The Evolution of Maurice Tani
Maurice Tani - The Lovers Card
by robert sproul
I have been reviewing Maurice Tani cd's for the past three years. Maurice was brought to my attention by his publicist Tanya Pinkerton who had read a few of my reviews in No Depression. I was immediately impressed with Maurice Tani's voice, song writing and his his approach to a genre that I called "country noir" only to discover other reviewers had also arrived at that same description. I have changed my opinion about that characterization "country noir" because its too limiting when it comes to describing Maurice's music. It's like Tom Russell doesn't like to have his music or his song-writing described as "Americana." That just means what Russell does can't be put into any category except one that is used for anything that isn't mainstream.
Maurice is much the same way. He writes material that sound like country at times and like classic American standards on occasion. The difference is Maurice's smooth tenor voice and his songs. This unique combination attracted Jim Pugh, the highly respected keyboard player who has toured with Etta James, Robert Cray and most recently with the legendary Syl Johnson in Japan. Pugh started the Little Village Foundation, a non-profit that searches out and discovers, records and produces music that may be as limited as only have been heard by family and neighbors to music that hasn't made it beyond the communities that they live in. In Maurice's case that commuity is the Bay Area.
Pugh says what interests him are musicians who he believes can change lives an perspectives - he has seen how music can have a powerful impact if it can reach an audience. His Little Village label works primarily with West Coast artists who are continuing the regions blues traditions such as John Blues Boyd, Chris Cain and Dave Ellis. He also has recorded Mexican American music from the valley including Xochitl Morales and Los Tres Amigos.
Pugh has know Maurice since his early days playing bass with Roy Loney and the Phantom Movers. By the end of the nineties, Tani shifted gears and decided to try his hand at singer songwriter using country flavored backdrops for his lyrics. It has been a successful transition and the framework for his lyrics are picture perfect. Maurice calls it a "cinema for the blind." Scott Bloom wrote that "This music is neither retro nor country, it's twang noir. A fully realized universe on a dark night, with an AM station sending out a strong signal from somewhere down Highway 99." Maurice describes his characters as "small time gangsters who still feel small for not making their mark." In one of his new songs "Take me with You (When You Go Too Far)" his male character is in a dingy apartment at night listening to his girlfriend pace upstairs "dragging her baggage around ...
...making plans to move on.
I've seen you try it before but it's yet to work out
every road leads somewhere but you havent found
the right route. I've watched you soar too high,
plunge too deep, sell too cheap.
I don't care where your bound
but I need to cover some ground.
My bag is pack in your car. I don't care where you go
take me with you when you go too far."
Intrigued with the direction Pugh convinced Tani wto take a batch of his material to Kid Andersen's Greaseland Studios and the three of them produced "The Lover's Card" in just three sessions, recording all ten track live including the vocals and solos in single takes. The result in my estimation is his best cd to date. The songs range from blues ("Something to Hide") to George Jones country ("Falling") to his own country noir (Three Small Words")
When I spoke with Pugh he said "Maurice gets it. He understands how to take the past and rethink the old folk signing of the 50's and tap into the golden age of country music. He knows the singer songwriter world is a croweded field." Pugh went on to talk about the difficulty of musians making the big time after the age of 30. "Most people have all the blues records they'll ever buy at a certain point." He went on to say that there are two kinds of musicians that Little Village can't help: "those who don't know where their next meal is going to come from. And those musicians who want to become the next big deal." Tani and I talked about the future and for the time being he's content to work on exposing his music and songs to a wider audience and playing a steady schedule of live performances around the Bay Area.
One song on "Lovers Card" sums up the dramatic leap forward that Maurice Tani has made with this record. One of my favorite Tani compositions is "New Dress" which has been sung with extraordinary effectiveness by Pam Brandon. This time around Pugh had Tani sing his own song as it builds to a crescendo that raises the hair on the back of your neck.
It was a new day
at the edge of town
She pulled up to the sign by the
light of the rising sun
And with a new brush
and some old paint
She lowered the population
Maurice Tani is in good hands and will continue to make his own unique music. It's not about "making it" that energizes Tani. It's about shedding some light on the petty lives or herioc characters trying to make it day to day and putting those lives in a beautiful setting.
SF Classical World
The Lovers Card
Known for his wry-to-romantic songwriting and self-proclaimed “Supercalifornographic” Americana music, veteran Bay Area artist Maurice Tani churns out memorable musical narratives about life on the left coast. Much of Tani’s compositions are written for female vocalists, but for his Little Village debut, he vows to sing them himself. Much of the material highlights broken hearts, moving away to exotic places to escape romantic demons, and the stories of fictional characters. His music is California country rock rooted in the traditional Bakersfield style of music.
Home of European Music
Maurice Tani & 77 El Deora - Blue Line
Maurice Tani & 77 El Deora just recorded an album with twelve country rock styled songs. The first thing that I notice is the positive energy that rocks out of the speakers. These musicians love making music and I think thatís the main purpose of making music together. The album itself is a collection of mainstream country-rock tracks, or maybe country-pop is a better way to describe their music.
Maurice Tani & Mike Anderson- Two Stroke
Maurice Tani & Mike Anderson shows another side of singer and guitarist Tani. Together with Mike Anderson on bass and a bunch of guest musicians, he creates a much more intimate atmosphere. On this album his vocals impress me much more, deep, warm and a real storyteller. Some beautiful, pure and well played acoustic roots/bluegrass/country influenced contemporary music here. Sparkling strings and earthy bass complete the songs and help Tani bringing the best out of him. Totally different than the Blue Line album which is great for parties, but does not have the impact and pureness this album does have. Very, very nice!
- Eelco Schilder
The 1-to-10 Country Music Review
FRANK SENTIMENTS FROM COUNTRY MUSICS’S MOST OPINIONATED FAN
Album Review: 77 El Deora - The Crown & the Crow's Confession
Maurice Tani and Jenn Courtney's 77 El Deora is a California-based alt-country band that has been amassing a loyal fan following with their distinctive vocals, well-crafted songs, and simple organic sound ever since the band's formation in 2004. Maurice and Jenn share lead vocal duties, backed by Maurice on guitar, Mike Anderson on bass, Steve Kallai on violin, and Christopher Fisher on drums. While their sound is a mixture of genre styles as opposed to straight-laced traditional country, 77 El Deora's lyrics are composed of the same themes that country music has always embraced.
The band's most recent project, The Crown & the Crow's Confession, offers many varying takes on the tried-and-true themes of love, loss, and heartache. Guitarist/vocalist Maurice Tani takes writing or co-writing credit's on every track except for their version of Springsteen's "County Fair," which is reinterpreted as a duet backed by acoustic-based instrumentation. The track ranks as one of the most romantic moments on the album. Opening Track "I Just Dodged a Bullet" is a humorous satirical account of a tongue-in-cheek discussion between a couple who decide to end their relationship, neither party expecting the negative emotional consequences that are too follow. In a duet performance, Maurice fills the man's role, with Jenn filling that of the woman. The song culminates in the memorable hook, "I just dodged a bullet/ So where did this blood come from?"
The album has a good share of dark moments that couldn't be finer. It is here in particular that Jenn Courtney often emerges as the recurring star of the show, with her full-throated voice creating the perfect mood for each song she performs. Maurice's emotive vocals serve as the ideal counterpart. A foremost example is found on the song "Rain," in which Jenn's smooth delivery envelops the gloomy melody against soft orchestral touches. Maurice's harmony vocal joins hers in the chorus, as if filling the role of the departed lover the song's narrator longs for.
