Saturday, July 3, 2010

Red Velvet Car Bio by David Wild

RED VELVET CAR BIO (by David Wild)

Red Velvet Car -- the most personal and powerful work yet from Ann and Nancy Wilson -- takes generations of Heart fans on what truly feels like the musical ride of a lifetime. Powerfully produced by Ben Mink -- who previously worked with Ann Wilson on her acclaimed 2007 solo album Hope & Glory – Red Velvet Car is an thoroughly electrifying song cycle of largely acoustic-based sound and a stunning album with a true and renewed sense of purpose.

As Ann Wilson put it, “Here we are at this point in the band’s history and just like with any lifespan, the longer you love, the longer things look in back of you -- and shorter in front of you too. That sense of perspective means that you’re much less likely to want to waste any time at all. So there’s a even greater sense of mortality, of the stakes involved here and an even stronger desire to make every moment on the album matter.”

The result on Red Velvet Car is an album of breathtaking intimacy and honesty.

“There’s not an inauthentic, fictitious or posing bone in the body of this album,” says Nancy Wilson. “Whether it’s smart or not, there’s no posing going on here whatsoever. We’re telling our story. At one point, I said to Ann and Ben, ..What we’re doing in the studio with this album, this is the way we the Indians used to do it. You make a fire, and then you sit around the fire and tell your stories and pass them on with a real sense of one on one human contact. We feel like we made quite a fire together.”

Red Velvet Car is like a Second Coming, because it represents a kind of homecoming to the sort of original, powerful, deeply personal works like 1976’s Dreamboat Annie, 1977’s Little Queen and 1978’s Dog & Butterfly that helped Heart earn its good name in rock history in the first place. Indeed, Red Velvet Car seems infinitely more deeply rooted to those records than Heart’s more recent platinum commercial triumphs of the Eighties and Nineties, such as 1985’s Heart, 1987’s Bad Animals or 1990’s Brigade. In this way, Red Velvet Car completes Heart’s journey back to their original musical passions that the Wilson sisters have been working towards ever since on increasingly strong efforts like 1993’s Desire Walks On, 1995’s The Road Home, 2003’s Alive In Seattle, 2004’s Jupiter’s Darling, 2007’s Dreamboat Annie Live, as well as their work as The Lovemongers and Hope & Glory, Ann’s exquisite solo album. Red Velvet Car is the beautiful and unforgettable place Heart’s road home has taken them.

“We were definitely making a devil’s bargain in the Eighties, and looking back I’m glad we did because it did allow us to transit over a period when we could have fallen into a black hole,” Ann Wilson explains. “But we wouldn’t want to go back there and make any more music we don’t feel totally connected to. And now with this album, we feel like we have something very solid to stand on. It’s so great to work with Ben Mink because he’s not only a great set of ears, but also a great soul.”

Mink -- a producer, songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist -- caught the attention of the Wilson sisters with a body of work that has included projects with everyone from k.d. lang to Rush and Barenaked Ladies. “Ben was hard to wrestle him down to the ground to work with us,” says Ann. “When we were trying to pull Heart up from out of the Eighties ten or fifteen years ago, he didn’t quite see it yet. Later on, we did the solo album and hit it off, and now the time and place was right.”

If Jupiter’s Darling was built upon Nancy Wilson’s guitar collaboration with Heart’s Craig Bartock, Red Velvet Car was founded on Nancy’s acoustic guitar chemistry with Ben Mink. Together, they kick up the sort of sparks that conjure up the same acoustic fire that Led Zeppelin had once upon a time. “I think that’s where Ben Mink and I really match each other as players,” explains Nancy Wilson. “Because I’ve played a very rocking acoustic guitar in a big rock band setting for so long, I don’t play a shy acoustic if you know what I mean. And Ben has that same ability. There’s so much expression you can get out of an acoustic guitar especially when it’s well recorded. Ben and me were playing and say, “Wow, were we separated at birth?” There’s some nice electric guitar on the album too, but for instance, “There You Go” is heavier because there isn’t an electric track, and so you hear every grain of wood.

For Ann Wilson, part of the power of a song like “There You Go” -- Red Velvet Car’s opening track -- is that “not only were we using all acoustic instruments, but the way we recorded, they weren’t all recorded in isolation. So you have all kinds of strings resonating together. This wasn’t some Kumbaya campfire sing-a-long. So the song had the intensity of all these instruments playing as one. It’s something that Nancy has always wanted to do, and she found a real kindred spirit in Ben Mink. It’s like the two of them came from the same mother or something. That definitely works in this band.”

Vocally too, Ben Mink has helped inspired a new sense of perspective. “Ben always wants me to hold back a little, which no producer has ever really asked me,” says Ann Wilson. “It’s not that he wants me to hold back the intensity, but instead to explore what’s inside of me. Just when you think when you’ve been around for so long and have nothing left to learn, it’s great to meet someone like that who can get you to think about things a new way and really reach inside to find what’s really you. That’s pretty cool.”

“Ann and I feel like we’ve gone to the University of Mink,” Nancy Wilson adds with a laugh.

Take the journey that is Red Velvet Car, and you’ll hear for yourself that Heart has graduated with flying colors. “This feels like one of those albums that only comes around every few decades. What’s happening in our lives or how much heartbreak you balance into the joy -- all those equations figure into what comes out artistically. So for whatever reasons, this is perhaps our most nakedly personal album we’ve done, maybe ever. At our age, maybe it’s smarter to cover your ass and pretend. See when you’re young, you’re fearless and cool; we’re just not posing anymore.”

As they head back on the road with their Red Velvet Car, including dates of this summer’s Lilith Fair, the sisters Wilson are excited.

“Boy it’s wonderful and it’s frightening in a way too,” says Ann Wilson. “We’re going to come at them with these new ideas as well as the old favorites. It’s scary but we’re going to do it because we really mean this.”

“We’ve been doing to two to five new songs lately, and already they’ve been translating to audiences who have no idea what they’re about to hear,” Nancy adds. “They’re about to walk out and buy a Coke, and the songs have stopped them in their tracks and made them listen, so these new songs are already living well in our show. That’s the hardest test with new songs, but somehow these songs sound familiar to the people who love our music. These are songs built to stand the test of the time, and we can’t wait to share them.”

Red Velvet Car may take you on a dark ride at times, but it’s one that you will never forget.