Exclaim! ~ Toronto ON
November 25th, 2004 ~ by Ric Taylor
Sassy, sultry and self-effacing, the Ladybird Sideshow are self-described women with an edge. Melissa McClelland, Erin Smith, Janine Stoll and Lisa Winn are individually developing names as standout performers, but when they come together as The Ladybirds their voices intermingle in harmonic delight, weaving frank, incisive, engaging and humorous stories in a wash of soulful song.
A flurry of activity envelops the Ladybirds this week. Hot on the heels of her Hamilton Music Awards performance (where she won Best Female Artist), McClelland's new video and single, "Pretty Blue," are released from her Stranded in Suburbia this week. Meanwhile, LBSS partner Smith celebrates the release of her own new solo CD, Swagger. But most importantly, the long-awaited debut from the collective, Live At The Orange Lounge, is also celebrated this week with a Hamilton return.
"We are so excited," says Smith about the new recording. "It has been a long time coming because of all our hectic schedules, but we really wanted to get this recorded and out to all the people who have been waiting patiently for it. Some of these songs are new and some you will find on our other records, but these versions are layered in stunning harmony and differ from any other you'll find." Recorded over two nights in front of a live audience at the Orange Lounge, a studio housed at McClelland's Toronto label, LATOL captures the raw simple beauty of four voices and a couple of acoustic guitars. Each Ladybird has their own distinct personality when they solo but the accumulative amalgamation of the four is angelic. The album showcases each individual songwriter, and is accented by a hidden barbershop quartet track and (gasp) an Alice in Chains cover.
"Our voices are so diverse and they just sound freaking gorgeous together, and that is the beauty of the Ladybird Sideshow," laughs Smith. That, and the fact that we're all best friends and like to take road trips together. I'm so thrilled to finally have a record with these girls. 'Cause I love them and their music so much it's just dumb."
"It's a perfect representation of what we do live," McClelland smiles. "And I think we're all happy to see the ladybirds CD out. But Erin's CD is amazing. She really stripped it down and has really grown so much as a songwriter. We're all so proud she's put out such a great piece of work." Recorded at Michael J Birthelmer's Hamilton studio, Swagger might veer from the funk-centric, danceable themes of her previous forays, incorporating sounds more personal for Smith.
"Swagger has some of that straight funk-soul to it, but encompasses a lot more of what makes me tick," explains Smith. "I think it was time for all of those sides to be put on display. It's sultry, it's playful, it's old-timey, it's soulful and it's tongue-in-cheek. All of that is in me and are things that just came out naturally when I took the time to really focus on song writing. I think I've just recently found my voice, and this is the album where that shines. "For the record, though, I really do credit Neener (Smith), Melly (McClelland) and Lease (Winn) with helping me find my voice as both a vocalist and a songwriter," Smith adds. "We all have really influenced each other a lot and we are very aware of that. I don't think I would've taken the time to stretch and really get into my groove if I hadn't have done the Ladybird project."
If songs like "One of the Boys" are any indication, Smith can go from a soft purr, build to a Radiohead-like esoteric lament and end with a Beatle-esque unresolved resolve all within one song. Swagger delves into the saintly and sinful dichotomy that makes up her vulnerability and her power simultaneously. "I think the dichotomy in the lyrics comes from growing up with a love of old-timey images and sounds, mixed with a love of pop culture," says Smith. "I listen to Billie Holiday as often as I listen to Mos Def, Cyndi Lauper orBeyoncé. I have lazy days of painting and making soup as often as I'll booze it up with my peeps. I think my entire generation is bipolar. If you listen to the lyrics, a lot of the songs ended up being stories told by girls who have an edge to them: hard drinking, hard working girls. Small town girls pining after unattainable loves, female mayors crashing cars, a woman dealing with a fella who tries to off himself so often that it's become comical. Seemed to me like the stories themselves had swagger, so I went with that."
With Smith flying off this January to Hawaii for a weekly stint in Kihei, the other Ladybirds are afforded a winter meeting place to stretch their wings. "It's not a Ladybird swan song at all," she clarifies about her departure. "The Ladybirds will sing again. I have made the most solemn pinky swear to return for the summer touring season, so the 'Birds will be back in action by then. But until then, I keep joking with the Ladybirds that they should move down and we can start an awful lounge act."
the Ladybird Sideshow returns to the Pepper Jack Cafe for one night only this Thursday, Nov 25 with Ali Bartlett opening. Cover is $8 with a 9pm start.
