SWEETBRIAR ROSE (Musica americana)
Sweetbriar Rose is a band of rootsy, thorny, rose-hipped gypsies who you’re equally likely to glimpse running in full sun, barefoot on a field of bluegrass, brooding in three-part harmony over a murder ballad in a shady grove, or channeling the spirit of a 1940’s Balkan jazz joint. If you heard them through the wall, you might imagine a stray melody from the carnival caravan was whirling and beckoning just on the other side of the darkened woods. The Philadelphia City Paper described their debut album Cultivar as, "impressive and spooky," calling out songwriter Heather Shayne Blakeslee as a "towering talent" who's "luxuriously husky and sexy voice" was combined with "smart, bookish lyrics." She is also a songwriting award-winner with the New Jersey Folk Festival.
The band's dynamic performances of original music mix solid Americana tinged with Eastern European folk and jazz, whispers and shouts, foot-stomping and finger-picking, crooning and wailing. The multi-petaled flowers of Sweetbriar Rose include guitar, mandolin, keyboard, and upright bass, and haunting, layered harmonies are central part of their act. They've been featured at The Philadelphia Folk Fest, New Jersey Folk Fest, Bethlehem's Music Fest and the Brandywine Folk Fest.
“Since joining the the Philadelphia Folksong Society’s Philly Music Co-op, Sweetbriar Rose has proved to be one of our most exciting and envelope-pushing acts. Drawing from an unusual blend of musical influences past and present, the group has developed an inimitable sound that demands your attention immediately,” says PFSS.
“Upon hearing an advance copy of Cultivar, we invited Sweetbriar Rose to perform at the 52nd Philadelphia Folk Festival, another stop in what’s already been a triumphant year for the band.” WXPN’s iconic Gene Shay called Cultivar a “terrific CD” and has spun the band The Folk Show, and DJ's around the country have requested the album. In addition to their frequent club performances, the band has a successful original performance piece for the 2011 Philadelphia Fringe Festival to their credit, and have also been featured at Philadelphia’s Erotic Literary Salon.
After five years of playing in and around New York City and another five years in the all-woman old-timey country outfit The Estelles, front woman Heather Shayne Blakeslee formed Sweetbriar Rose to showcase a broader range of her songwriting. Her sultry vocals and literate songwriting are backed by a bevy of talented musicians including long-time collaborator and piano pedagogue Joy Thiessen (The Estelles), all-around artist and bassist Shane Leddy (Dirty Soap, Wes Mattheu & the New Way Down, Salon 1522), Martian and mandolin enthusiast EJ Simpson (Maggie, Pierce & EJ, The Goats), and percussionist Walter Foley (Dirty Soap), and Tracey Hill on harmonies.
Native to Philadelphia, the hardy Sweetbriar Rose thrives in urban dive bars, church yards, apple orchards, festivals, urbane surburban coffee shops, theatres, backyard gardens, and the occasional living room.