JC & Laney (not necessarily in that order)


The Xtreme Bean offers many pleasant surprises, but earlier tonight was the topper for me thus far, by far.  My intention had been to stop in just long enough to grab a decaf, but when I heard these two people I changed my order on the spot to an espresso.  I knew I’d be there listening to them for a long while, and now I’m here at home writing about them for a little while longer, still listening to them on their latest CD, Heartbreak & Paradise.

During a break Laney Greynolds (pronounced like Reynolds plus a G) told me that she and JC Scott have only been performing together for a couple of years, but I told her they sound like they’ve been together for a lot longer than that.  JC said I should hear them in a more acoustically friendly venue, and I certainly plan to do that, but they could make a wrecking yard sound like a backup band.  Their individual voices are very good, but in harmony they’re… well, heartbreaking, and as for paradise, we Zensters don’t necessarily believe in that.  But we don’t necessarily rule it out either, and JC & Laney have now become part of the reason I personally don’t.

JC invited me to give them a call anytime, and I’ll probably do that tomorrow (actually, later today).  I have many questions to ask them, and will no doubt be updating this post after the interview.

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Update:  I was delighted to find that the duo could meet me for lunch today.  We met at the XB, went to the nearby Sweet Tomato, and talked for nearly two hours.  I went expecting to interview them, but the meeting quickly became a conversation and stayed that way.  I’m not sure how to begin writing about all that was said, so I’ll try going to the bottom line first and working back from there.

I like this couple (and they’re a couple on the personal as well as the professional level).  Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.”  But sometimes we meet people who aren’t pretending, who’re simply and wonderfully who they really are.  Maybe that happens more often than we realize.  I don’t know.  But I do know that because Laney and JC are the first professional performers I’ve ever spoken with at length, I was watching and waiting for their facades to crack and fall.  That never happened during our conversation because they have no facades.  You can trust me on this, because if I learned anything from working in looney bins and prisons for more than three decades, it was how to see through masks and sniff out bullshit.

They’re the real deal, and it’s a fair one.

They met several years ago at a festival at Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, an Arizona city with lots of history, much of it musical.  JC had been a freelance guitarist and vocalist for most of his career, mostly oriented toward rock and folk, sometimes playing with artists such as Lindsey Buckingham, Arlo Guthrie and Kenny Loggins.  For about 12 years Laney had been the lead singer for a folk/country/western band called Saddletramp, based in Scottsdale.  She went over to meet him, eventually they tried some numbers together, and the people around them heard the click even before they did.

JC says he’s been writing songs since he was 12 years old.  “I can still remember the lyrics to the first song I ever wrote.  It wasn’t a very good song, but it was all mine.”  Nowadays he still composes all the duo’s material alone before bringing it to Laney, because “she distracts me too much” (seeing her smile at him after he said that, I could understand how that might easily happen).  But when he feels a song is ready, he takes it to her and they start making it theirs instead of only his.

I’m sure you’ve heard of singing from the heart, and maybe also from the gut.  But Laney says someone once told her to “sing from your toes,” which makes sense to me.  Why leave any part of the body out of it?  And though they sometimes call their style “Acoustic Rock,” they say someone else has called it “Roots.”  That fits, I think.  Their music is definitely from the earth, as well as down to it.

They give much of the credit for their studio sound to their producer, Steve Wood.  As is clear from his website at this link, Steve has overseen the musical side of numerous films in addition to his extensive audio work, and is an accomplished performer in his own right as well.

Let’s see, what else could I say?  A lot of the conversation was about cabbages and kings, etc., but there was JC’s story about his boyhood tour of a top-secret aircraft plant after his father (who was employed there) snuck him in past the gate guards in the trunk of his car, and he was able to leave his fingerprint on one of the Lunar Excursion Modules that later went to the Moon.  And then there was the time he flatlined in an emergency room after “too much partying” about 11 years ago and “hovered over” himself for a while.  He has no idea how he came back from that, and apparently the medical staff didn’t either.  He’s clean and sober nowadays, and I presume that Laney has a lot to do with his staying that way. I should mention her several college degrees, most recently from Arizona State University’s School of Nutrition and Health.  JC said she’s “the smart one” of the two of them, and she smiled again at that.  She smiles a lot, and her smile (like her voice) comes all the way up from her toes.

Well, I see I’m now at the bottom line again…

JC & Laney are good people, as well as good musicians.  When they met they were both veterans of a business that’s notorious for driving people insane, or turning them hard and cold and mean, or hollowing them out, or even killing them outright.  But somehow they’d both kept their minds and their hearts, and they’re as full of life as any two people I’ve ever known.  They deserve to be with each other now in large part because of all they’d survived and overcome on their own before they met.  Whatever levels of fame and material success they may eventually achieve together, they’re already superstars in the ways that are most important in this world, and for all I know in the next world as well.

I’m pleased and proud they’ve become my friends.

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You can listen to their music yourself by going to their website, which has streaming audio throughout.  All three of their albums are available there, and some other stuff as well.  Their CDs are temporarily out of stock at Amazon, and that doesn’t surprise me in the least.

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