Echo Magazine ~ Kitchener ON
May 6th, 2004 ~ by Ric Taylor
“We offer straight–up good, original music in four delicious flavours,” smiles Melissa McClelland, one–quarter of the Ladybird Sideshow coming to town this weekend.
Two years ago, McClelland hooked up with songbirds Lisa Winn, Erin Smith and Janine Stoll with a plan to gather resources with like-minded souls. The four realized an ethereal bond and translated that to the stage in song. The project took flight, and the Ladybirds were born. Four stellar voices intermingle into a resounding mix of pop, blues, funk, folk, soul and comedy from a different vantage point.
“We've had tons of fun together right from the very first day in the van, so right off the top there was one of those strong girlie–bonds that people write so many bad movies about,” quips Smith. “We were four friends wanting to travel together and play music,” explains McClelland. “We started messing around on each other's stuff and suddenly we were coming up with beautiful parts, being completely inspired by each other's music.”
“When we first started we mostly left each girl alone to sing their own song and we would play in turn,” adds Smith. “Now we’ve spent time crafting really intricate four–part harmonies and add all kinds of nuances and sass to each other's songs. We can be witty, we can be bawdy, and we can just be doorknobs. But it seems to work in our favour.”
Touring nationally, the Ladybirds have experienced the folksinger’s blues—they document their world as they deem fit. Still, it’s a few steps away from popular folk convention. “I bring in a little pop flava’, Neen [Stoll] plays edgy folk, Skee [Smith] is all about the funk and Lease [Winn] writes the stunning folk ballads,” exclaims McClelland on the elements that make this Sideshow special. “First and foremost we're all singer/songwriters placing huge importance on words and stories and the format in which we choose to deliver varies from one artist to the next.”
“There are lots of vivid stories painted in our set—everything from a girl on her way to being a porno queen, to a mining disaster in Northern Ontario,” offers Smith. “We've got fictional murders, we've got straight up catchy tunes with some saucy language, and we've got a few unconventional love songs.”
These Ladybirds write and sing from their particular perch, poetically and honestly. Yet, some more stoic audience members might malign such forthright women. “The music speaks for itself and as for our stage banter we're simply ourselves,” says McClelland. “[We’re] X–rated and vulgar if we feel so inclined. Some nights we put on quite a respectable folk show.”
“That doesn’t mean we should act like serious-minded music-heads when really we are awfully silly quite often,” Smith interjects refering to the occasional use of more bawdy language. “I think we just figured we’d give our fans a glimpse into what we talk about when we're in the van touring around. We’re all musicians with the clout to be taken seriously, but a little underpants talk now and then keeps things all in perspective.
“We do work as we see fit and use language as it pertains to our point and purpose,” Smith adds. “Sometimes the swearing is tongue–in–cheek, sometimes it’s the best way to get the tone of a story across and sometimes it just feels good to say, ‘I'm not fucking stupid.’ But ultimately, art that challenges in one way or another is often the best kind of art.”
These Ladybirds seem to turn heads wherever they go; they’re currently attracting the attention of some labels courting for their debut full–length. In the interim, the Ladybird Sideshow continues to tour, inspire, delight, incite and smile. “It’s sickening how much we truly adore and support each other,” McClelland laughs. “It’s such a pure thing and it continues to astonish me. We have yet to have any nail scratching, hair–tearing fights—although we have had a few drunken wrestling matches.”
“How often do you get to hear/see four songbirds of stellar talent collaborating and playing alongside one another,” Smith asks. “ Not often, and certainly not with the kind of charisma that you’ll see at a Ladybird show. Plus if you’re lucky, we’ll talk about underpants some more.”
The Hamilton Spectator ~ Hamilton ON
September 4, 2003 ~ by Ric Taylor
It’s been almost a year since Lisa Winn last performed in the city. It was her farewell performance as she headed west on her first solo outing. A learning experience, a journey towards self awareness, a coming of age — Winn has come back Out From Under with a new album of the same name and celebrates its release this weekend.