The Crown & the Crow's Confession is an album replete with highlights - not a single weak track in the bunch, closing with the engaging instrumental track "Cowboy." Anchored by Maurice Tani's excellent songwriting, and full of dynamic spot-on performances, The Crown & the Crow's Confession is surely a gem worth seeking out.
77 EL DEORA'S SCORE: 10
(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)
- Ben Foster
Songwriter Maurice Tani (vocals, guitar) and singer Jenn Courtney front the Californian based 5 piece line up 77 El Deora, featuring Mike Anderson (bass), Christopher Fisher (drums) and Steve Kallai (fiddle). Together with a bunch of great guest musicians they have recorded 12 mostly self-crafted tracks for their fourth album "The Crown & the Crow's Confession".
They start off with a lively Country, JB Allison's twangy pedal-steel and a great duet by Jenn and Maurice on "I just dodged a Bullet". Following up Jenn sings the Blues on "Push me away", her passionate singing is accompanied by Jim Pugh on piano, Joey Hinson on organ and the bands shuffling rhythm. "Rain" is a dramatic song showcasing again Jenn's brilliant singing floating on the andante rhythm of the band and Mark Maberley's fine additional orchestration. Then Jenn's hauntingly beautiful voice is "Dancing with Devils", a soulful guitar ballad accompanied by fine harmonies on fiddle and Steve Stanley's awesome flugelhorn playing. The only cover is Bruce Springsteen's romantic ballad "County Fair", Jenn and Maurice singing together a virtuoso a Capella duet. The final bonus track "Cowboy" is a lovely instrumental tune with piano and fiddle creating a wonderful melodic sound and the guitar adds an amazing solo.
Tani is an accomplished songwriter, the arrangements are perfect and vocal as well as instrumental performances are outstanding. A superb Americana album.
- Adolf „gorhand“ Goriup
‘77 El Deora’ is een groep uit San Francisco rond songschrijver-zanger Maurice Tani en zangeres Jenn Courtney die met het album "The Crown & The Crow’s Confession" al aan hun derde release sinds de oprichting van de vijfkoppige formatie in 2004 toe zijn. Het begon zes jaar geleden allemaal met de debuutplaat "Sirens" die in 2008 een opvolger mocht begroeten in de vorm van het album "Hammer & Tongs", een plaat met heel wat songs in country- en hillbillystijl.
Diezelfde stijl wordt ook nu weer gehanteerd op ‘The Crown & the Crow’s Confession" met elf liedjes waarvan er tien door Maurice Tani werden gecomponeerd met Jenn Courtney als zijn muze. De elfde song is een coverversie in duetvorm van het nummer "County Fair" uit het repertoire van Bruce Springsteen. Ook op hun vorige albums was er telkens plaats voor één cover van een grote hit: op "Sirens" was dat "Cryin’" van Roy Orbison en voor "Hammer & Tongs" viel de keuze op "Everybody Knows" van Leonard Cohen.
Maurice Tani en Jenn Courtney zingen om beurt de lead vocals op deze nummers en op enkele liedjes zingen ze ook harmonieus samen in duetvorm, zoals in "Rain" waarin ook een hoofdrol is weggelegd voor de viool van Steve Kallai. Mike Anderson geeft het beste van zichzelf op double bass en Christopher Fisher beroert de drumvellen alsof ze de zachte huid van zijn geliefde zijn.
Enkele songs hebben een honky-tonk sound meegekregen die we ook wel kennen van nummers van Dwight Yoakam en andere countryrockers. Voorbeelden hiervan zijn "(I Just Dodged A) Bullet, "Get Up", "Fire On the Mountains" (een herneming van de song die ook al op hun debuutplaat "Sirens" stond) en "slotnummer "The Outside To The In".
Verder zijn er enkele door Jenn Courtney gevoelig gezongen ballads met "Push Me Away", "Dancing With Devils", "Shattered" (door Maurice Tani samen met Deborah Crooks geschreven). Diezelfde Maurice Tani neemt de microfoon over voor twee nummers: "Radio City" over het liefdesverdriet van een radio-dj en "Green Or Brown" waarop drummer Christopher Fisher meezingt.
Helemaal aan het einde van dit album zit nog een instrumentale uitsmijter met het nummer "Cowboy" waarop David Phillips als gastmuzikant op pedal steel mag excelleren en Jim Pugh (pianist bij ‘Robert Cray Band’) een stevig staaltje van zijn kunnen laat horen.
Deze derde plaat van de inmiddels zeer geroutineerd klinkende formatie ’77 El Deora’ is een uitstekend nieuwe album geworden met sterke songs in het countrygenre, voorzien van knappe vocale prestaties door Maurice Tani en vooral Jenn Courtney.
Maurice Tani is a great guitar player, terrific singer, wonderful songwriter and the album is even better than that. Solid, inspiring pro stuff.
Maurice Tani is a Bay Area treasure - he has a gorgeous voice and is skilled at writing the kinds of songs that tell a great story and stick in your head for days. On top of all that, his band is top-notch and a pleasure to work with.
SIRIUS Satellite Radio
I love this record! I always appreciate when bands bring something fresh to the table while still walkin' the line of tradition.
--Dallas Wayne, host
I would absolutely love to get The Crown & The Crow's Confession for airplay here on KEOS. It's so good, I'll review it myself and get it in New Rotation within a week.
John Roths, Music Director
KEOS 89.1 FM
College Station, TX
WESTERN INDEPENDENT RECORDING
MAURICE TANI/JENN COURTNEY 77 EL DEORA/The Crown & the Crow’s Confession:
Several years ago we seemed to be regularly bombarded with a variety of cowpunk records that were so cool we couldn’t understand how the majors were overlooking this for the swill they were putting out and nobody was buying. The economy stalled and the cool records stopped. This is the first cool cowpunk set we’ve gotten in a while and it makes up for a good piece of the drought.
Calling themselves purveyors of trailer park operetta, you can name the cowpunk subgenre at will but the main thing is this is cool. Easily country for people that aren’t country fans, I don’t know that I would tag this as Americana since it’s too California country for that tag to be handed to the uninitiated, it’s a gasser no matter what. Offbeat but with four on the floor throughout. Check it out.
- Chris Spector, Editor and Publisher
MIDWEST RECORD, Lake Zurich, IL.
Freight Train Boogie
77 EL DEORA **** (4 Stars)
Sirens... (Western Independent Recording)
A honky tonk band gigging in the SF Bay Area can be tough work, very few good twang-friendly clubs, indifferent crowds or ignorant people who shout "yee-haw" whenever they hear a fiddle. A band needs to be hip, have some attitude and a good sense of humor helps too. Despite their curious name, 77 El Deora has all three covered in spades.
Out front is the double-barreled weaponry of Maurice Tani’s witty songwriting and the strong lead vocals of Jenn Courtney. Tani is a master at the play on word and like early Robbie Fulks, respects the tradition of classic country themes, but with a contemporary twist. ... also deftly writes from the female perspective. ...Jenn sings ‘em all with with true conviction. A great little disc that I hope gets heard outside of their usual haunts.
- Bill Frater
Hicks With Sticks
77 El Deora: Sirens
77 El Deora hit the bull’s-eye with their debut release Sirens. Beside all the great songs, hot musicianship and guest contributors, this CD bypassed the studios. Once the basic tracks were down, individual parts were recorded wherever, and then emailed to the band’s 77-story global headquarters at 77 el Deora Boulevard where the final product was hand-crafted on organically certified computers. Fear not, technophobes, the CD is the better for it.
***** 5 Stars
Great new country savors tradition. This new band from San Francisco play what some might call "California Country"...but this is a very different beast from anything I’ve heard before. Great songwriting, and phenomenal vocal performances. A must have CD from this ‘underground’ band.
