In recent years, singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau has made a name for himself with a string of solo releases on the FatCat label, and Angela Correa has performed and placed music with major television shows under the name Correatown. But way back in 2002, the two Los Angeles-based musicians were introduced, began singing together, and recorded a mass of material both traditional and original, under the name Les Shelleys.
Although the two have since toured together and teamed up on various projects, those recordings sat untouched until now.
"It was just for us," says Correa, via phone from L.A. Eventually, someone at FatCat heard them, "and I guess they ended up having a fondness for them." The label will release the Les Shelleys album in August; Brosseau and Correa are currently playing a preview tour that comes to Thunderbird Café on Mon., June 14. "It's like opening up a little time capsule in your musical life, in a certain respect," she says.
The album consists simply of Brosseau and Correa's entwined voices, some guitar, some hand percussion, "recorded in a cottage with the windows open half the time, or the door was open and the landlady's dog would be running in and out." Correa cites field recordings and "old Smithsonian recordings" as touchstones ("that sort of rawness to me is very positive") as well as the duets of Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. The album is a mix of their own songs and tunes by Woody Guthrie, Dylan and others.
"In my mind, a really good song can be interpreted in any number of ways," Correa says. "So Tom and I had songs that we both really liked that we either knew growing up or that had become favorites. Tom would suggest a song, or maybe I had a song that I liked, and we just tried adding the harmonies to it, even though maybe they never had it before in other recorded versions.
"There's something very specific about the timbre of a man and a woman's voice, and when they blend together," she adds. "In the case of me and Tom, it's interesting because Tom's voice is so specific, and can be so high and falsetto, and I have a kind of large range and can sing the lower part as well as the higher part. So it allows us a lot of freedom to explore."
Les Shelleys with Shelly Short & Emily Rodgers. Mon., June 14. Thunderbird Café, 4023 Butler St., Lawrenceville. $10 ($12 day of show). 412-682-0177 or www.thunderbirdcafe.net