Tracy Kash fiercely brings world-class sounds and styles to the Motor City.
The Detroit world music vocalist, flutist, pianist, composer and arranger delightfully blends classic elements of jazz, soul, pop and theater into a dramatic center-stage sound on Fierce, her fourth and latest album that’s currently nominated for Outstanding World Music Recording in the 2020 Detroit Music Awards (DMA).
“It’s a tricky thing because I am kind of all over the place stylistically. When people go, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ I just say, ‘Um, yes, I don’t know what to say,’” Kash laughed. “Some of them are older tunes. I was never sure if I was going to record them. The rest of it came organically over the course of about eight years because I hadn’t released anything since 2010.”
For 2019’s Fierce, Kash assembled a star-studded cast of musicians called the Bro’ Fos, including Pat Shanley (guitars, mandolin, backing vocals), Chuck Bartels (bass) and Van Hunsberger (drums), to bring the album’s 11 sensational tracks to life. They spent six months recording the tracks with producer Tom Rice at Eastpointe’s Audio Café Studio and Eric Morgeson at Dearborn’s Studio A Recording.
“Most of it is just mastery of their instruments. When I put together rehearsals, performances or recordings, unless there’s something really specific I’m looking for, I won’t arrange each part. They’re such great musicians, and because of that, it gives them the freedom to bring something that’s more natural to them to the recording or the performance,” Kash said.
Her soulful vocals warn lovers to eradicate the ghosts of past relationships in favor of new ones – “I’m the one you run to/To unload a heavy heart/I’m happy knowing I can do the same/Well maybe it’s because I’m naïve/I assume that I’m the one you need/But the doubt comes when you call me by her name.”
The duet blends Kash’s and Pennock’s heartwarming vocals with vibrant piano and delicate strings – “My heart is true/My heart is always true/No matter where you are dear/I’ll be the star shining over you.”
“We met through Songwriters Anonymous eight or nine years ago, and I got to be just a huge fan of his music. We ended up overlapping on a bunch of projects together, and then we ended up drafting each other for different projects. His voice is so gorgeous, such a sweet tenor, and I just knew he’d be the perfect one for that tune,” Kash said.
Next, Kash brings an old-time theater feel to “Moments” with an exquisite symphony of deep mandolin strums, dramatic piano, crashing cymbals and high-pitched clarinet.
The track joyfully celebrates snippets and feelings in time that leave a lifelong impact as Kash sings, “When you look at me while floating through the crowd/And our eyes meet I just want to shout out loud/It’s the moments just like this that really no one can resist/Unless you’re dead and lying cold beneath the shroud.”
“I think ‘Moments’ is one of my favorites because it’s such a world-music song. I come from a Jewish background, and I drew on that influence. It sounds a little bit klezmery, almost like a gypsy song, and it’s so much fun to record and fun to sing. When we do it live, people cannot sit still, and if we’re in a club, everyone gets up and dances,” she said.
Kash also shares “Dearest,” a dark, catchy theme to the 2017 Aaron C. Wade feature-length film, “Possessive,” which focuses on a blogger who’s been abducted from a double date by a crazed fan.
The track magically fuses Kash’s reverby vocals with echoey piano and eerie accordion to set the mood for this quirky thriller – “My dearest one/The queerest one/I can surely say you make me tick with all your treats and tricks/Say what you will/She’s a bitter pill/I’ve found my drug of choice/My dearest one.”
“I ended up scoring the entire movie, which was a great experience. My niece is an actress, and she played the lead role in it, and I’ve wanted to get into film scoring. We were talking, and she said here’s the director’s info, so shoot him an email. I did, and he said, ‘Thanks so much for reaching out. I actually have a composer,’ but that person dropped out, and he ended up calling me,” she said.
Piano, Flute and Ian Anderson
As a classically-trained musician, Kash is no stranger to the stage or screen. She grew up in a musical Oak Park family with a mother who taught piano and a father who loved musical theater. Kash started studying piano at age five and flute at age 11 while listening to John Denver, Gerry Rafferty and Burt Bacharach.
After high school, she attended the University of North Texas and received a bachelor’s degree in performance and theory for orchestral flute. She later enrolled in the Boston Conservatory to study orchestral music and music theory for a master’s degree.
In 2000, she released her debut album, “Some Strong Potion,” followed by “There and Back Again” (2006) and “Sound Truth” (2010). She also played flute on stage with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson at The Fillmore Detroit in 2003.
“He used to have another band called Rubbing Elbows, and he would travel from state to state, and he would pick a local artist from that state to feature, and his band would back them up doing one of their own tunes,” said Kash, who first saw Anderson with Jethro Tull at age 13.
“It was really cool, and my sister told me about it, and she said you should just shoot him an email. I sent an email to his website, and I got an email a month after I had written him.”
Anderson’s tour manager and son James Duncan informed Kash that another local artist had already been chosen for the Detroit show. However, she was asked to accompany Anderson on another song instead.
“I got to perform this gorgeous piece that Ian Anderson’s friend had written. He was also a flute player. I got to rehearse with them, had drinks with the band during the intermission and talked about the music business. It was just lovely,” Kash said.
Besides sharing the stage with Anderson, Kash also has composed and performed with several Detroit-area ensembles, including the Pebble Creek Chamber Orchestra, the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra, the Nighthawks Jazz Orchestra and The Whistleblowers with Luti Erbeznik. She’s also collaborating on a new “musical of the absurd” with award-winning poet Diane DeCillis.
“I usually write without an album in mind, and if I end up accumulating enough material after a few years, then I tend to think, ‘Well, maybe I should record this for archival purposes,’” Kash said. “For now, I’m focusing on finishing up the musical with my collaborator and promoting the album.”