-Richard Lauer, Fort Worth, TX
77 el Deora: Sirens (WIR)
To tell you the truth, there aren’t that many CD’s that cross my desk these days that catch my ear and hold my attention. That being said, 77 el Deora sucked me into their Americana vortex from the first spin. From "Ain’t I A Handsome Fool," with two prime vocalists, Jenn Courtney and Maurice Tani, and underscored by the sweet fiddle of Steve Kallai, to the vintage boogie woogie of Courtney’s "This Record Sucks." I love it. All 15 songs are awesome, including "Fire On The Mountain." No, not the one by the Marshall Tucker Band. No, Not the one made popular by The Grateful Dead. A new, totally original one. "The Devil In My Ear," "Color Me Gone" and "Orange Jumpsuit" add to the fun of this unique, downright fun loving band.
-Micheal Buffalo Smith
KZMU, Moab Utah
77 el Deora's Sirens is one of the best CDs to come my way in a long time. It's got great original tunes that are literate, quirky, and musically and lyrically engaging. To top it off, it's all served up with great voices, harmonies, and twangy instruments. alt.country at its best!
-Professor Purple, Host
77 El Deora’s music is the stuff that catches me because it’s got just the right drive, and guitar licks and rich vocals, but then I’ve just got to take a long trip in my car to really hear Maurice’s stories unfold, the intelligence of his songwriting, and the expressive color in Mo and Jenn’s vocals. These artfully crafted songs are solid and stick with you. You’ll find more and more each time you hear them. When I’ve got one of these songs in my ear long after hearing it, I’m happy!
- Barbee Corff
Smart, hip, hard-core country is what 77 El Deora serves up. Jenn and Maurice keep the country duet alive and thriving.
--Rob Bleetstein, Program Director
Great stuff! I will proudly put this in the mix. I had a couple of 77 El Deora songs before and this has only added to the greatness. What your guys are doing at Western Independent is exactly the type of music I grew up on and love. Keep it up!!!!!!
- Josh, roothogradio.com
Boot Liquor Radio
Not a bad track on the whole dang CD, Sirens is loaded with powerful stories of love, lust and loss
--Roy Batchlor, Music Director
Americana und so weiter
****1/2 (4.5 Stars)
77 el Deora, „Sirens"
Aus San Francisco kommt die hippe Hardcore-Country-Kombo mit dem seltsamen Namen 77 el Deora um das Sänger- und Songwriter-Paar Jenn Courtney und Maurice Tani. Miles of Music beschreibt das Album schöner als ich es könnte: Intelligent, original, neo-noir honky-tonk in the classic rhythms and themes of western America: cheatin`, lyin`, drinkin`, dyin`, broken hearts, shattered dreams, bright, twangy guitars and the Ray Price shuffle. Beide Gesangsstimmen, die weibliche (Jenn Courtney) wie die männliche (Maurice Tani, spielt auch die Gitarre), sind stark. Und besonders fällt die virtuose Fiddle von Steve Kallai auf. Komplettiert wird das Quintett durch den Bassisten Keith Bahjat und den Drummer Christopher Fisher. Auf der CD gibts zudem zusätzliche Gitarren, Steel guitar sowie Piano & organ. Das mit Hardcore-Country sehen 77 el Deora nicht so eng, da haben auch Elemente von Rock und Rockabilly, von Soul und Blues ihren Platz. Die Songs schreibt Maurice Tani. Als Covers gibts zudem „3:30 In The Afternoon" von Dallas Wayne und „Cryin’ Over You" von Roy Orbison – und als hidden track eine umwerfende Country-Version des Georgia-Satellites-Hits „Keep Your Hands To Yourself" mit tollen Fiddle-Passagen. Ein ganz starkes Album.
77 el Deora
I present to you maybe the best Country California Band that I have ever heard.
I don’t normally write such a long review of any CD, but this one is off the meter of enjoyment. It is an Eleven out of ten. You will notice that I did not label them as Honky-Tonk, they are, or Pure Country, Blues, Folk, Rock & Roll, or any other particular style. They are all of the above and more.
The lead singers are Maurice Tani, who writes most of the songs and Jenn Courtney, who has one of the fullest voices you will find in any song. ... it is glorious.
"Sirens" is packed with several styles of music. ... put Charlie Daniels Band, Asleep at the Wheel, Bonnie Rait, The Andrew Sisters, and The Tractors all on one stage, this is what it would sound like. All I can say about this CD, is if you don’t have it you just don’t like MUSIC. Find 77 el Deora and buy the CD."
Cosmic Cowboy Café Radio
"Worth the price admission for the opening track alone - a classic boy-girl response duet that sounds like it been around for the last 50 years. If the only other good track on the album was their killer cover of Brooce's "County Fair" you'd still be happy. But wait - they've also got songs about late night DJs and retired boxers. This is an album full of gems. Only January, but this has gotta be a contender for 2011's Best Of lists."
- Eddie White, The Cosmic Cowboy Cafe 2RR 88.5 FM Sydney, Australia
Creative Music and other forms of Avant Garde
Maurice Tani has a sun-dried voice, and plays guitar along with Jim Pugh/key, Kid Anderson/g, Mike Anderson/b and D’mar-June Core/dr for some blueswailing rockers. He comes across like a JD Souther of a soulmate, with intimate piano and violin on “The Lovers Card” and the thoughtful “Out With The Old” while rough and ready VFW stompers abound on “Something to Hide” and “It Finally Fell For You.” He sounds like he’s got a lot of stories to tell while you sit in the naugahyde booth, so pull up a chair.
-by George W. Harris
A Bay Area Favourite With A Strong New Offering
Maurice Tani - The Lovers Card
One of the great things about living in the Bay Area is the diversity and richness of the local music scene. We've got stalwarts and longtime players of a caliber and quality that makes finding a gig on any given night pretty much a certainty. From the local bar to the listening comfort of the Freight & Salvage to the vibe and history of the Great American Music Hall, someone you listen too regularly and want to hear is going to be there, making the joyful noise.
Maurice Tani, as native as native gets, is one of my favourite local players. Besides a wonderful singing voice and a great touch on a guitar neck, he's a rarity: a genuine songwriter. In the years I've been listening to him, I've yet to hear a weak song. A great lyricist is great because he or she is a storyteller. That, over and above everything else, is at the heart of the craft.
His latest release, The Lovers Card, does not disappoint. The ten songs on offer are each and every one a story. Tani's got one of the best voices out there and, like most canny songwriters, he crafts lyrics and stories that are perfectly suited for his voice to tell. There are killer one-liners ("you flirted with disaster until it finally fell for you"). There's heartache and poignancy ("take me away, I've never been, we'll soak into each other's pores and under our skin"). There's regret and acceptance ("out with the old, in with the new"). Tani's not afraid to go where the story wants to take him.
The Lovers Card has a nice supporting cast. Kid Andersen adds some extra touch to Tani's own guitar work. Aireene Espiritu's vocals add layering and texture to "Three Small Words". Aki Kumar blows a monster chunky harmonica on "Something To Hide". And the Doobie Brothers' John McFee offers up a wailing violin on "It Finally Fell For You" and pedal steel on "Falling".
It's a beautifully produced and engineered CD, full but never busy. Credit co-producer Jim Pugh for that; after thirty five years working with talent like Robert Cray, B.B King and Etta James, he knows his stuff.
Everything here just works. Give this one a listen and wait for it to pull you back in for a second or third listen. Trust me, it will.
