Shenandoah and the Night

By on March 22, 2011

Sheah from the Yard Dogs Road Show has her own EP coming out soon. We’d love for you to have a listen. Thanks very much for your consideration.
Preview the full EP at:
The distinctive NYC-based quintet Shenandoah and the Night announces the May 15th release of their self-titled debut EP, a moody pop offering which draws on everything from doo wop, old time rhythm and blues, folk and country to retro-fitted German cabaret.
Led by the bewitching singer/songwriter/producer Shenandoah Ableman (of the San Francisco-based Yard Dogs Road Show), Shenandoah and the Night offer a haunting, noir-ish sound counter-balanced by bursts of joy and infectious energy. Rootsy enough for folk enthusiasts without sacrificing its modernist edge, Shenandoah and the Night cast a wide net across the spectrums of taste and time, blending and blurring a diverse set of influences that range from the operatic anguish of Nina Simone and Kurt Weill, to the dusky psychedelic sturm und drang of the Doors and Janis Joplin. 
“I don’t think of Shenandoah and the Night as traditional anything,” Ableman explains. “But our music does draw on the storytelling traditions of folk and bluegrass in that it describes the punishments and pleasures of life on the road… Sometimes, to do what you love you have to go away from those that you love.” 
Four of the five songs on Shenandoah and the Night were written by Ableman herself: “So Fine,” “All the Beautiful Ladies,” “These Arms” and “So Long.”  The EP’s lone cover track, the 1908 John Lomax find “Dink’s Song,” a.k.a. “Fare Thee Well,” maintains the original’s broken-hearted longing, coaxed through a cleverly uplifting doo wop arrangement.
While the majority of the EP’s tracks were self-produced, the cataclysmic single “These Arms” emerged from collaboration with the New York City-based singer/songwriter Rusty Santos (known for his work with Brooklyn indie it-kids Animal Collective, Gang Gang Dance, Ariel Pink and others). 
A native of the deep and drizzled forests of Northern California, Shenandoah was raised in a musical family that included a fiddle-playing father and a mandolin-playing mother who all but nursed her on the old-time traditions and standards.   
“I grew up going to bluegrass and folk festivals, and, while I don’t necessarily specialize in that type of music, it does have an influence,” says Ableman. “But what we are doing also draws on doo wop, old R&B and some old country. At its heart, Shenandoah and the Night is telling an American story.”
          Before earning a BA in jazz vocals from the University of San Francisco in 2001, Ableman made her first studio recording, providing vocals for the electronica outfit Sucia, a timely collaboration with drummer Norville Parchment and guitarist David Schmidt, which rightly drew favorable comparisons to Portishead and Massive Attack. 
Less than a year later Ableman traded the trendy down tempo drum and bass for a classy set of pasties and the promise of endless hijinks, signing on for an eight-year stint as a singer and burlesque dancer with the infamous Bay-Area experience known as the Yard Dogs Road Show, a wildly theatrical outfit self-described as “a hobo cabaret, a living patchwork of vaudeville and rock and roll.”  
Combining live music with everything from sword swallowing to belly dancing and vaudevillian slapstick, the Yard Dogs Road Show has graced thousands of stages on both sides of the pond, earning a multitude of favorable nods and accolades, including Spin Magazine’s Best of 2007. Performing under the handle of “Shenandoah Sassafras,” Ableman matured and refined her talents as a vocalist, songwriter and arranger, while also learning a thing or two about high-kicks, rhinestones and feather fans—none of which is lost in her newest endeavor. 
“When we perform ‘All the Beautiful Ladies’ live, I do a tight little feather fan dance,” Ableman notes. “There is a bit of dancing throughout our show, which incorporates a performative and aesthetic element that is definitely a reflection of my experience with the Yard Dogs Road Show.”
Ableman-as-Sassafras can be heard on the Yard Dogs’ 2009 EP, September Summer, which includes her song “Crazy Love” and the intriguing “Bokonon” (a track that combines Ableman’s original music with a prayer cribbed from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.’s 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle). 
            In 2008 Ableman left the windy hills of San Francisco to settle in Brooklyn, New York, where she slowly developed her songs while recruiting a cast of musicians and collaborators that soon coalesced into the eponymous outfit we hear today. In addition to Ableman, Shenandoah and the Night consists of Seth Johnson on guitar, Miles Mullin on bass, Sean Hutchinson (of New Monsoon) on drums and Kwame Brandt-Pierce (of Saul Williams) on accordion, keyboards, acoustic piano and organ.
          Shenandoah and the Night have been steadily building an enthusiastic following in and around New York City, and, with the release of their self-titled debut album (to be followed by a regional tour), the band is set to climb higher with every mile logged on the road. 
“After all these years of crooning and shaking a tail feather with the Yard Dogs, I feel ready to take this new sound on the road” Ableman says. “This is a new chapter, backed and brought to fruition by some of the most amazing people and musicians I’ve ever had the honor of sharing a stage with…All of which is coming to theatre, or speaker, near you very, very soon.”


Author: DaveHHM

Dave Luttrull: Owner/Editor in Chief of Hellhound Music. Star Wars nerd, Gamer, Destiny homer, blogger, writer and lover of all things music.