As Little Voice performs in their native habitat, the stage of the Historic Melody Inn, it’s ironic to think that it was right here I once accused them of not even existing.
It was 2003 or thereabouts, the first time I’d met them, in the Mel’s back room right after a show. They were describing their eclectic sound, and right around the time they got to comparisons to Gilbert & Sullivan, samba, bayoun and “sincerity with falsified pretenses,” I said to them, “There’s not really a band, is there? Rob and Dave put you up to this!”
Nope, as it turns out, there very much is a band — though Rob and Dave, who run the Mel, had a lot to do with Little Voice’s growth in the early years. So it’s appropriate to begin the next chapter here, where it all began, celebrating the release of Beautiful Music For Everyone (along with Red Light Driver, The Melismatics and Mason Proper).
Singer/guitarist Erika Thomas’ sound is big, brassy and room-filling. Sharp staccato words punctuate long howls, backed by the band’s remarkable texture and ability to draw its strength and layers from only three musicians.
They’re a difficult group to quantify; it’s like the singer-songwriters who often pass through coffeehouses, except instead of just a person and an acoustic guitar, it’s a whole band, but with a certain isolation and weariness to Thomas’ voice, alone in the wilderness.
And we can’t go without mentioning Mike Rittenhouse’s extraordinary string work and broad range — straight up indie rock in one song, grand wah-wah sounds right out of 1970s underground film soundtracks on the next, and long trippy takes that make your head feel fuzzy after a while.
Meanwhile, Lori Davis (the one who once made the bayoun/samba comparison) lives up to it, displaying an ability to shift beats and rhythms up and down the scale and make your head spin right along with it — sonic tipsiness.
When she’s singing, Thomas has a sly, sultry half-smile, like she knows something you don’t. That’s Little Voice in a nutshell.