- Deborah Grabien , No Depression
Maurice Tani Has a New Album Full of Murder, Beautiful Dark Moments, and Love
Maurice Tani/77 El Deora -The White Water
I met Maurice Tani at a downtown Berkeley coffee shop to discuss his new collection of songs, The White Water. We immediately launched into a discussion of the astounding number of recent musician deaths and particularly the loss of Merle Haggard. It seemed like the natural place to begin our conversation. Tani quickly remarked “there aren’t many country greats from the generation of songwriters that inspired what I do left on this planet…the last of that generation of great iconic songwriters.”
Peter Guralnick recently wrote an obituary for Merle that started out with the bold proclamation “ Merle Haggard was probably the greatest singer-songwriter I’ve ever seen. The only artist I can think to compare him to is Sam Cooke, who like Merle possessed the gift for writing songs that were at once both deeply personal and universally applicable to the human condition. “ Garalnick goes on to describe Haggard’s songs as “no less expressive (than Cooke’s) of the kind of unnameable yearning that none of us can escape, and no less eloquent in their empathy for people from all walks of life…”
Now I’m not saying that Tani has reached the heights of Haggard or Cooke but Tani like Haggard is a songwriter’s songwriter with reoccurring themes and his own life experiences, a mournful world critics to date have rushed to categorize as “country music.” I referred to Tani’s voice , songwriting and instrumentation as creating a unique David Lynch like “Hillbilly Noir” on his previous cds. Tani explains that he wanted this new album to combine the live/studio sound on “The Blue Line” with the intimate acoustic duo atmosphere captured on “Two Stroke.”
Those elements are all present in the songs on “The White Water” and of course Tani’s unique vocal style is what it is – but I will argue that labeling this record as a country record is limiting and doesn't do it justice. I think its more than country like a lot of “country” music being created these days by the likes of Jason Isbell, The Drive By Truckers, Ryan Adams, or Sturgill Simpson. To carve out a unique place in the singer songwriter space these days takes truly single minded talent, a good backup band and solid songs…and probably most of all a trademark vocal quality. You can immediately hear a song by Joe Ely or Dave Alvin and know by their unique voices and songwriting styles that it’s their song – the same goes for Maurice Tani.
“The White Water” is a new high water mark for Tani. The songs are extremely evocative and the studio quality is top notch There are several radio ready songs on this album including the opening song, a mid tempo rocker entitled, “Kitchen Fire” The noir-ish ballad that follows “Suffer” is all Tani with lyrics such as:
I know you didn’t want to kill me
You could have made this so much tougher
No, you’d never want to kill me,
You just want to make me suffer.
The songs that follow are full of loss, scenes right out of "The Postman Rings Twice” and at times even humor. The song “Baby Made 1 2 3” sung with Ari Fellows-Mannion sounds like something John Prine and Iris DeMint could have sung together with their wry humorous takes on life. This collection also includes a political song “The Cheap Seats” which talks about the new reality created by the disappearing middle class:
The profits were up
When they shut this place down
And 800 folks lost their jobs
In this factory town.
We’re watching it all
From the cheap seats.
They sure as hell ain’t
The big screen will show
What they want us to know
And no matter who loses they win
No matter who loses they win.
These lyrics reminded me of James McMurtry’s song “They Don’t Make it Here Anymore.” But my favorite song on this cd is “Take Me When You Go Too Far” sung by Pam Brandon. Tani’s voice isn’t heard on this song but it is unmistakably his trademark phrasing and pathos. Brandon sings:
I just bleed on the keys
While you stand on the ledge
I want to take that chance
Of going over the falls
This town just blackens the page
while the white water calls”
Maurice explains the lyric and the title of the album “The White Water” as referencing a Hemingway quote he found that resonated with him ”There’s nothing to writing. You just sit at the typewriter and bleed.” I’ll go back to my point that its very difficult for me to call this record a country album…even a hillbilly noir album. It’s full of beautiful songs, intriguing lyrics and intoxicating dreamscapes. It also includes two covers, the Bacharah/David composition, “The Look of Love” sung in true Dusty Springfield harmony with Tani by Pam Brandon and a Grateful Dead cover, “Believe It or Not”
According to Tani when asked about this particular song “David Gans asked me to play a Jerry Garcia tribute and I said I would if I could sing my favorite Dead song, the crushingly beautiful 1973 “Stella Blue”. He said I could do it if I took a shot at this other song he sent me.”
“I’m hesitant to call myself a “Deadhead” but I’ve certainly followed the Dead from the Speedway Meadows days in the 70’s and I’m familiar with their albums but I’d never heard the song Gans was requesting that I play. Gans explained that 'Believe it Or Not" was an obscure Robert Hunter- Jerry Garcia song that the band only performed six times between 1988 an 1992. They recorded it in the studio for their album “Built to Last” , but it never made it onto the record. He sent me a live version that was pretty rough but I could hear the bones of something that grabbed me. Robert Hunter described the lyric as being reminiscent of the kind of country and western stuff he remembered hearing come out of tavern jukeboxes in 1948. “ David Gans proclaimed upon hearing this new arrangement at the Jerry Tribute Concert as now being owned by Maurice Tani as the definitive version.
“The White Water” is an album I’ll go back to and one of the better songwriter albums I’ve heard so far this year. But don’t take my word for it. If songwriting in the tradition of Merle Haggard is your cup of tea, you will hear songs on this record that are deeply personal and universally applicable to the human condition.
- Robert Sproul, No Depression
The Bay Twang
Country Music in The City By The Bay
Black, white and shades of gray:
77 El Deora's "The Crown and the Crow's Confession"
77 El Deora's "The Crown and the Crow's Confession" was released earlier this year, but the blog didn't exist in those days. The album is currently in heavy rotation where it counts - in my car. This is twang for thinking people. If some of the songs take on a conventional country veneer, that's only a cover for the deep texture that lies beneath.
"The Crown and The Crow's Confession" is driven by the songs of guitar player and singer Maurice Tani. Tani's characters are shattered, lovers dodging bullets and running from the flames. A pugilist at rest, simultaneously resisting and celebrating his own blood lust ("there's a fire I don't speak of, something so base I'll never rise above"). A radio DJ searching for signs of intelligent life in the ether ("are you listening?"). Tani describes his songs as trailer park operettas, but the songs have a cinematic quality that goes farther. The visual landscape imagined by Bogdanovich in the Last Picture Show. A place for broken hearts and black and white movies. Where an old Buick winds up a red dirt road, and a Martin guitar barely escapes from a fire.
Throughout, lead vocalists Jenn Courtney and Tani animate Tani's literate verbal interplay. Courtney's husky voice plays well on its own or pared with Tani's solid singing. Tani's songs are fleshed out by bass player Mike Anderson, fiddler Steve Kallai and drummer Christopher Fisher.
Even in Tani's "dystopia", the protagonists rise above. A sweet version of Bruce Springsteen's "County Fair" is a reminder of the joy in small things. The flugelhorn in solo in "Dancing with Devils" is heartbreaking and gorgeous, an incongruous jazz allusion perfect for the surroundings.
This music is neither retro nor country; it's twang noir. A fully realized universe, on a dark night, with an AM radio station sending out a strong signal from somewhere down Highway 99. Are you listening?
- Scott Bloom
Freight Train Boogie
Classic film fans might recall the Butch & Sundance line, "Who are those guys?" This CD is something different, and different good is meant. Set in an emotionally bleak California dystopia, where the just-foreclosed suburbs infest the ranch and farm land, this uncanny concept CD is a blast of Bakersfield with a ground-cover of Weeds. The music is The Buckaroos with bravura and pop touches--traces of Roy Orbison, The Mavericks, even Burt Bacharach. (Interesting use of III chords, for you music nerds.)
