Photo courtesy of Annabel Braithwaite
HEARING HARMONIES: Red Molly’s “Light in the Sky” CD spent 20 weeks on the Americana Music Association’s Top 40 radio chart and was named Folk DJ’s No. 3 Top Album of 2012.
Whether opening for music legend Willie Nelson or earning a spot on the Top 100 Americana radio chart, New York-based trio Red Molly has a knack for getting audiences out of their seats and tapping their toes, thanks to an innovative sonic blend of spot-on, three-part harmonies, clever lyrics and precise Dobro-infused instrumental arrangements.
This Saturday, Red Molly brings its trademark Americana folk sound to the Peterborough Players Theater.
Since forming in 2004, Red Molly has been on a steady diet of writing, touring and performing. The original lineup included Laurie MacAllister, Abbie Gardner and Carolann Solebello. When Solebello stepped down three years ago, MacAllister and Gardner asked singer, songwriter and guitarist Molly Venter to join the band.
Without changing the band's overall sound, Venter has made it a bit more gutsy, upbeat and modern, thanks to her edgy vocal tone and songwriting acumen.
The trio's current tour promotes the band's fifth album, an as-of-yet-untitled work that includes a collection of eight original songs recorded last fall in Nashville.
"We recorded these songs in a few weeks. (We) hired producer Ken Coomer, who was the original drummer for Wilco and Uncle Tupelo," says Venter. "He played drums/percussion, and Craig Akin, who is an in-demand upright and electric bass player, played upright bass. The record has a more adventurous soundscape. We put Abbie's dobro through an effects pedal for a few tunes, and I played electric guitar on several of the songs."
The band's last album, "Light in the Sky," spent 20 weeks on the Americana Music Association's Top 40 radio chart and charted as Folk DJ's No. 3 Top Album of 2012.
In the Beginning
Red Molly was "born" 10 years ago at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, N.Y. MacAllister and Gardner were walking up a hill towards their campsite talking about their favorite musicians.
"When they got to the top of the hill, they jokingly said, 'We have a band'," said Venter. "They came and sat around the campfire, where I happened to be as well. That's how I first met Laurie and Abbie.
"We sat by the fire playing songs and harmonizing with several other women, including Carolann. Abbie pulled out what was then her brand new dobro and the original lineup of Red Molly was actually born."
The name of the band was Gardner's idea. She grew up listening to Del McCoury's version of "Vincent Black Lightning 1952," which features a spirited character named Red Molly, who fit the vibe of the band.
Venter stayed in touch with the band over the years, so when Solebello decided to leave, MacAllister and Gardner agreed that Venter would be a great addition to the group.
"We just clicked," Venter said. "We have great chemistry."
Venter and Gardner are the primary songwriters, although much of the time, they write separately.
"I need significant alone time to be creative," Venter said. "I heard someone say it's like fishing: You can sit around all day with a line and a hook and not catch anything, but then the only way to catch a fish is to sit around with a line and a hook. You have to make time for your art and show up on a regular basis."
Deb McWethy, president and program director of the Peterborough Folk Music Society, which is sponsoring the show, said Red Molly typically attracts a wide range of fans (known as Red Heads).
"They always fill our room and draw in all age groups," she said. "These days everyone has their own opinions and definition of what constitutes folk music. Red Molly is the complete package — all very accomplished musicians with an amazing stage presence that gives them a special rapport with their audience."
Red Molly will finish several more dates in the states before it heads across the pond to tour England and Ireland. And while Venter said it's hard to find time alone to create new material while on the road, she loves all the other aspects of touring.
"It has perks — like getting to see the world, meeting other musicians and music lovers who support us in this endeavor," she said.
Saturday's show at the Peterborough Players on Hadley Road starts at 8 p.m. and also will feature Marc Douglas Berardo.
Tickets are $20 and $30 through www.pfmsconcerts.org and www.ticketstage.com or at Toadstool Bookstore in Peterborough. Call 827-2905 for more details.