Asheville trio celebrates the music of female Americana artists

DIFFERENT TUNE: Three Asheville-based singer-songwriters will pay tribute to female musicians from America's past. "I want people to walk away hearing and considering women's voices," says Amanda Anne Platt, right, with Anya Hinkle, left, and Aubrey Eisenman. Photo courtesy of Hinkle

“When I think of a woman’s voice in my childhood home, I think of Lucinda Williams,” says Amanda Anne Platt, leader and songwriter of Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters. “She’s an important one for me.”

Though Platt’s vocal stylings have been suffused with indie-rock and -folk sensibilities in years past, this New York native never forgets her roots. Joined by Anya Hinkle of Tellico and Aubrey Eisenman of The Clydes, Platt will present Women in Music: A Tribute to Iconic Female Artists on Saturday, Jan. 6, at Isis Music Hall.

“We each chose one female artist to cover, and we’ll sing three or four of their songs,” explains Eisenman, songwriter and bassist for self-described “bluesy, honky-tonk” band The Clydes. Moved by the 2013 Broadway rendition of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Eisenman will be performing songs by King. At curtain call, she’ll end with an original, which may or may not be an Édith Piaf spinoff.

“I wanted to give Piaf a nod,” Eisenman says of the French cabaret singer. “But covering her the whole night would be too much of an undertaking.”

All three women have put in long hours. “We are working the songs together, so even if one of us is on lead, the rest will be playing an instrument and providing some nice harmony vocals,” says Hinkle, whose Asheville-based bluegrass group, Tellico, wields a traditional Appalachian sound.

But Eisenman is the true mastermind behind the upcoming gig. “I do a lot of my songwriting in the wintertime and I’ve noticed that iconic women continually inspire my writing,” she says. “So, I thought it would be cool to cover a few great artists.”

In addition to Platt and Hinkle, Eisenman has enlisted the talent of four surprise guests. These local singer-songwriters will appear during the second set, armed with a solo performance and backed by a full band (North Mississippi-raised Savannah Smith is one guest artist, says Platt). The set will then close with an ode to women like Grammy Award-winning vocalist Emmylou Harris.

The night is meant to be entertaining. But it’s also meant to be a cognitive experience, notes Eisenman. “I wanted to go back before our generation to see who influenced the female artists who influence us today,” she says. “I don’t want the night to be boxed into the ‘women’s world of music’ because male musicians come from the female artistry world, too.”

In that milieu, Eisenman hints at the performance’s political nuances: Celebrating women during what feminists call a “war on women” could be perceived as factional or at least controversial. But Platt, who will be covering Lucinda Williams, leaves little to interpretation.

“Women have had so much to say over the years, and now that women’s rights are once again being called into question, it’s even more important to honor our voices,” she says. “It’s important to keep the names of these women in the forefront.”

Hinkle offers a different perspective. “I wouldn’t make it especially political,” she says. “It’s just a celebration. It’s meant to recognize the accomplishments of not only female singers, but also female songwriters.”

Her selected artist, the late Hazel Dickens, rocked the bluegrass scene in the mid-20th century with her spare vocals and provocative lyrics. Raised by a coal-mining family in West Virginia, Dickens moved to Baltimore in the early 1950s looking for work. Instead, she found a budding music scene and soon became one of the first women to record a bluegrass album.

Southern-born Hinkle finds a certain familiarity in Dickens’ “very regional” flair. “She’s always been someone I have admired. In many ways, my own musical style overlaps hers,” says Hinkle.

She continues, “In the music industry, women artists aren’t celebrated and talked about in the same way as male artists. So, as singers trying to make a career out of music, it’s inspiring to focus on the women who really paved the way for us.”

WHAT: Women in Music: A Tribute to Iconic Female Artists
WHERE: Isis Music Hall, 743 Haywood Road, isisasheville.com
WHEN: Saturday, Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. $12 advance/$15 at the door

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About Lauren Stepp
Lauren Stepp is an award-winning writer with bylines here in these mountains and out yonder, too.

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