Folk singer Brianna Lea Pruett sounds like she has the quiet bucolic beauty of rural roads and the Appalachian mountains coursing through her veins. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when you learn that she calls Gold Country, California home. But when you consider the probable influence of the Laurel Canyon aesthetic from the 60’s and 70’s, it does begin to make a certain amount of sense — especially when you also consider her Native American Cherokee and Choctaw heritage. Not that Pruett was alive during those years but that music’s spirit certainly hovers above and firmly entangles itself within her own rustic, folk ruminations.
Wielding a voice equal parts Emmylou Harris and Carole King (who are obviously influences for Pruett — but more on that in a moment), she creates involving song-stories that harken back to a simpler time when music seemed to be drawn from some inner well of inspiration and where the studio was merely the outlet for that pent up creativity and not something to be relied upon. Her songs feel lived in and spacious like some wooden cabin buried deep within a forgotten Appalachian forest. And its in these spaces between the notes that miraculous things can happen — simple things that become so significant such as the gentle pluck of an acoustic guitar or the shuffling beat drawn out from an old drum set that can evoke decades worth of shared memories.
On her latest single, “New Life,” Pruett takes a gentle blues stomp and pairs it with her lilting voice in a way that recalls the blues-infused electrified folk from the 60’s and presents it in a manner that makes you wonder if the spirit of those artists might not have finally found a suitable host. Her influences are clearly wrought but never feel over-used or simply utilized as a musical crutch. Dusty back roads and vast stretches of rugged countryside can be seen (or heard) as “New Life” races on, with the landscape rushing past in a hurried musical blur of striking guitar lines and thumping percussion. You can hear the stream of “New Life” below, which we are proud to be able to premiere.
Recently, Pruett spoke to us a bit about some of the records which have informed her own musical development — and specifically the records which helped to shape her upcoming album, Gypsy Bells (due out October 1st). From Carole King and Emmylou Harris (there they are) to bands like Iron and Wine and Pavement — and even folk progenitor Woody Guthrie makes an appearance — Pruett takes us on a long and winding road of her inspirations and influences and gives us a glimpse of the unexpected ways in which she ties all these artists together. Check out her full list below (as well as her latest single) in the latest installment of our On Deck series.
Charles Mingus – Mingus At The Bohemia
Charles Mingus ran his own record label and was just all around an incredible artist. This particular record has been a consistent on my playlist since the first time I heard it. When you’re moody it provides the space to explore that and feel. Not all somber instrumental music really gives you the space – Rachmaninoff just blasts you. Mingus reminds you of what you might need to let yourself feel. I can’t even say that this is instrumental – the timing, the choices on whole thing speak.
Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball
Wrecking Ball was actually my first full-length listen introduction to Emmylou Harris. I’m glad it was, because it’s a grown up version with enough raw energy to appeal to the pre-teen I was when I heard it. It allows a lot of cracks to shine through and is one I have returned to over time.
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
For me it’s always about how a record makes me feel when I listen to it. Then years later, how does it make me feel? If an album can transcend a certain time period, when you were a particular age and did certain things with people that were around in that time, if an album goes beyond that into creating a feeling in me overall, it’s in my best-of list. Crooked Rain is a sure thing.
Carole King – Tapestry
When I at 12 I had dug into my family’s vinyl collection and put this on for a spin, I remember saying of “I Feel The Earth,” did she write this song? and the answer was yes and it blew my mind, because I did not think a “white” woman could write something that soulful. Now I’m more educated of course, obviously “white” is a construction, actual ethnicity is all over the place. Sometimes I laugh though thinking about all the ways my mind was blown when I found out about Carole King. Classic. The album cover photo, everything.
Woody Guthrie – Dust Bowl Ballads
It’s good, it’s classic, his entire life was art. He was an amazing person and this record is still very good.
Iron + Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days
This record sounds pretty. I always liked the slowness of it, that really works for me. I like the hushed vocals, he did that to keep the children from waking up. It sounds so great though.
Brianna Lea Pruett’s upcoming album Gypsy Bells will be released on October 1st via Canyon Records.