Maurice Tani is the writer, the arranger, the baritone who may have listened to Texas Playboys’ singer Leon Rausch once or twice. His partner Jenn Courtney is an intelligent, sexy singer...a woman in full. The songs are truly for grownups. This is thoughtful, heart-wrenching stuff about human asteroids that wonder where and how they lost their way and if there is a GPS that works. The songs are also darkly funny comments on such faves as power, desire, adrenalin, ambivalence, and narco squad surveillance. Highlights include torch song "Rain," George Jonesian "Shattered," not-ready-for-Oprah "I Just Dodged a Bullet," etched-in-angst "Radio City" and, as they say, many more, including a charming and spot-on version of Springsteen’s "County Fair," the sole cover. Who are those guys? Well, I hope they catch you...you won’t be sorry.
Real Roots Café
(Translated from Dutch)
This, San Francisco California based, band is called 77 El Deora and the name refers to a model of the Cadillac Eldorado from the late 70-ies of the past century. The band was formed in 2004 by singer-songwriter Maurice Tani and with an eye-catching Jenn Courtney as his leading lady on vocals.
"The Crown" as their third and newest CD release in their own Country-Rock style, produces a mixture of Rock, Jazz and Soul. Especially the duet songs between Maurice Tani and Jenn Courtney, will come sparkling out of your speakers.
For example, listen to the only cover on this CD, a sparkling Country-version of an unknown Bruce Springsteen song called "County Fair"...and although it’s a great cover of this song, Maurice Tani’s self-written songs stand their ground next to it and are making this CD to a real beauty.
On this CD variation is the key-word..... Listen to the final instrumental "Cowboy" (mentioned in the booklet, but not on the inlay), a pretty experimental sounding country-jazz song. Whether "Green or Brown", a Country song in an ode to marijuana (Green or Brown, there’s no finer marijuana in this end of town)....Or "Push Me Away", a soul-grinder with an organ....And "Bullet", a forward leaping Country-Rock song. The ‘poppy’-song "Rain" shows you a beautiful orchestration (strings effect on synthesizer?)..."Get Up" Rocks and has lovely duet vocals; in the ballad "Dancing With Devils" a flugelhorn is giving this song a Jazzy glow...Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful...!
But both vocalists are at their best in, what to me is the best song on this album, "Shattered", with solo vocals by both and in duet at the end, this song is so beautifully arranged it’ll carry you away......
"The Crown & The Crow’s Confession" has taken me by surprise and left me completely amazed by the craftsmanship of the makers, the variation, and those wonderful self-penned songs..... This CD stands like a Rock, it’s perfect!
- Fred Schmale
Finding the right cover art is never easy, and sometimes it just goes horribly wrong. Unfortunately, that's the case of Maurice Tani/Jenn Courtney & 77 El Deora "The Crown & The Crows Confession." There's too many visual elements, too much nudity, and, oh yeah, too many names (including a forward slash?). At first glance, the front cover appears to be a 90s remix CD or a repackaged foreign album. But the bad news ends there, because the music is superb. And, by the way, so are the beautiful photographs of the musicians inside the CD packaging that should have been utilized as cover art. However, it's the music that matters, and it's great.
The album begins with the terrific "I Just Dodged A Bullet, and Tani and Courtney have a uniquely wonderful musical chemistry that bursts out of the speakers and is pleasing on all levels. The retro-cool vocals couldn't help but bring a smile to even a person with the hardest of hearts. The bluesy "Push Me Away" showcases Jenn Courtney's sultry vocals to great effect. "Dancing With The Devil" has much of the same charm.
The best chance for a country radio chart hit on the album is the rockin' "Get Up!" which offers a unique blend of musical styles that mixes country and rock in equal measure. The biggest surprise of the project is the bluegrass-tinged "Fire On The Mountain," which also highlights hints of southern gospel flavor.
By far the best cut on the entire project is the sublime "County Fair," which offers an award-worthy performance of the Bruce Springsteen track from Tani and Courtney. Concertgoers will appreciate "The Outside To The In," which has a polished and hummable melody. The album ends on the perfect note with the instrumental cut "Cowboy," which showcases full-bodied musical mastery.
The music of "The Crown & The Crow's Confession" is a triumph, even though the cover art is not. Indeed, this reviewer would not even care to criticize the cover art if the music was sub-par. In fact, there is a simple fix. Take out the front and back cover art and turn them both over to the pictures of Tani and Courtney. That way, you will have both musical...and visual bliss.
Pirate Cat Radio
77 El Deora / The Crown & The Crow’s Confession (Western Independent / 2011)
San Franciscans looking for a little slice of alt-country need look no further than our own city. Local 5-piece 77 El Deora, fronted by Maurice Tani (guitar and vocals) and Jenn Courtney (vocals), sing the songs about the things that need singin’ about in these days and times: "cheatin’, lyin’, drinkin’, dyin’, broken hearts, shattered dreams, bright twangy guitars and the Ray Price shuffle."
The Crown & The Crow’s Confession covers the usual alt-country range from upbeat and charming to heavy and melancholy — including a pair of "noir-esque" songs as a masculine/feminine, storytelling/response suite about a late night DJ (tracks 3 & 4), as well as a Springsteen cover (track 10) — but present through it all are the ironic humor and dark musings of Tani’s songwriting. This sensibility seems to work best in the brighter, more upbeat songs, where the balance is stronger between a heavier sentiment and a more rollicking sound to carry it forward. Indeed, the bouncier tracks come across as the most clever, and the most engaging.
With Steve Kallai on fiddle, Mike Anderson on double bass, and Christopher Fisher on drums, 77 El Deora are proud to be local song-spinners of "twangy ruminations ranging from rye to romantic ... tender to aggressive," and their self-described form of neo-noir is a bit of a confession of their own: They’re willing to venture into choppy waters in pursuit of something unique, which makes perfect sense for one of San Francisco’s own.
-Pirate Cat Radio
#1 / (I Just Dodged a) Bullet (upbeat opener with playful and cheeky male and female vocals)
#5 / Get Up! (straight-up honky tonker about throwing down, laced gloves and all)
#8 / Fire On The Mountain — Revisited (classic bluegrass, with plenty of foot-stompin, finger-pluckin, and deep-throated vocals)
#10 / County Fair (grab a boy or a girl, because we’re all gonna slow dance right now)
77 el Deora "Sirens"
If you’ve ever traveled I-40 through Amarillo, you’ve no doubt seen a true example of classic "Americana:" the Big Texan Steakhouse with its giant billboard challenge - if you can eat the entire 72 oz T-bone steak, it’s free. Next to the fabled Cadillac Ranch, it’s Amarillo’s most famous landmark.
I’ve known a few people who’ve tried; but no one who ever walked out without having to pay.
77 el Deora’s bass player, Keith Bahjat, says that he has. That seems to me to be a perfect little factoid for a band that calls their style "Oblique Americana."
Their debut CD, "Sirens," is as impressively authentic sounding as the band’s image is ambitiously hip. Think of all those great crossover country songs that made it to the pop music top 40 charts in the sixties and seventies, throw in a keen visual artistic sense, and front the whole thing with a very talented male-female duet and you’ve got some idea of what these guys have going on.
Right out there is singer Jenn Courtney. She’s got this incredibly soulful and expressive voice that really grabs you with its depth and range. She’s good. Then there’s singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Maurice Tani. His voice recalls Ray Price by way of Buck Owens. He’s good too.
They’ve got that pop art thing as well. Poke around their website, you’ll find an archive of their show announcement posters, with ultra cool pulp fiction graphics. They’re heavy on the girls with guns theme and they’re all accompanied by little story snippets with lots of vague intrigue. It’s a great way to waste some time on the internet.
And if you think these guys are all style and no substance, then stick just "Sirens" in the player.
