’ve previously written about my accidental discovery of this wonderful group. If you didn’t read it, you don’t need to bother, as I’ll summarize much of what I said there here, and provide the more important of the links here as well.

First and foremost, I’m about to rave about this group. I realize how subjective music appreciation can be, so before you continue reading here (assuming you’ve never heard of them and aren’t sure whether your tastes are like mine), I strongly suggest that you take a break and listen to the full length, free, streaming songs that they have on their Myspace page. There are typically 5 songs available there. At the moment, Joyful Sign (the title cut of their latest CD) starts streaming immediately. If you listen to exactly 40 seconds of the song, and don’t love it, you can safely skip the rest of this post.

Many reviewers have written eloquently about Girlyman, comparing them to a modern-day, three voice Simon and Garfunkel, or perhaps more aptly Peter, Paul and Mary. Those are fine comparisons, and I wouldn’t disagree, and I certainly loved (and still do!) both of those groups from my early days of listening to music. That said, Girlyman is more than that. Aside from their wonderful lyrics (many deeply soulful songs), and their stunning harmonies (which they utilize more effectively than the above two groups, IMHO), they also play many different styles of music.

I guess that from reading most of the reviews, one would tend to try and classify them as a Folk group. They certainly play a lot of Folk music, so it’s not a misnomer. That said, they also play some damn good Pop as well, except that by design, their instrumentation is lean (and clean), so they don’t necessarily produce the typical bigger sounds expected in a Pop group. They have a number of songs that are classically Bluegrass. A few songs that are wonderful Country as well.

They produce the different styles in part by switching instruments (e.g., bring the Banjo and/or Mandolin in for a Bluegrass sound), but actually more by controlling the nature, volume and type of harmonies that they sing in order to shift to another style. In other words, rather than having a much bigger band sound (like Rascal Flatts for example, one of our favorites, and another group that harmonizes amazingly), they choose to use their harmonies as pure instruments, creating the same feelings, but not the same big band sound.

I certainly hope that they will make it big, they richly deserve it, and the world could stand to discover them. That said, I know how tough it is (statistically) for any group to make it (now more than ever, with the accelerating death of the traditional Music Company business), and in particular with this more quiet, contemplative style of music. So, I feel like I’m on a personal mission to ensure that as many people are exposed to Girlyman, so that they can make their own decision.

I previously reported that we purchased two of their CD’s at their concert at Joe’s Pub in NYC. They were Joyful Sign (their latest) and Remember Who I Am (their first). As mentioned, our godson got the band to sign Joyful Sign to us, and we’ll treasure that forever. 🙂

In order to spread the word, and support the band in the most direct way possible, we just bought 11 more CDs from the site linked above (in both album titles). We bought 5 copies of Joyful Sign, 2 copies of Little Star (the one CD we didn’t have yet), 2 copies of Remember Who I Am, 1 copy of Shadow of a Habit (the album by the two women in Girlyman, before Girlyman was formed, when they were called The Garden Verge) and one copy of Never Enough Time (a solo album by Nate Borofsky, before he, Ty and Doris formed Girlyman). We’re giving out copies of Joyful Sign to some of our friends this weekend, and we’re excited to directly share their music in this way.

I have a lot more listening to do (and I’ve done a lot already), but here’s my current take on ranking the CDs (this is on the assumption that you end up being interested, but aren’t crazy like us, so you don’t go out and buy them all). 😉

Joyful Sign, simply fantastic. A number of styles, all done extremely well, with soaring harmonies and melodies that will grab you by the throat. Warning: some of the songs stick in my head in ways that I can’t get out, even if I want to, so if you listen to the CD a few times, be prepared to find yourself uncontrollably humming, whistling, etc., some of the tunes. You’ve been warned!

Remember Who I Am. A close second.

Shadow of a Habit. This is the one with just the women, who were known as The Garden Verge then. This is a somewhat more mellow sound, but their harmonies are nearly as amazing, even though there are only two of them.

Little Star. This is by no means a weak album, but it doesn’t have the overall oomph that Joyful Sign or Remember Who I Am have.

Never Enough Time. A very nice album as well. There is some beautiful harmony on it as well, but it’s more of a solo effort. I don’t know (because I didn’t research it), whether it’s Ty (or Doris) singing with him, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if it is.

Here’s what I find interesting about the above. If I fell in love with Remember Who I Am when it first came out, I might have been disappointed in Little Star (no, it’s not a bad CD, just not as strong). This might have led me to believe that they were running out of creativity, etc. Thankfully, I heard Joyful Sign first, their third CD, and it is amazing. So, whatever caused a slight dip in between the strong beginning and the current acceleration of their talent, I can still appreciate as a strong album on its own, even if not up to the new standard they set with Joyful Sign.

Aside from bringing an excellent voice to the group (both as soloist and harmonizer), Nate brings a little more up-beat-ness to the musical variety of Girlyman. Some of the more interesting sounds are noticeable on his solo album, which has a little more tempo to it than some of the Garden Verge stuff.

The blend of their respective music, voices, writing talent, etc., is absolutely wonderful.

So, even though we just saw them recently, we found out (through their mailing list) that they are coming back to NYC to the Highline Ballroom on November 4th. We were scheduled to leave for Virginia that day, but changed our plans now to be there. We bought a couple of extra tickets and we’re taking some friends to the show to spread the fever. 😉

I noticed that they were playing next week in Minneapolis, and immediately wrote to two of my friends there suggesting that they take in the show. Hopefully, they will, and will report back enthusiastically.

For the rest of you, Girlyman seems to be touring all over the place this fall, and I strongly recommend that you check their schedule and see if you can catch them in person.

Hope to see you all at a show in the near future, and if you can’t make it, buy a ton of their CDs. 🙂