On Saturday, November 25, country artist Monica Rizzio brings her authentic sound to the Empire State Railway Museum (ESRM) for Flying Cat Music. The ESRM is located at 70 Lower High Street in Phoenicia. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and music begins at 7:30. Admission is $15 or $13 with reservations. For information or reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-688-9453.
Monica Rizzio’s debut album (as a solo artist), Washashore Cowgirl, was nominated for Country Album of the Year at the 15th Annual Independent Music Awards held at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in 2016. Monica co-produced Washashore Cowgirl with Jon Evans (bassist for Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan) who also plays bass on the CD.
Roots Music Report gave Washashore Cowgirl a five-star review saying, “Throughout the album Monica’s song writing and vocals show off her unique style and just get better with each play.” Washashore Cowgirl has confirmed airplay on nearly two hundred stations in over forty states and charted among the top ten albums on both the Roots Music Report Weekly Top 50 Folk Airplay Chart and the monthly Folk DJ Chart.
Roots music is called that for a reason, pulling substance from the heritage of a former time. Monica Rizzio is a roots musician drawing on Country influences. For her, those roots have personal resonance. The name Washashore Cowgirl refers not only to Monica’s current home in Rhode Island, but also to the East Texas Bible Belt where she was raised. Some locals in Rhode Island call a person who settles there from afar a “Washashore.” Monica settled in Rhode Island over ten years ago and the band she co-founded, Tripping Lily, quickly established itself as one of the premier bluegrass groups in New England. But the cowgirl in Rizzio refused to be abandoned. Late in 2012 Monica left Tripping Lily and found her musical way back to those East Texas roots, tapping into the sound she never could quite capture playing in a bluegrass band. The result is something simultaneously old and new.
Online publication Country Grrl writes, “Rizzio manages to elegantly blend tradition and modernity, humor and depth, north and south inspirations.” Her fellow New Englander Patty Larkin says of Monica’s music, “She has reinvented the landscape with her unique voice and technicolor sound, redefining what has gone before.”
Monica’s writing is often autobiographical, adding authenticity to her voice. Her twang is genuine, as are the moments of heartache that alternate with flashes of raw sass. The emotions she captures are real, which of course is what made Country so popular to begin with, before it sank into a repetitive formula bordering on cliché. For example, “Luckier Than You” is an honest love song, written for Rizzio’s husband as a wedding gift and debuted at their wedding reception. “A Little Time” chronicles a determined fight against depression, one that Monica herself waged. Her voice conveys those and other stories perfectly, changing tones with the emotions that fill her.
Monica’s time singing with Tripping Lily meant tightly arranged harmonies adhering to carefully predetermined structures. Reflecting on that with an interviewer Rizzio recalled, “Even though the sound was beautiful, there was very little variation to how the songs were played.” On her own, she’s learned to trust more in the spontaneity of the moment, concluding, “I learned that the perfection is in the imperfection.” The result is a captivating live show.
Tom Rush, no novice when it comes to live entertainment, was generous enough to admit, after an event that Monica Rizzio played with him, “I made the tactical error of inviting Monica Rizzio to share the stage with me at Symphony Hall and she went and stole the audience right out from under me!”
Monica Rizzio will be accompanied at Saturday night’s performance by the highly talented Mark Usher on guitar and lap steel. This will be Flying Cat Music’s final concert before we take our annual winter break and it’s a great one for closing out the year. Try to be there if at all possible.