What's Atomic Folk? An Explosion of Great Music from AZ Band "Mrs. Lincoln"

By Mariah Fleming

Mrs. Lincoln

Welcome to the musical world of the Arizona 'gang of five' that calls itself "Mrs. Lincoln." It's a world I'm glad to say I've spent some time in, and I highly recommend you do the same. Upon listening to the first release from "Mrs. Lincoln", their self-titled EP, the only thing more I could ask is for the EP to be longer. But in the just over fifteen minutes of original music you'll hear on this release, it becomes abundantly clear that something very special is going on. "Mrs. Lincoln" describes their sound as 'atomic folk. That's a perfect description because the music of "Mrs. Lincoln" is so refreshingly varied it needs its own category.

Band members Annrenee Jones, Gram Benike, Chad Standlea, David Wells and Marconias seamlessly weave together an abundance of individual talent that creates a distinctive sound. It's an eclectic vibe drawn from a diverse group of musical backgrounds and talents. Deeply rooted in imaginative songwriting and a seemingly endless assortment of acoustic and electric instruments, you'll hear multiple guitars, including the seductive slide guitar of British transplant Gram Benike, who sometimes brings out his infamous 1937 National Guitar. Add to that mandolin, Dobro, lap steel, harmonica, acoustic upright bass, five string and fretless electric bass and you've got just some the instruments at which this band excels.

All the songs on this EP are strong both lyrically and instrumentally. It features one song written by Jones "Uninvited Guest" two by Standlea, "Broad Daylight" and "River Wild" and "Room to Grow" by Marconias. On Jones' "Uninvited Guest" she shows off her nuanced, smoky, at time vibrato alto in a style reminiscent of Mick Jagger ex and former folksinger Marianne Faithfull's highly acclaimed 1979 work on "Broken English." But don't misinterpret that as "derivative." There's nothing about the music of Mrs. Lincoln that's derivative. It's not folk or country, it's not rock. It just is what it is, and it's impressive.

One of Standlea's songs "Broad Daylight" is a foot stomping kind of 'country' song with a little jug band feeling thrown in. His equally excellent "River Wild" has a hypnotic rhythm around which gorgeous harmonies dance, creating a beautiful, heart pulling, toe tapping song that stays with you. And then there's the Marconias song "Room to Grow" that has a chorus that keeps playing in my head. Benike's haunting slide guitar perfectly underscores the emotion of a song about a boy who found his strength and became a man just in time to save his sanity. It's an upbeat song with a deep-hearted message.

Mrs. Lincoln

Established in 2012, Annrenee Jones (lead vocals and harmony) was a founding member along with former Londoner Gram Benike and Chad Standlea. Jones was born and raised in Detroit and credits 'a musical diet' of Motown, classic rock, Broadway show tunes and New Orleans jazz as influencing her music. The "open mic" circuit played a big part in bringing the band together. Jones aka "AJ", Gram Benike and Marconias played together first. Jones met Benike at "Fatsos" where he hosts the longest running open mic in Phoenix, voted "Best of Phoenix" in 2013. Jones met Marconias through other musician friends and says she was honored someone so talented would play with her. "Chad Standlea and I had met on the open mic circuit and I really admired his sound and songwriting," she told me. They co wrote a song and Jones sang backing vocals on Standlea's solo album. "The three of us agreed quickly that Chad was one of us!" she said.

After those four worked together for two or three months they had the opportunity to have David Wells join them for a show. In addition to being a professional musician, for 30 years Wells has done sound on the road for Ry Cooder, Joe Walsh, Lucinda Williams, David Lindley and others, and worked as an instrument tech for Jackson Browne, Keb Mo, Steve Earle and Crosby, Stills and Nash. "We all knew Dave to be a consummate musician, a multi instrumental player with a strong background in professional sound and we knew he was very busy and in demand. So when Dave said he'd join the band, we were thrilled!" Jones told me.

So what's next for "Mrs. Lincoln"? "We're now approaching our next add, a percussion player, with the same careful exploration." Jones explained. "We're looking for talent, creativity and the kind of supportive team player attitude we consider so valuable." And what about a new release? "Originally we had planned to record a full length disc, at least twelve songs. We certainly had enough material. But we ultimately decided we wanted to get something out soon that represented our early work."

All I can say is if the EP "Mrs. Lincoln" represents their early work, they've set the bar very high! Check out their music at https://soundcloud.com/mrs-lincoln and www.reverbnation.com/mrslincoln and find out more about the band at mrslincoln.net.

April 22, 2014

Contact the author of this article at Editor@MusicAndMoreAZ.com.