Tani has some great country guitar chops and a dead-on sense for country songwriting. His writing reminds me a little of Dwight Yoakam, with a keen sense for what works within the constraints of country music. His songs are rooted in classic country and frequently show a sense of humor that keeps them entertaining without becoming mere novelty. And he’s been around, paying his dues playing every kind of music in clubs and bars in Texas and the San Francisco area since the nineteen seventies.
Tani says that writing for a female perspective is an interesting challenge in that women can get away with lyrics that a man can’t. He’s found a perfect vehicle for that challenge in Jenn Courtney. Tani hooked up with Courtney in a Bay-area band called The Hillside Wranglers. Time will tell, but at first listen it sounds like a match made in alt country heaven. Wherever that is.
77 el Deora also features Bahjat on upright bass, drummer Christopher Fisher, Tani’s former bandmate from Calamity and Main and mandolin/ fiddle player Steve Kallai. Kallai’s fiddle seems to really drive the sound behind the vocals.
There’s so much great material on "Sirens," it’s hard to point to a single, or even a couple, highlights. There are 17 tracks and, well, they’re good.
They do a Bakersfield thing ("My Old Address Book") and Tani channels Buck. Courtney does a blustery swagger ("Ain’t I a Handsome Fool") and then belts out a plaintive, sentimental ballad ("Is This Gonna Hurt") that rivals K. D. Lang at her torch ballad best. Tani croons a Roy Orbison cover ("Crying") and Courtney kicks out a honky-tonk stomp ("3:30 In The Afternoon"). They both harmonize beautifully on a folksy down-home gospel song ("Fire On the Mountain").
Unlike that 5 pound steak in Amarillo, you won’t have any trouble digesting 77 el Deora’s "Sirens" all at once and when it’s over, you’ll probably even be ready for more.
I know I am. These guys are good.
-Scott O. Miller writes for texasgigs.com and, under the pseudonym "jitter," for slackercountry.com
Roots Music Report
77 El Deora: Sirens
Label: Western Independent
Rating: ***** (5 Stars)
77 El Deora is one of the most distinctive sounding bands of the year. Their music and songs are True Country sounding with a bit of Roots/Americana flavoring wonderfully instilled in each unique sound track. 77 El Deora simply presents some outstanding music on this album that represents the True Country and Roots/Americana sound that is sweeping the nation and the world. This is a winning CD that will bring much attention to this band around the globe.
As the owner of SteelRadio.com, I have heard music from all around the world in every genre’ and in many different languages. I was taken back when I heard the CD by 77 El Deora. It was refreshing and very enjoyable. I added tracks from this CD to my regular rotation and I know my listeners around the world will enjoy their music. It’s a welcomed addition to my library. My congratulations to Maurice & Jenn for a job well done.
- Michael Scott -SteelRadio.com
Many people share my opinion that 77 El Deora is the best band in the Bay Area. Not ‘best band following the current fads or wearing the silliest costumes or doing the most cloying schtick’ — no, 77 El Deora is a timeless band that writes and performs an original and very catchy mix of noir rock, pop and (that dirty word) country music. If Fleetwood Mac and Leonard Cohen got together with Waylon Jennings and Jeff Beck, well that would be a great show, and it would be a lot like the show you will get."
-Misisipi Mike Wolf
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
Maurice Tani: The Lovers Card
By JAMES NADAL
August 15, 2017
The term Renaissance man could and should be applied to Maurice Tani. A certified jack of all trades in the San Francisco music scene for over forty years, Tani has extensive experience in the recording industry as singer, songwriter, guitarist, bassist, and producer. Recent alt-country/roots music releases with his band 77 El Deora, have garnered him a local following for both his records and live performances. Tani is right at home where the blues relaxes into Americana, and can sing jazz better than most who claim they do.
For The Lovers Card, Tani turned to Jim Pugh at the Little Village Foundaton, who called Kid Anderson from Greaseland Studios, in San Jose, to set up the sessions. Tani came well prepared with ten original songs left open to interpretation and improvisation, recorded over a few days in a live setting, capturing a master storyteller at the crest of his craft. His laid back delivery of the linear narrative is ideal for the vivid imagery in his lyrics, reflections on the dark side of romance, and the ensuing emotional unraveling.
The styles and directions of the record cover a broad palette, opening with the blues based "Something To Hide," featuring the wailing harmonica of Aki Kumar. A dramatic mood swing comes with the film noir soundtrack "It Finally Fell For You," encased in the chanson shaded violin of John McFee, a tale of blind ambition gone awry. Viewed from the jilted side of the room, "It Looks Like You Had It All," is set to a blue soul tempo with killer organ by Jim Pugh.
Pugh moves over to piano on the title track, a romantic rendezvous performed with a touch of tango and jazz. Initially composed for a woman singer, after much thought Tani decided it was time for his own interpretation, certainly rising to the occasion. Life begins anew with a "New Dress," the leading lady slipping into a fresh disguise, leaving sentimental debris behind. For an interesting take on western tinged jazz, "Take Me With You," is the personal account of an infatuated neighbor playing the fool, hoping against time and reason. Tani changes into his familiar country persona for the truck-stop love song "Falling," as the tears drip into the beer. This is a style he is quite comfortable in, allowing him to tell the story his way.
Tani collaborated with vocalist Aireene Espiritu on her record Back Where I Belong (Little Village Foundation 2016) and her inclusion on "Three Small Words," is nothing short of genius. Tani and Espiritu know each other well, and the vocal chemistry is evident, Espiritu adding a strong dose of soulfulness to the song. If there is such a thing as alt-country blues, "Push Me Away," would fit into that description, an easy going drive up the coast on a lazy afternoon. Starting with a solitary vocal, Tani relies on his jazz, samba, and Latin influences to convey "Out With The Old," addressing the process of reinvention and renewal.
Maurice Tani is a self-confessed urban dweller, who sticks to what he knows, bringing the cosmopolitan feel of San Francisco, and all it entails, into his music. His voice possesses a confidence suited for enjoyable listening, his songs are melodic glimpses into a world of make believe that is painfully true. A natural writer with a musical soul.
Track Listing: Something To Hide; It Finally Fell For You; It Looked Like You Had It All; The Lovers Card; New Dress; Take Me With You; Falling; Three Small Words; Push Me Away; Out With The Old.
Personnel: Maurice Tani: vocal, guitar; Jim Pugh: piano, organ; Kid Anderson: lead guitar, organ (4); Mike Anderson: bass; D’mar: drums; June Core: drums (4, 5, 7, 8); John McFee: violin (2); pedal steel (7); Aireene Espiritu: vocal (8); Aki Kumar: harmonica (1); Kathy Kennedy: backing vocal (2); Lisa Leuschner Anderson: backing vocals (7).
Title: The Lovers Card | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: The Little Village Foundation
The Bay Twang
Country music (and other things) in The City by the Bay
Maurice Tani is a cartographer of the human heart. His latest release, The Lovers Card (Little Village Foundation), sees Tani following the path to love, heartbreak, and redemption. No details are overlooked by the careful mapmaker, and in Tani’s case, the destination is less relevant than the journey.
Eschewing the traditional powerhouse country sounds of his band, 77 El Deora, The Lovers Card features bluesey accompaniments from members of the Little Village Foundation (LVF), a non-profit collective that nurtures quality songwriting and American roots music. Don’t be fooled by the cowboy hat on the cover; this is late night music, not shit-kicking honkytonk. Blues veteran and LVF six-string guru Christoffer “Kid” Andersen lends lead guitars, while Robert Cray alumnus Jim Pugh adds fragile, keyboard accents that mirror Tani’s narrative, and rock-solid bassist Mike Anderson fills out the bottom.
