By Karl Smarkel
She’s a name you’ve likely heard, if not read about in alt papers like The Sacramento News & Review. If you’ve seen her in person, she is unmistakable. Imagine you walk into a show and see a tall, curvy woman with a guitar, belting out heartbreak and songs about rising from the ashes of the naive girl who got mixed up. One doesn’t forget this gal. This is Carly DuHain, a longtime staple of the singer-songwriter community here in Sacramento as a solo artist and as backing vocalist for Be Brave Bold Robot. After a handful of glowing reviews last year, even taking the spotlight off of Robot’s frontman Dean Haakenson in a piece about that band, Carly has decided to bring some back up to her shows. The Carly DuHain Band is exactly what it should be. Carly’s heart-wrenching songs with a full backing band that compliments without overshadowing. With brother-and-sister team Richard and Jessica Williams on Bass/trumpet and keys respectively, and Former Robot drummer Tony Ledesma’s metronome rhythm, the songs spring to life on their own in fresh ways.
“The band formed up in May,” explains Carly, “Until then it was just me. The reason I wanted to do this was to beef up the sound. I mean, I like the folk genre and I like Americana, but I wanted to sound more bad ass.” The timing was right to add more people. It seemed to be a natural progression to her. “I really like the dynamic of 4. It works really well for our sound because it’s not this crazy solo driven stuff, it’s really lyrically driven and I like a more cohesive, melodic backing.”
The highly personally inspired lyrical content is a product of Carly’s generation. Growing up as a teen in the 90’s, the musical landscape was populated by an intensely self-reflective style of songwriting. Her musical vocabulary is based on the old hits that once played on the local alternative radio station, KWOD 106.5 and the like here over a decade ago.
“90’s rock is where i fell in love. I loved music before that. I’d listen to Bette Midler, Carly Simon, all the old Beatles stuff. My parents were big George Harrison fans. James Taylor really got me thinking. I never really found that musical niche that I wanted until the 90’s when I heard Pearl Jam and Elbow… Everyone’s gonna hate me, but I love Third Eye Blind.” Closet bands aside, you can’t knock the musical philosophies behind the music. It’s clear that, though she doesn’t write derivative songs, the proximity of Carly to the voices in her songs comes from a musical lineage that can be traced back clearly in her head. “The emotions get kicked up and it’s music with a sense of urgency and a story to tell with those emotions. That’s kinda how I got started.” Every song is clearly a sketch of her own feelings. “Every single one. I wish there were more happy ones, but they’re nowhere near as good as that guttural, from the heart, honest-to-god heartbreak. Everybody can hang with that.” Though the women in her songs have been hurt and broken, there is a strength behind that hurt. A nod to the horizon that, though she’s been kicked down, she will move on and be better. “Though I’ll probably get kicked in the head again. Keep touching that hot stove, one day it’ll be cool.”
With recording sessions in the pipeline, The Carly DuHain Band has a big year coming. “Justin Ferren wants to put his hands in it. Brian Rogers… I’ll be damned if I’m gonna turn that down.”
The Carly DuHain Band is playing with Be Brave Bold Robot, Blisses B and Nice Monster Saturday, Jan 14th at The Blue Lamp. 9pm $7 cover.