Melodic bargain-bin rhinoplasty Local electronica-rockers Discount Plastic Surgery are working on a new full-length CD, currently titled Placebo. The effort, slated for release later this month, is a follow-up to the group’s eponymous four-song demo from last year. For more information, visit the group’s Web site (www.foreignbody.com/bands/dps/index.htm).
Hanging on the wall of her downtown loft, below the pictures of Gram Parsons and Hank Williams, and beneath several wigs of various colors, a hand-painted picture by Suzie Millions and last year’s Halloween costume (a Jeannie C. Riley-themed skirt-and-shirt set that reads “Harper Valley PTA”), is a single black-and-white photo in a simple metal frame.
The photo is 10 years old now, and the striking, clear-eyed lass looking into the camera is still two years from learning to play guitar, and yet another eight years from becoming the noted Asheville-based, country-tinged singer/songwriter standing next to me.
“Tell me about the Gavra Lynn of 10 years ago,” I prompt.
“She was a painter and a sculptor,” says Lynn in her cheery, smoky drawl. “But she always wanted to play guitar.”
“What made her finally get up on stage and play?” I ask.
“It just took time,” the singer says after a pause. Her eyes are unfocused now, seeking a distant memory.
“She dyed her hair black, and started caring less and less what people think, maybe,” Lynn finally offers.
“I felt like I had to be a visual artist first,” she adds, “to build character.”
Lynn is still involved with the visual arts, avidly painting, organizing events like the From the Gut series of feminist-fine-art shows and bringing the Flicker Film Festival to Asheville. Her passion, however, is making music.
Gazing down her image-laden walls past the various show fliers and pictures of pop icons she’s collected over the years, you can almost make out a kind of narrative, a rough draft of the story of her life and music.
A large photo of Patti Smith stares back from above a pile of clothes. Like Smith, Lynn doesn’t possess a sugary, pop-music-smooth singing voice. Lynn remembers a time when she was a child, playing “Stand by Your Man” for her mother on an organ.
“You’re so good at that,” her mother told her. “It’s too bad you can’t sing.”
It’s easy to see why Smith’s visceral vocals had such a huge effect on Lynn. In Smith was a woman who, like her disciple, had something to say — and she let the power of the song guide her, rather than the limits of her vocal range.
Lynn might not have the pipes for power pop, but there’s something of significant power in her vocal timbre, something raw and tangible: an almost schoolgirl-like innocence not quite masked by that whiskey rasp.
That same singing voice that once irked her mother has become Lynn’s calling card.
In the last eight years, she’s had time to create her own kind of music, going from playing on the streets of St. Augustine, Fla., to headlining shows in the Asheville area and, more recently, in and around Chicago.
Lynn made her first mark on the Asheville scene only a few years ago, when she began backing her country-grounded solo show with notable locals Chris Geer (The Merle), Dave Gay (Freakwater) and Lance Wille (currently of the Lowdown Travelers), a group that would eventually come to some local renown as The Unholy Trio.
“I got lucky,” she says now. “That was a great first band.”
Early last year, when she was recording her seven-song, self-titled debut, she surrounded herself with a rotating cast of musicians referred to as The Cropdusters. Even though all that band’s original members have since left Asheville, Lynn still retains the old moniker for her shows.
“I think a band deserves a name,” she explains. “So anybody who plays with me now is a Cropduster.”
For all the performing she’s done in the last eight years, Lynn is still reluctant to associate herself too closely with the typical singer/songwriter lifestyle.
“I don’t think coffee houses like me all that much,” she confesses. “Maybe I’m not so much of an entertainer. It’s like Malcolm Holcombe — he’s entertaining, but he’s not an entertainer, you know what I mean?
“I want people to hear what I have to say, but I ain’t gonna necessarily smile and ask how everybody is doing,” she continues. “I can do it, I just don’t like to be expected to.”