To be sure, country inflections make an appearance (notably on “Fallin’), but this collection of songs is a marked departure from Tani’s 2010 release, the Crown and the Crow’s Confession. Crown and Crow drove listeners down a dystopian two-lane highway, straight into the warped heart of the American dream. He followed that release with Blue Line, a more introspective album where Tani narrowed his vision to the more compact landscapes of human emotion.
On The Lovers Card, the songs and arrangements are even more subtle, the band following behind Tani instead of propelling him forward. Tani remains a clever wordsmith, but there is less rollicking country, and more space between the players, quiet moments to ruminate on the words. Some classic R&B notes flesh out a far more soulful record than any of Tani’s prior output. The music does credit to the lyrics without becoming the focal point. Think of Randy Newman or John Prine, but with less self-pity. Tani’s voice is plaintive but robust, breaking at just the right moment, but never too much.
Tani says this is the record he has been building up to for his entire career, and you can see the reason for his enthusiasm. Each song is carefully crafted, lacking filler or excessive sentiment. The Lovers Card is a late night confessional, not a love letter. Tani reminds his listeners that love can be a dangerous game for those who chose to play. Clearly, Tani can’t stay away.
-Scott Bloom, Bay Twang
Freight & Salvage: Friday, May 13, 2016
It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words.
And while that may be true, words set to music can paint a picture more vivid and profound than most anything else in the realm of human experience to tell stories that linger long in our hearts.
Friday night at the Freight and Salvage Maurice Tani and his extraordinary cast of musicians, 77 El Deora, did just that. The concert was billed as a CD release party for his newest and may I add excellent CD, “The Whitewater” and the evening was a mix of new songs from the CD and old favorites.
Like all great songwriters/storytellers, Maurice uses humor, pathos, and metaphor (he loves that word!) to spin tales of sometimes heroic, sometimes conniving, seductive and/or hapless characters. Characters deep in the throes of urban/country angst, unrequited love, love affairs gone wrong—in a nutshell—country noir.
A master of clever lyrics and gorgeous melodies that make for ear-worms almost impossible to dismiss, Maurice’s warm powerful voice animates the songs into a kind of technicolor experience.
This is the first time I’ve heard the entire band—with lush arrangements, especially stunning on the piano and played impeccably by Randy Craig, drums—Ken Owen tapping out cool shuffle rhythms, bass—the always fabulous Mike Anderson, and of course Maurice on guitar—acoustic, and for the second set, a way hot electric.
The evening belonged to the ladies too. The lovely Ari Fellows, (adorable in a red beret) from the Loretta Lynch Band made a guest appearance on a rollicking tune about “wistful drinking”, and Irene Espiritu joined Maurice for a haunting duet— the profoundly beautiful, Hard Times, Come Again No More by Steven Foster. Not to mention, the effervescent Jeanine Richardson who shaked that thang — the tambourine that is!
And then there was the force of nature that is Pam Brandon. OMG! Her sultry voice (which meshes perfectly with Maurice’s), Simone Signoret eyes, 20’s haircut (a red head, too) and larger than life presence packs a wallop! Especially loved her version of “Take Me With You When You Go To Far.”
A stellar night at the Freight by brilliant, passionate players the likes of which we are immensely fortunate to have right here in our own back yard!
- Kathryne Cassis
He's brilliant! It is not exactly country; his lyrics are insightful, sophisticated, often incredibly funny. All of it comes through with an urban sensibility. His voice makes me cry; just beautiful...
- Mark Sackett
Miles, Miles' Mama and, of course Miles' Papa had a wonderful time!
On the following Monday after F&S, Miles' Mama told me that should couldn't get the Radio City song out of her head. That *never* happens and I asked her why. She said "Maurice paints such awesomely vivid pictures with his songwriting." We went on for some time about the fine art of writing, story telling and performance. Another friend felt that Cheap Seats was it. I confessed that New Dress was my personal image maker. "I'm painting my new dress red. As dark as the color of blood in the pale moonlight." Christ, the hair stood up on the back of my neck just typing it in.
- Miles' Papa
Impossible to see all the live music I would like to...most weekends I'm playing myself, But for the last 3 years I've managed to catch Maurice, Mike, Pam, K.O., et al, at The Freight and Salvage, and this is the one show I consider 'unmissable'. So...is it next year yet?
- Rob Mccloskey
MAURICE TANI is a rare combination of country-western sincerity with urban* intelligence and wit. I sit in his audience and beam with a mixture of 10% envy and 90% sheer delight.
-Joshua Raoul Brody
(* I don’t mean to imply there aren’t such things as rural intelligence or wit. Or suburban intelligence or wit, for that matter.)
Maurice Tani is one of the a kingpins / linchpin of Bay Area American Roots music / Y'all-ternative Country / Americana music scenes.
Love Maurice's turn of phrase- hard to believe he's not suicidal!
- Claudia Colin
77 El Deora changed my life!
Not in any grandiose way like being touched by the hand of god while watching Pink Floyd while an indeterminate number of chemicals throw a ho-down in your brain. Not like the young girl in the front row at the early Beatles concert who screams until she hyperventilates and passes out. Nothing quite like being close enough to Elvis to smell the stink of his unwashed jumpsuit.
77 El Deora changed me in a much more subtle way. In fact I hardly ever notice or even think about it. Itís not until actually examine it in detail that I can see how much of a profound influence this band has had on me. Itís sort of insignificantly significant.
There are some moments in life that might not seem important but still have a way getting folded and kneaded into the big dough-ball of your life forever changing the color and texture of your existence. These little moments are pivot points that dictate who you become, your character, and your lifestyle. They affect the choices you make, the music you listen too, the clothing you like to wear, etc, etc.
On the evening of Friday June 30th 2006 I passed The Fourth Street Tavern and saw through the window an upright bass laying on the stage. I didnít yet play the upright but in that moment I felt very drawn to it. I decided to go in and check out whatever band it was.
I sat down, got a beer, and waited for the band to start. As they all assembled I was very happy to discover that I knew the woman singer was Jen Courtney, an old friend of my sisters. I had seen her sing before with a band called Dukes of Hazard. I already knew I was in for a treat.
Over the next hours I was not only greatly entertained by our old family friend but also discovered that Maurice Tani can write, pick, and sing some really amazing songs. I also found out how mesmerizing and hypnotizing an electric fiddle can sound when you put it in the hands of Steve Kallai.
It would be easy for a casual passer by to classify this band as country, honky tonk, or americana. When you listen closer can hear that Mauriceís songwriting influences are all over the map. Some songs are Latin flavored, some European, some who knows where or what. Heís also not afraid to break out of traditional songwriting structures such as you usual verse chorus verse chorus bridge etc. He has an ability to let the song go exactly where it needs to.
The next time I saw 77 El Deora was a couple months later. I brought a pretty young woman with me on what was then our second date. The last time I saw them was last Friday November 30th 2012. I was with the same woman who is now my wife, Susan Moon. It was a celebration for her 30th birthday.
Susan and I have gone out dancing at their shows many times in between. In fact the decision to learn to dance came from being at a few of their shows and wanting to dance but not really knowing what to do. So we learned.
It might be possible that if I hadnít found 77 El Deora that I would have ended up playing the upright bass, learning how to dance, married to an awesome girl, living in a beautiful house in the woods. Possible yes, but less likely. Itís all in some way linked to that chance encounter at the Fourth Street Tavern.
Jen Courtney still performs with them when she can. Other opportunities has kept her from working with them on a regular basis. Pam Brandon has been filling her shoes for most gigs and has been doing a wonderful job. They have, for at least one show that I know of, performed together. I missed that one but am hopeful they will do it again.
