Two years ago Lonesome Val was ready to hang it up. She'd been out touring extensively, had one of them critically acclaimed albums, even had Elvis Costello comparing her to Patsy Cline but it just didn't feel right. "I didn't feel like I was making the music I wanted to make," said Val. "I decided to shut down my band and hibernate for a while. I honestly thought I would never record again."
Fortunately she did and her new album NYC is remarkable in the growth Val has made as a singer, writer and player. Lyrically NYC is a tour de force; the songs are brimming with images unleashed from her life as a solitary soul living in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen, 47th Street to be exact.
"Hell's Kitchen is definitely a place on the edge," explains Val. "It's where I live but it wasn't until a limo driver brought me home from the airport one night that I really stopped and thought about it." 'You live here?' he said, 'This is where I bring people to score drugs.' There's a lot of humanity in the crackheads and hookers on my block...there's a lot of sadness but there's a strange kind of vitality to the neighborhood too."
Holed up in her apartment Val began a total rehaul of her sound. "I polished up my guitar playing, took some lessons and practiced. Meanwhile I just kept writing, writing, writing."
One day out of the blue, Val got a call from Suzzy Roche who asked her if she wanted to come down and play some guitar. "Suzzy had seen me perform and we knew each other a little. We just started hanging out and playing. Suzzy asked me to show her some of my songs. We were just having fun, getting to know each other. Then we made a tape on Suzzy's four track. I sent a tape to Bar None and they said 'make a record.' When they asked me who I wanted as a producer I asked Suzzy."
"It was a pleasure to work with her. I'd worked with men my whole life and she didn't have that male musician know-it-all attitude of 'you can't sing that harmony it's an octave, you can't do that it's not in the key.' She was very non-judgmental...if it sounded good we went for it."
The album kept the spirit of the living room sessions at Suzzy's house. The songs were cut with Val and Suzzy playing guitar and then they were embellished with pant leg percussion, some keyboard pads and the occasional well placed electric guitar over dub by the legendary David Mansfield.
NYC is full of the celebration and suffering of one who has loved and lost but is full of hope and ready to try again. "I would like to meet and fall in love with a scientist," says Val. "What they do seems so mysterious and fascinating. I want to learn more about 'matter." Calling all Einsteins: a national treasure is waiting by the phone!
1990 - Lonesome Val (Bar/None CD/CS)
1994 - NYC (Bar/None CD/CS)