Rachel Ries
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Rachel Ries

Montpelier, Vermont, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2004 | INDIE | AFM

Montpelier, Vermont, United States | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2004
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter




"After Three Years of Self-Imposed Silence, Rachel Ries Returns"

(full piece at above link)

... a record that's lush, expansive and thrillingly changeable. Ries' fluent vocal modulations form a center around which the instrumentation shifts like the weather, from the rising hope of the piano intro on the record's opener to a hurricane of angsty guitar and synth on "I See It Coming." As [Anaïs] Mitchell points out, the record showcases not only Ries' "exquisite" voice but another strength that often gets overlooked: her considerable compositional chops.

"People might not realize what a visionary arranger and producer she is," Mitchell says. "Her songs are each a little journey, you don't know where they're gonna go. There are always these bridges, these outros, these changes that are unexpected and feel exactly right."

- Gary Allen Miller - Seven Days Vermont

"Ghost of a Gardener Review"

Ghost of a Gardner, the third album from Vermont's Rachel Ries, has been the subject of heady praise from numerous sources and listening to the record explains exactly why. The ten track collection is filled to the brim with compelling and evocative instrumentation, all anchored around Ries' delicate vocals (which, incidentally, hark back to some of Fiona Apple's earlier work), exposing her as a seriously talented musician and lyricist.

Songs such as 'Holiest Day', 'I See It Coming' and 'You Can Go' are album standouts, imbued with a unique voice and allow Ries' personality to shine through with each successive note. 'With Or Without You' reminds of the wilfully somber tones of Aimee Mann - but that's not to say that Ries is dealing in counterfeit.

Successive listens to Ghosts of a Gardener reveal more each time. At first glance, it may seem a little light and restrained but each time you revisit it, a new layer is revealed until you finally see the full picture. And isn't that the key to any good album?

- John Balfe - entertainment.ie

"For You Only Review"

From the first cascading melody line of “Lonely Spires,” Rachel Ries ensnares the listener in a gorgeous web of silvery vocals, homey fingerpicking and strumming, and literary lyrics wrapped in mercurial, yet soothing tunes. While her vintage sound is reminiscent of music from the 1920s and ’30s, her approach to writing is altogether contemporary, imbuing folksy imagery with a compelling sense of mystery. In the lead track, “Lonely Spires,” for example, sandcastles are like castles in the air as love becomes the stuff of memory: “ . . . Meet you at the shores / We used to fill with silver stones and bones and tones of no remorse / And build our castles with their lonely spires high.” Her voice, though it may beg comparisons to early jazz and folksingers, playfully snakes around her melodies in a way few were doing back in the day. The result is a delightful mix of the offbeat and the familiar. Ries is a self-taught guitar player whose clean fingerpicking is bluesy but not slavishly so, in service only to the temper and flow of her songs. While other instruments like banjo, piano, or percussion do show up on For You Only, they take a farther-back-than-usual backseat to Ries, offering only subtle color, not bold statements. The album was recorded on vintage analog equipment, presumably to further capture a bygone sound. Some artists might need the boost in creating atmosphere, but Ries is well up to the task of invoking mood, memory, and nostalgia all on her own.
- Judith Edelman - Acoustic Guitar

"Rachel Ries & The Brawny Angels - Without a Bird"

Chicagoan Rachel Ries has been steadily and somewhat quietly building a reputation as one of the country's finest Americana singer-songwriters. Although her music is steeped in tradition, a hint of urban flavor means you can't quite call it old-time. How 'bout medium-time? Nah, that sounds like a tempo.

Ries often tours with Burlington ex-pat Ari Bolles, who just happens to be the sister of reigning Seven Days music editor Dan Bolles. Bolles' soeur also offers her considerable musical skills to Ries' excellent new disc, Without a Bird.

This record is like taking a luxurious bath in an Art Deco tub on the rooftop of a lived-in brownstone on a starry night. Sound good? You bet it is. The disc is clean and natural-sounding: no studio gimmickry here, just gorgeous arrangements and Ries' heart-wrenchingly elegant melodies.

Many albums don't find their groove until a few tracks in, but Bird takes flight early. Opener "Learning Too Slow" makes a fantastic first impression with its dulcet sway and minimal yet melodious instrumentation. And it only gets better from there.

"Never You Mind" swings like a happy drunk with a fresh paycheck. The song's throwback vibe echoes transient troubadour Jolie Holland, but you can't call Ries a copycat — her voice is truly her own as she weaves and bobs around the song's playful melody, accentuating certain words with a handsome drawl.

"I share my bed with a cat, a typewriter and a laptop / Oh it's telling, is it not? / I pull the covers up," she sings on the lilting "Chicago." Bolles joins in on the chorus, an affecting mix of Tin Pan Alley balladeering and twentysomething malaise.

