Treasures & Trash
Lisa J. Carman Lisa Carman -- singer, songwriter, producer, and musician, is an independent artist and an independent soul. Her musical roots are in women's country, folk, blues, and rock, and as a lyricist she writes with a singular, vital force. Communicating intimacy, she has a voice that resonates powerfully with music lovers. Whether you hear her live, or listen in your truck or kitchen, you will be struck by her hard-won western strength as well as the softer-edge of vulnerability in her performances. Carman grew up in the open country near Rochester, New York, where she learned to sing and play the piano in early grade school. By her teenage years, she was reading music and singing in a four-piece pop vocal group around town. In high school, Carman sang lead in a rock and roll band doing hit covers. "Being the only one who could sing, I had to learn the 'guy' songs as well as the female hits of the '60s," remembers Carman. Drawn to tight vocal harmonies, she loved the Supremes, the Beatles, and Simon & Garfunkel. Off to college in upstate New York, she became a voice major studying alongside the "opera divas". "I felt totally out of place. So my secret life was the gigging pubs in town," she says. Before she was twenty, Carman got up the nerve to write her own material, and then replaced her electric guitar with a Yamaha 12-string. In 1977, Carman found a partner, Sally McCarthy. As a female duo, the two women played around western Massachusetts and New York, working the songwriting craft in earnest. Carman now played banjo and dobro as well as guitar, and McCarthy played guitar and bass. Lisa Carman married and raised three children, leading to new experiences, the discovery of new strengths, and new material. She balanced her marriage and family life with her own singing and songwriting. In the 80s, Carman and her family started spending summers in Montana. "I was slowly being won over to the west and it's vistas and ways of living." It was during those summers that Carman began to work on a CD. In 1991, she released her first self-produced CD, Full Moon Montana, and despite the pull of the west, she continued to live and perform back east. After a soul-searching breakup at the end of the decade, Carman relocated to Montana full-time. Now based in the geographical center of the state in Lewistown, Montana, Carman joined a touring rock band with great regional acclaim. She found a steadfast dedication to her music. Carman's sophomore album, Naked Heart, was released in 2002. She was coming into her own. Americana with a jazzy heart. Country blues, rock and folk -- built on some of her musical influences in women's music. Early on, she loved Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell and other performing singer-songwriters from the seventies. But she was singing out with her own voice and lyricism now, many years later. And she had moved to the right place, a place where women had always grown up wild and true, open range surrounding them. "There, I opened up to a newfound creativity", says Carman. All over again, she fell in love with the spiritual geography and the artistic inspiration of the American west. She told herself: "Write, sing, believe, and do it over and over and over." Change brought growth and growth brought change. Carman decided it was time to "up and move to Missoula and the city." Out there, in the western part of the state, where the skies were as big as the mountains, Carman's desire to record again was strong. With Heart Songs, she stepped out with the "living room recording" as she calls her 2003 album. Carman recounts, "While I was in Missoula, I was turned on to an LA producer named Dan Marfisi -- smartest move I ever made... After prerecording the rhythm tracks, I left for his Jones House studio to lay down specials and all the vocals." From Marfisi, she learned a great deal about recording and producing, and knew she had it in her to keep it up. The result was Tame Me (2004), a CD which was mixed and mastered by the singer-songwriter herself. This was different. This was a full production, pop-rock CD. Carman was now in her groove. The album is still her best seller. After a brief stint touring with guitarist Danny Guyton in the south, Carman rediscovered the west for good. She is now at home in the southwest and her current base for writing and performing is Santa Fe, New Mexico. "Nearer to the ones I love," she says. "[Living here is]a grounding experience that has actually freed my songwriting and expanded the genres of music I write," Carman says today. Her new album, Treasures & Trash (2007), is a break-through album for Carman. "I had the most invested [in this album] emotionally and musically," says Carman. It is her fifth album, and contains deep strains of American style, with lovingly produced songs. The extremely talented musicians backing her on this album give her a new confidence that she sails upon. She is joined by her veteran collaborators Caitlin Thomas on violin and viola, Adrienne Bellis on close harmony vocals, and Dave Devlin on dobro and mandolin. With class-act studio musicians Jeff Nelson on bass, New Mexico's Kevin Zoernig on keyboards, Mark Clark on drums, and Daniel Ward on guitars, Carman has assembled a solid core of sound for this production. Listen for the accompaniments of cello and electric guitar. Arranged by Carman, the music is both simple and energetic; directed by Carman, the band has a great time with her music. "How to Treat a Woman", a signature song by Carman, is a beautiful waltz that you could dance to all night long. The plaintive sound of the early Americana fiddle that opens the song, and the crystal clear, soft voice invite you into the intimate world of Carman's stories of love and tenderness in a tough world. Echoing harmonies and good deep chords trace her themes -- treat a woman with some understanding and she'll "give back many more times with love." Carman's characters let you know exactly how to open the heart of a woman. They create forthright and sensual portraits in sound; directions for a deeper appreciation of love and life. Carman is at her best in this album. Her songs encourage you to be grateful for the love you have, but to reach always for the freedom and the power to dream for what you don't have. Her characters have no regrets. Here are love songs and odes to the western spaces of America, where a sky full of stars and the coyotes "far and near" are as full of romance as a lover's tender touch. Lisa Carman. If you like rootsy country and folk, jazzy layers of harmony, and some comfortable rock and roll, you will love this singer-songwriter for her personal music and stories.