Joti Marra is a Jacqueline of all trades, and a master of all of them, but she wouldn't be the one to tell you that. A classic introvert, Marra is supremely humble regarding the music she creates, and it's been years since she's graced a stage in Asheville. After spending time in New York pursuing a career in fashion, she was drawn back to Asheville for a bevy of reasons, and has now had the clemency to resume sharing her music again, trading in the “My-Fifty Five” moniker (her former band) in favor of Fox-Teeth — newly formed with fellow local musicians Angi West and Tyler Ramsey.
At a recent performance at the Grey Eagle, opening up for Floating Action's CD-release show, Marra, West and Ramsey played a six-song set of layered intricate melodies, featuring Marra's well-written, succinctly designed lyrics over an array of drum machines, acoustic and electric guitars, banjo and keys.
Marra is alternately tender and raw in her vocal stylings, switching between strong, deliberate lines and elongated airy harmonies. The addition of West on keys and backing vocals contributes a haunting echo to Marra's siren-esque musical phrasings, and adds just the right amount of polish to the enduring silver of Marra's songs.
The set featured three songs from My Fifty-Five's record (revamped and improved upon) and three newer songs, which demonstrated similar style with a more mature approach to arrangement. “Grey Gold” has a vintage singsongy feel beginning with a simple drum-machine, fleshed out with West playing piano and Ramsey wheedling around on a small Yamaha keyboard set to a Fender Rhodes-ish sound. Marra, singing along with her Old Craftsman 1950's acoustic guitar, rhythmically channels Patti Smith with lines like “Watch the sky pull the gray curtains in the morning as the light is coming — where will we meet beneath the ceiling of this tempest, a war is coming,” whereas in the grittier-sweet “Jet Black Night,” the PJ Harvey-like line “why is it you have to break your bones instead of flying” is delivered deliberately, free of cloying sentiment.
Remarkably, what seems to be a group comprised of a front-woman and her supporters, is actually an amalgam of three distinctly different solo performers, and when discussing this arrangement, Marra said, “I feel so blessed to have two singer/songwriters I really respect backing me up.” West is an accomplished pianist and vocalist who recently released her second album, Love is a Special Way of Feeling. Ramsey, a masterful multi-instrumentalist, has released two solo records, most recently A Long Dream about Swimming across the Sea, and plays guitar in Band of Horses. The chemistry between the three on stage is unmistakably strong, stemming from a long friendship between West and Marra, and a romantic connection between Marra and Ramsey.
Learn more about Joti Marra at www.myspace.com/myfiftyfive, Angi West at www.angiwest.com and Tyler Ramsey at www.tylerramsey.com.