Several songs on the record gave me shivers, including the hauntingly seductive "Fine, I'm Fine," which features moody cello and brushed drums. "I've got so much to learn if I'm in this for good / God help me lose these ringing blues," Ries sings yearningly. Minor-key in the verses and major in the chorus, the song evokes the aching uncertainties of bipolar disorder. Or maybe I just need to take my medication.

Other standouts include the title track, a humble meditation on making it through life's rough patches with a modicum of grace. The song's spare instrumentation of voice, acoustic guitar and electric piano coaxes maximum emotional impact from a minimum of music.

Pretty much every song on Without a Bird is affecting in its own right. And here I was thinking I was burned out on girly-Americana. Be sure to catch Ries, Bolles and her other brother Tyler when they play Montpelier's Langdon St. Café on August 30, and Radio Bean on September 2.

CASEY RAE-HUNTER - Seven Days Vermont

""If Rachel's voice were a tree branch, a ripe russet apple would hang at its end: a gift, there to take.""

A little over a month ago, I think, we biked around Mile End looking for bonfires and then when we failed, some time near 3 a.m., some friends came back to my place. We played quiet songs and talked and opened a bottle of champagne and a little bit of whiskey, and some of us lay on the floor as the night stretched on, like cloth, like good strong cloth, and dawn was unthinkable even at 4 or 5 a.m. I was a little in love and my tiredness felt just like a silver lining on my heart, so that if you rapped it with your knuckles it would make a long, low ring. Rachel Ries has written a song about quitting drinking and finding God, but it's telling that I can put it in my own pocket, wear it as I wander through my own memories, use it as wax-paper to trace and retrace the shadowplay of that evening. The sun will shake us down, she sings, and she's right. It will, it did. If Rachel's voice were a tree branch, a ripe russet apple would hang at its end: a gift, there to take. Linger too long, and the song is over. Sooner or later, everyone goes home to their own beds.

-Sean - saidthegramophone.com

"Ghost of a Gardener Review"

Rachel Ries wants to tell you about childhood dreams she had where everybody dies. She purrs about Iowa tornadoes in a small and curious voice, and she's not just singing about emotional turmoil. The singer-songwriter opens her new album, the smart, intermittently beautiful "Ghost of a Gardener," with a sincere call for her mother, and finishes up in a farmhouse (many of these songs involve farmhouses), sitting on her hands and wondering where to go. She prays, often, but doesn't exactly sound hopeful: Often, she sings like she's on the verge of a breakdown. Like Joanna Newsom, whose cracked voice hers often resembles, she presents herself as a child of the earth -- a prairie spirit struggling with the peculiarly American insecurity of wide-open skies and insufficient guidance. The album's 10 songs are lovingly decorated with woodwinds, horns, strings, analog synthesizer and glockenspiel. The elaborate arrangements -- dirt-rich strings on the aching "Willow," folk orchestra on the short-story-like "Holiest Day" and stark, chiming electric guitar on the standout "I See It Coming" -- augment the emotional intensity of mesmerizing songs that approach the dark magic of Marilynne Robinson's novel, "Housekeeping." Only on "Mercy" does a too-blatant Regina Spektor imitation break the spell.

-- Tris McCall - nj.com

"Organic storytelling Americana fresh from the oven - 7/10"

Raised in South Dakota but now based between Brooklyn and Vermont, Ries recorded her third anthology of hand-crafted analogue Americana in Chicago with help from various indie-folk friends. Raised by Mennonite missionaries, Ries makes a connection between music-making and religious faith, but there are few overly spiritual references here beyond fleeting allusions like "Holiest Day", a gorgeous gush of warm-blooded harmonies. Her finger-picking introspection is too timid in places, but she uncorks a more passionate side with her waltz-time numbers, notably the heartbreak weepie "Where I Stand" and the attractively sloppy, booze-soaked farewell ballad "You Can Go".
- Stephen Dalton - Uncut (Feb 2014)

"Rachel Ries' Album Reflects Her Urban-Rural Split"

"NPR's Rachel Martin talks to singer Rachel Ries about her new album, Ghost of a Gardener, which she produced after taking a couple years off from music." - NPR - Sunday Weekend Edition w/ Rachel Martin

"Ghost of a Gardener Review - 8/10"

The third album from Vermont-based songstress Ries, Ghost of a Gardener is an impressive effort already attracting international accolades. Setting her apart from many of her peers are the adventurous and compelling instrumental arrangements of her sweetly poetic material. Woodwinds, strings, synths, backing vocals and even a glockenspiel add warm and evocative soundscapes to a style that can perhaps be labeled chamber-folk. The instrumentation just occasionally threatens to but thankfully never obscures the clarity of her pure voice, which has been compared to that of a young Maria Muldaur.

