The Stories We Are Told
Westchester County New York may not be a common base for many bands, but Heathcote Hill are proud to call Mamaroneck, NY home. Stories We Are Told is the band’s fifth album in less than four years. Produced and mixed by Timothy M. Hatfield (Keith Richards, Steve Earle, Death Cab for Cutie) and mastered by Grammy-winner Greg Calbi of Sterling Sound, the band appears to be poised to reach a wider audience. The leadoff track, “All I Remember Is You” is already getting major airplay as a single.
Heathcote Hill is Megan Porcaro Herspring – vocals; Tom Nelson – guitars; Tory Ridder – drums and percussion; Akil Kadin James – bass; Mike Bishop – piano; and Vanessa Ridder – backing vocals. Joining as guests on the recording sessions were Rob Arthur (Peter Frampton Band) – organ, piano, mellotron; Sammy Merendino (Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, Foreigner) – drums; Rich Mercurio (Little Steven, Sara Bareilles) – drums; Steve Count (Donna Summer, Bette Midler) – upright bass and cello; Amanda Homi (VickyKristinaBarcelona) – backing vocals; Neal Coomer (Cyndi Lauper, LeAnn Rimes) – backing vocals; and Jim Nelson – electric guitars.
Megan is clearly at the forefront of the sound with her confident voice. Some have compared her to Natalie Merchant and Tracy Chapman but this writer’s first impression from the opening track was Mary Chapin Carpenter. Yet, upon further listening, Megan’s voice isn’t as deep and breath as Mary Chapin’s even though at times she has similar phrasing. With more continued listening all three of those comparisons begin to fade away as Megan’s voice, which may not be distinctive, is completely self-assured and powerful. The overall band sound lands somewhere between pop, rock, and Americana depending on the tune, all fair game for radio airplay as they are filled with hooks and rhythmic punch. It’s generally consistent throughout as well, cliché oriented at times, but filled with lots of background vocals, some nice guitar fills, and an uplifting vibe.
Nelson says, “Our songs are about actual people we know and what’s bugging them about a world that isn’t as predictable as it used to be. And our heroes are the people we admire who do something because they love it.” He comments on some of the tracks such as the title track indicating that “Everything we believe is something we were programmed by those who came before us.” On ‘Elegy for Mary Ellen’ he even makes this reference in the liners: “My Aunt Mary Ellen joined the convent as a teenager and taught thousands of Catholic school kids. She was strict, smart, but very, very funny. I wrote this song the day she died.” On ‘Hey’: “Fake news didn’t seem to be such a problem back when reality was in fashion.”
Heathcote Hill has built a strong following in the New York City metro area, as mainstays at Bowery Electric, Garcia’s and The Bitter End. Of course, we don’t know when live appearances will resume but the band does intend to stay relatively local due to family obligations. In the meantime, their music should reach beyond the region with this release. Their joy in making music brightly colors this recording.
- Jim Hynes