Americana music trio brings their distilled sound to the Depot Theatre
By Alison Rooney
Tag: You’re it. “It” being, to quote the tags on a Tall County webpage: acoustic, Americana, Americana rock, alt folk, Americana roots. The three-person band, whose instrumentation draws upon fiddle, guitar, bass, ukulele and — once in a while — others in the smaller stringed-instrument vein, fits into any one of the above musical genres.
Tall County, made up of Colin DeHond, Liz Rauch and Ned Rauch (the latter two of whom are married and expecting a baby in a few months), use stillness and openness as their muses, “resisting the urge to layer,” as Ned Rauch put it. He described his compositions as “trying to write in an open-enough way for people to get inside a song, with enough specific moments to not be generic. As I write I try to leave the door open enough for people to come in the room, making sure to have interesting things in the room.”
On Friday, April 10, that room will effectively be the Philipstown Depot Theatre, where Tall County, who describe themselves as playing “stripped-down sounds on strung-up instruments,” will perform at 8 p.m. (As of press time, the Tall County Depot show had sold out, though there is a waitlist; call the Depot at 845-424-3900 to be put on it. Tickets, if they become available, cost $15 for adults, $12 for kids and seniors.)
Tall County was formed a few years ago. None of the trio began their lives in music playing any variant of “Americana.” Liz Bisbee Rauch studied classical violin through her childhood and teens; her self-described perfectionist nature caused her to stop when she didn’t feel she could do it professionally, something she called “a hard transition. It didn’t occur to me then to look for another style,” she recalled. Listening to bluegrass in her 20s, she felt inspired and thought it sounded “do-able. It was cheerful, imprecise music — of course I tried to perfect it, but then let go of that,” she said.
As Ned Rauch tells it, his first public appearance as a guitarist was not a resounding success. “I started lessons in second grade, and played “Camptown Races” at a recital. I don’t think I nailed it.” Undaunted, he continued, first on acoustic, then electric, teaching himself. Although he couldn’t read music, like many his “learning came from listening to records and trying to play what I heard. Plus my dad listened to opera, my mom mainly listened to ’60s rock, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, so I heard a lot. I remember a summer I spent in Montana, where my job consisted largely of chipping off paint: lonely work. I had a Walkman and I listened over and over to a mixtape I made of Led Zeppelin II and The Best of Kris Kristofferson — that explains everything!”
DeHond’s first instrument was the infrequently studied euphonium, which he started playing in middle school band, finding it “the only thing which kept me going in school.” He shifted to bass at 13 and said he “really started playing it at 18, but when I had a friend who progressed faster than I did, I put it down and didn’t play at all for a while. But I took it up again and started playing with lots of different outfits, but not in this style at all, even though it was around when I was growing up.”
DeHond grew up — and still lives — in the Adirondacks. There he met Ned Rauch, who had moved after college seeking a start in journalism and working for a small paper; he stayed 10 years before relocating to Brooklyn, as did DeHond for a time. Liz and Ned met in Brooklyn, where all three joined the already-existing string band Frankenpine, in which they played from 2009 to 2012, putting out two albums along with fellow band members Matthew and Kim Chase, who now live in Cold Spring (Matthew plays with the local band Breakneck Boys).
Frankenpine’s sound was different to Tall County’s. “It was very energetic,” said Liz. Ned added: “Frankenpine had a lot going on: fuller dynamics — we’ve held on to some aspects of it but we’ve distilled it, letting go of a lot of sound … Now we try to keep things close to what we do live, so we never use more than our three voices and three instruments; we leave a lot out. What I’m looking for is a very direct way of communicating feeling and idea. Sometimes we get too stark, but we’re striving for directness.”
Though all three write songs, the majority are penned by Ned Rauch. Nevertheless, it’s a communal, collaborative effort, with tunes sometimes beginning as chord progressions on “the instruments we always have lying around,” Ned said.
And songs evolve, sometimes a long time after they’re first written. “Taking a lyric sheet and chord progression and turning it into a song is a three-person deal. We have early recordings of songs that sound incredibly different; it can be a revelation to hear the finished product,” said Ned.
Tall County generally plays around two or three gigs a month, in the Hudson Valley and beyond. They took a bit of time off this past winter, devoting their time to a new CD. At the Depot show, DeHond explained, “We’ll play most of our originals. Some are reimagined since the last time they were heard, and there’ll be some brand new songs, too.”
At the Depot they are envisioning no instrument amplification. There’ll be vocal mics, but that’s it.
There’ll also be door prizes. “We’re giving away our eggs!” Ned announced (since the Rauches, Garrison residents, have quite a few egg-laying hens), while Liz promised to make “a sourdough bread,” and DeHond’s offering is more mysterious: “a surprise.”
On their website, tallcounty.com, the trio’s latest project can be found. On “One Take Sundays,” they get together and record one track at a time, in just one take. They film it and post it online (under the Videos tab). The idea is to eventually expand them, invite musician friends to do the same and do accompanying interviews.
The band plans on returning in the fall and bringing like-minded artists, revitalizing the Music Tracks program and making it another link in the energized music scene truly taking root in Beacon and points north and south.