Ries' skill as a lyricist is encapsulated on her description of a farmer's daughter in "Holiest Day": "clothes muddy, red-cheeked and reticent." The intensity and the guitars pick up on "You Can Go" and "I See It Coming," a nice change from the generally sedate earlier songs and the haunting closer, "Standing Still." Co-produced by Ries and David Vandervelde, the disc was recorded in the Chicago studio of late Wilco member Jay Bennett and features some of that city's best players.

Raised on Mennonite hymns and Carpenters tunes, the classically trained Ries has clearly come a long way. After earlier collaborations with the likes of Bon Iver and Anais Mitchell, it is clearly now time to reap the rewards of her musical gardening.
(Star House)
- Kerry Doole - Exclaim!

"A technicolor treasure, in word and melody - 5 Stars"

Recorded at former Wilco alumni, the late Jay Bennett's, Pieholden Suite Sounds in Chicago, Rachel Ries (vocals, electric guitar, piano, organ, synthesizer, glockenspiel) was joined on the Ghost of a Gardener sessions by a coterie of New York and Midwest players including co-producer David Vandervelde (acoustic/electric guitar, bass, synthesizer, percussion, vocals), Ariel Bolles (upright bass, vocals), Evan Bivins (drums, percussion), Emmett Kelly (lead guitar), Cole Kamen-Green (trumpet), Alec Spiegelman (bass clarinet, flute), and three-quarters of the Real Vocal String Quartet - Alisa Rose (violin), Dina MacCabee (viola) and Jess Ivry (cello).

A piano solo introduces album opener Time; joined by many of the support players, Rachel sings joyously of our allotted time on this early plane. It's a sparkling start. Similarly blissful, Words gives substance to our utterances as minutes merge with hours, days, weeks, months and years. The Austin, TX based quartet of Devon Sproule, Raina Rose, Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt furnish backing vocals to the latter. A gentle melody and restrained vocal underpins Ghost, a paean to life and the hereafter, while collectively the instruments deliver another luminous backdrop. It's (totally) glib to relate that only a time-served offspring of Mennonite missionaries could have penned Holiest Day. While those missionaries are factual, replete with the repeating hint of a Simon 7 Garfunkel 1960's guitar riff, Holiest Day is one hell of a grounded, down-to-earth composition.

Ries' long-time band-mate Bolles supplies a support vocal to the segue Mercy, Willow and You Can Go. Mercy doubles as a travelogue - with destinations familiar to Ries - and love song; Willow is a hymn to long-gone, simpler times, while parental nurturing and guidance - the lack of it, actually - stands centre-stage in You Can Go. Detail upon detail of a nightmarish childhood memory constitutes the main fabric of I See It Coming. Gregory Alan Isakov duets with Rachel on album closer Standing Still. Set in Iowa, 'in the house upon the hill' the day after a series of tornadoes passed through, the narrator alludes to love - 'What it is I've got for you' and eternity - 'On the day that we pass on into, nobody knows / May we leave a memory of us after the storm.' Whew, what a thought and couplet to close with.

Rachel's use of the instruments at her disposal - particularly the strings - is inventive, vibrant and atmospheric. Her words are sublime throughout.

-Arthur Wood - Maverick UK (May/June 2014)


Still working on that hot first release.



Daughter of Mennonite missionaries, Rachel Ries hails from the inspiring, vast expanses of South Dakota, by way of Zaire. Her formative years were filled with Congolese spirituals, Mennonite hymns and The Carpenters. Currently splitting her time between rural Vermont and New York City, she now crafts sly and compassionate songs for the crooked hearted. With a clear voice and steady hand, she pulls the listener into her world of city grit, country dirt, and her open-eyed search for redemption and reason.

Ries, returning from a years-long hiatus, is releasing her third long player, "Ghost of a Gardener" on Feb 18, 2014. Rachels voice at times echoes that of Regina Spektor or early Maria Muldaur and this new album is full of thoughtful and inventive arrangements. Fingerpicked melodicism pairs with sweeping strings & analog synths while a Merle Haggard-style drinking song struts with trumpets and close knit harmonies. The album, produced by Ries along with Secretly Canadian artist David Vandervelde, also includes Emmett Kelly (Bonnie Prince Billy, Cairo Gang), Gregory Alan Isakov, Evan Bivins (Cary Ann Hearst, Duncan Sheik) and members of Brooklyns Cuddle Magic.

Since 2008's "Country EP," a split 45" with Anas Mitchell released on Righteous Babe Records, Ries ("reese") has recorded and toured extensively with Mitchell, supporting Bon Iver and others. She was granted a Chicago Arts award in 2010, worked in Chicago theatre, toured Europe and the States, learned how to repair Wurlitzers and (kind of) play the drums.

Band Members