Nora Jane Struthers is one of the most intelligent singer-songwriters with whom we have spoken. Her lyrics reference weighty authors, like Frank McCourt, Wallace Stegner, Larry McMurtry, and Jane Austen, but her music is not laden with false intellectualism. Think Kate Bush and “Wuthering Heights,” but old time folk. Struthers uses her NYU degree in English Education to craft songs that build a story and use the structure to form the music. Right now she considers herself a performer who is developing her writing, but her academic background puts her at the front of the class. We aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed; Struthers is straight off of a win at Telluride with her band.
Her moves from Minneapolis to New Jersey, then New York City to Nashville have all benefited her creative development. She selects tidbits of her experience and frames them with literary structure to yield a story that is more than both elements. In her words, “Good art leads to more art.” Struthers well-known affinity for vintage dresses goes beyond the typical; she is even trying to eat the foods of the turn of the last century, including hard tack and bacon, to accompany her love for fajitas with guacamole and tabouli! Her seemingly diverse interests contribute to her unique musical expression.
As a rookie in the “Old Time” music scene, she has chosen legends and heavyweights as her mentors, in order to learn from the best. Brent Truitt and Claire Lynch are her bluegrass professors. Noted players Tim O’Brien, Stuart Duncan, Dennis Crouch, and Darrell Scott join her on this record, placing her between the star-struck fan and professional colleague. Struthers notes that the studio musicians with whom she has played help make great songs even better for a recording. Much of this debut release was tracked live, in a magical, whirlwind session, from which Struthers has yet to land.
UPDATE February 2011: Since we first spoke, Nora Jane Struthers has joined forces with Bearfoot. Country Fried Rock looks forward to investigating this new lineup of musicians.
Songs in Episode 1005 include:
- 3 from Nora Jane Struthers’ self-titled debut
- a Gene Autry tribute from the Time Jumpers
- Peter Rowan with Tim O’Brien, “Jailer, Jailer”
- Claire Lynch, “Widows Weeds”
- Darrell Scott, “A Crooked Road”
- Gold Heart, “My Sisters and Me”
- Caitline Rose, “Answer in One of these Bottles”
- John Prine and Mac Wiseman, “Pistol Packin’ Mama”
- Pearl Jam, “Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town”
- The Grascals with Brad Paisley, “Tiger By the Tail”