- Jeff Moon
Maverick Magazine (UK)
The band name, the album title and the artwork paints entirely the wrong picture for the music that is contained on this excellent album. I never expected to hear a mix of country, roots rock and Americana, but that’s exactly what you get. Vocals are shared by Maurice and Jenn, at times creating wonderful old school country duets with I Just Dodged A Bullet, but also offering dynamic solo readings with Jenn producing a souldful quality for the pleading Push Me Away. They come together for the moody Rain and even offer a fine rendition of Springsteen’s County Fair. They close this superb album with the instrumental Cowboy with David Phillips (pedal steel) and Jim Pugh (keyboards) trading licks. Ignore preconceived ideas and sit back and enjoy.
Oliver di Place
Musings on music. New Discoveries and Old Favorites.
The first thing many story writers do is set the scene. Maurice Tani does this beautifully in Radio City. I can see the parking lot outside the radio station as I listen, and I just about see the DJ’s face. It takes a little while for the plot of the story to come out. This is a tale of heartbreak, and the narrator is hesitant to tell it. He seems to feel that saying it aloud gives it power, and yet, it is a tale he must tell. This narrative device makes the song all the more powerful.
Tani and Jenn Courtney roughly split the lead vocals on this album. She has the more expressive voice, but he knows how to use what he has to good effect, so the vocals work throughout. The Crown & The Crow’s Confession is a mix of ballads and rockers, all rendered beautifully. Tani is the main songwriter, and a fine one.
- Darius Rips
I love this CD.
Whereas most bay area bands in this genre started playing ‘country’ music because it was perceived as being easy as punk and give the songwriting and playing nearly as much attention as their vintage clothes and hairstyles, Maurice and crew bring some serious skills and perspective and actual style to the table.
Maurice Tani’s writing has all the usual tongue in cheek lyrics along with a more sophisticated harmonic and melodic structure we have come to expect from him. He also has some damn fine major league songs here. It doesn't hurt that he can play guitar and sing like a grown up. The maturity afforded him through years as a working musician/songwriter long before he started writing in the ‘Americana’ vein is evident.
Jenn Courtney’s voice can go from the appropriately cynical loved and lost one too many times to the real deal heart wrenching melancholy and everything in between that the writing deserves with warmth that one rarely hears in any contemporary singers in any genre these days.
Mike Anderson’s bass strong yet sensitive bass playing, both upright and electric, adds a touch of credibility to the proceedings generally reserved for major league budgeted productions.
Not everything here is a humorous romp through the usual Boy vs Girl horse opera, The heartfelt ballads are fully felt and the sly wink buried in the lyrics make them somehow even more honest and relatable.The more pop-type tunes are fully formed and well produced.
Case in point would be Radio City, gorgeous writing here. Like all the best stories you have to actually listen closely to the whole thing. No problem with such beautiful chord changes played masterfully. The insistent string bass line and gently sweeping piano add a serious touch of class. Great imagery bordering on Jimmy Webb.
All in all, possibly the best indie ‘Americana’ band to come from the Bay Area . . . ever . . . period. No doubt they have outgrown the local retro based hickabilly scene . Let’s hope they keep it up and get the attention they so richly deserve.
- Paul Olguin
Didn't want to embarrass you by gushing all over your facebook page but that was one of the best shows I've seen in a long time.
Ya know when you see a great band and life just seems a little better?
My car drove smoother on the way home.
My wife seemed more kind and understanding when I woke up today.
My clothes fit better.
My house looks like it may have increased in value.
Wait---do I have more hair in the front?
Please tell Mike that his bass sounded perfect. Crisp high end that gave definition to every note w/o that annoying 'weed-wacker' treble bite that so many acoustic bassists in the Americana genre settle for. And his parts were impeccable.
Music business is rough.
My research indicates a 2.54 'kick-in-the-ass' to 'pat-on-the-back' ratio.
But you guys have something truly unique that goes beyond the music to include the entire presentation. Truly deserving of a much wider audience.
All the Best, Robbymac
- Rob McCloskey
East Bay Express
77 El Deora, The Crown & The Crow's Confession. Singer Jennifer Courtney shows her chops in "Push," a nasty blues ballad that demands enough gospel inflection to make a lyric like "Push me away, hold my love at bay" sound utterly sincere. She's the leader of 77 El Deora, a honky-tonk outfit that divides its repertoire between woeful laments and high-spirited stomps. There's even a song about weed. (self-released)
- Rachel Swan, East Bay Express
77 El Deora is the perfect bar band. If you're feeling a little heartbreak or looking for someone's heart to break, check them out ..They're not a gin and tonic act, they're definitely a scotch on the rocks and a corner bar stool band.
77 El Deora's latest CD The Crown & The Crow's Confession is excellent songwriting with country twang. I suggest skipping the first song and starting on track two, the first song is just silly. Now you're going to make sure to listen to it....I'm just saying don't judge the CD from that track, it goes from 10 to 110 with one song.
The whole band shines in 77 El Deora, but when Jenn Courtney is on the vox, she has a beauty and darkness to her voice that will floor you.
Maurice Tani is the other singer/songwriter and he excels on his own as well. He's on the songs that have more of a straight ahead party vibe, while Jenn is an emotional fog light pointed straight at your heart on the slower, softer songs.
-Tony DuShane, SFGate
Maurice Tani is a musical powerhouse, a triple or quadruple threat. He is a great songwriter, a soulful singer, a strong bandleader and an impressive recording artist/producer. There are, at least, a couple of his songs on my list of 25 all-time favorites.
- Doug Blumer
I’ve been going out to hear 77 El Deora since about the time the band formed, six or seven years ago. The band has always represented to me what’s best in americana music: smart without making a fuss about it. The lyrics are worldly but universal. The musical ideas hit home. The playing is as good as you’re going to hear this side of Austin.
Above all, the band covers a lot of ground, from wistful ballads to hard driving honky-tonk rock, from personal meditations to satirical cultural observations, from electrified twang to down-home acoustic. Once in a while, they even find new shades of meaning in some cover you thought had been long since played out. Some bands attract an audience. This band attracts a scene. Bay Area music is way the better for it.
- Les Cowan, Owner Café Royale, SF
Once again, I totally enjoy what you have done. I no longer consider your music to be easily labeled as a particular genre. It sounds familiar to me now as your own. I dare say I could recognize it without being told who it is, because I know your sound, your voices, and the way you play. But at the same time, your style is diverse. I would love to read more, and know more about the band, the songs, and the continuing mystery that presents itself in the liner notes. (When is the book coming out?)
The current fare that I am exposed to when I drive around in my automobile and listen to music on the radio, is an illusion to me now. I like music that surprises me in a good way. Your songs do that. It may be presumptuous to say this, since I am but a humble fan, but I find your work and your talent to be enjoyable and often brilliant.
I think 77 El Deora is the Bay Area's most smoking Americana/Honky Tonk/Alt-Country band. Fronted by ace guitarist/writer/singer Maurice Tani and a great vocalist, Jenn Courtney, they are commanding and large in the way only a tight, well-practiced band with a clear point of view can be. Their own unique brand of torch and twang is at once smart, dark, sassy... and fun.
—Deborah Crooks, writer/singer-songwriter
Maurice Tani has a voice that aims right at you wherever you are in the room, plays the guitar with full-bodied pizazz and its difficult to imagine his songs not just using him as a conduit to be.
Delivering songs and performances that pay homage to both the country and rock-and-roll masters that came before them while giving their audience due respect for being able to process something more than the current mainstream drivel, 77 El Deora is what New Country-Nashville could sound like if its balls and spine were still intact and its heart had not been sold long ago.