Winn is blossoming into quite the songwriter, with an album bristling with heart–wrenching agony and bittersweet beauty, a beautiful and sombre document of Winn’s growth since her last album, Mother Earth, released three years ago.
“At the time I wrote these songs, there was a lot of crazy crap going on in my life,” says Winn of the confessional nature of Out From Under. “It’s just me and my guitar and the songs that I wrote. It’s very personal and it’s from my heart and soul. It’s about stuff I’ve been through and stuff I’ve witnessed. Basically people are going to be reading my diaries.”
The album contemplates the complexities of life, from the monstrosities of human civilization (the 9/11–related “Cover My Eyes”) to the monuments of love’s desire (“Almost Alright”). Winn has developed a strong outing that has pushed her own creativity to the limits.
“The first song on the album, ‘Mean Shot Garden,’ I wrote from magnetic poetry on my refrigerator,” the singer says of the occasionally mundane explorations involved in her process. But it wasn’t always so detached or that easy. The album resembles a travelogue where we can visit Hamilton, Mount Hope, Guelph and even Arnheim, Amsterdam in raw and very personal musical vignettes of the people, places and situations Winn has lived through.
“I feel like I have to do it,” she confides. “When I was in Vancouver there was an open mic night for women. And there was one night where everyone seemed to be testifying or releasing something. There was one really good spoken–word artist who had written for ten years and just threw it all away because she felt she had to get rid of it and start all over again. Everybody seemed to be on that kind of wavelength. “I got up and sang a song I had written that month which was also kind of a release for me. When I got offstage, this girl came up to me and thanked me for the song. She said. ‘Everything you said in that song I was thinking I wanted to say to this person in my life — and you said them all in that song.’ That’s why I do it — because maybe there’s one person that can understand where I’m coming from and gone through the stuff I’m going through. And it’s easier for me to get something off my chest in a song than it is to do it any other way.”
Winn continues to write and will return to touring across Canada but for now she’s nested in Guelph as things develop for her Ladybird Sideshow project with Janine Stoll, Erin Smith and Melissa McClelland. “I’m here — for now,” Winn stipulates. “The Ladybird thing is starting happen — we hope to go to Australia in the spring — and we’re going to do some recording so I need to stick around for that.” While you can catch Winn as part of the Ladybird Sideshow opening for Shannon Lyon September 18 at The Underground, you can also catch a solo Winn for the CD release. She’s bringing a bunch of friends for her return to Hamilton, including Bob Doidge, Melissa McClelland Erin Smith, Jacob Moon and Moon’s Gospel Girls — all reported to guest with Winn.
But beyond any such cameos, this show spotlights Winn’s talents: her voice, her guitar and her inimitable presentation.“I end up including a lot of humour when I play because it’s fun. You have to because you can’t just sit up there and be a big lump on a log,” Winn jokes about her light–hearted stage demeanor that compliments some of the more somber material. “I’m not the same person I was three years ago but somewhat back at the same place. You have to come back to your roots — your hometown, once in a while. But I’m still moving forward in my own way.” Lisa Winn celebrates the release of Out From Under Saturday, September 6 at Absinthe with Jacob Moon and the Gospel Girls (Juliet Clarke, Marion Clarke and Chantal Hendricks) as well as Les Cooper. Cover is $6.
Real Roots Cafe ~ Netherlands
July 2003 ~ by Laura Turner Lynch
Out From Under is the sophomore release from singer, songwriter and guitarist Lisa Winn. Lisa has worked with many artists in the role of supporting vocalist but is once again at the forefront on this eleven-track CD. Lisa's second release is stark and more serious than her debut CD Mother Earth which was a spirited blend of rock and pop. This CD is more solemn with soft acoustic guitar work and subtle instrumentation. Winn's arrangements are simple and straightforward but her lyrics and vocals are rich and complex. Lisa is a powerful singer who expresses herself with passion and poise. The theme of the CD is relationships or more specifically a broken bond. As in her first release she spins natural environmental imagery into her stories thus adding to the depth and symbolism of her songs. A mournful somewhat melancholy vibe is captured on moving tracks such as 'Cover My Eyes' and 'That Train'. The live bonus cover of Cyndi Lauper's 'Heading West' closes this deep collection of songs. Lisa is maturing as an artist and Out From Under is a fine example of her growth.