Antigone Rising – 23 Red
After years of playing live gigs and releasing independent records, Antigone Rising finally caught the attention of the music world with their acoustic album, From the Ground Up in 2005. Their success was largely due to a collaboration between Lava Records and Starbucks’ Hear Music series, where they became the first artists to be featured with in-store promotion. With the increasing notoriety on both Vh1 and CMT, their material hitting the airwaves, and the band quickly racking up countless touring miles opening for musical heavyweights such as Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Rob Thomas (Matchbox Twenty), and Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Antigone Rising amassed a loyal following of fans and proved to be unstoppable.
However, in three short years everything came to a screeching halt. Various problematic situations led the New York City band to part ways with their label, and a line-up change occurred. Eventually, the two founding members, Kristen Henderson (bass/vocals), and her sister, Cathy Henderson (lead guitar/keyboards/vocals), as well as the band’s veteran drummer, Dena Taurillo, all decided to take a well deserved break and regroup.
Fortunately, Antigone Rising’s story does not end there. Instead, like the character found in the pages of Greek drama, which no doubt inspired the band’s name, the ladies proved to embody Antigone’s greatest characteristics of strength, determination, and fortitude.
In 2009, Nini Camps (lead vocals/rhythm guitar) officially joined the band, and the ladies got to writing. The result? 23 Red, produced by Gary Phillips and financed by fans through Kickstarter (an online crowd funding platform) which was released in August 2011.
For anyone who is familiar with past albums, it is no secret that this all female rock band has noticeably been influenced by great classic rock acts such as Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and Queen. But as their sound has evolved, especially with 23 Red, one should expect to hear a smoother, more polished sound that also contains trappings of pop, folk, country, and adult contemporary. While Antigone Rising continues to include the signature 3-part vocal harmonies that fans have come to know and love, the quartet definitely saves the harder stuff for their live shows. Instead, what we get on 23 Red is a deliciously timeless soft rock/countryesque hybrid that’s more in the vein of The Dixie Chicks and The Wreckers meet The Allman Brothers Band with a dash of Sheryl Crow in the mix.
“No Remedy,” the album’s premiere track, is a radio-ready pop-rock tune about the end of a relationship, going through heartache, and trying to pick up the pieces afterwards. While anyone who has been left behind by a lover can identify with desperately wanting a “remedy” to ease the suffering and the pain, there is a certain poignant inner strength to Camps’ tone as she sings:
I’m countin’ the days til I’m over you…
There ain’t no remedy to what I’m feelin’
The way you left you made it look so easy
Why, oh why, can’t I
Come out the other side leave here smilin’
Surrenderin’ without even tryin’
Why, oh why can’t I
Even though one may not be able to get over a loved one within the blink of an eye, through the music, listeners are reminded that in time hearts do heal — although perhaps not as quickly as we would like. And eventually, even the one who was left will be able to move on and, in fact, “come out the other side.”
“Everywhere is Home” is one of those songs that make you want to get in the car with your sweetheart on a nice sunny day, roll down the windows and drive nowhere in particular. After all, “Nothing else seems to matter/ As long as we’re together”¦.” This track also showcases a slick guitar solo by Cathy Henderson, and solid drumming with some great fills by Taurillo. This upbeat tune not only exhibits Antigone Rising’s ability to beautifully vocally harmonize, but they also provide a satisfyingly catchy chorus and a hook that effortlessly gets stuck in the head of anyone who listens to it.
Nini Camps and Kristen Henderson wrote “Borrowed Time,” a touching track, with their kids in mind. However, this is much more than a lullaby that mothers can sing to their children. During a time when so many people are rushing around, and life seems to move at its own break-neck speed, the ladies of Antigone Rising remind us all of what truly is important. Life isn’t about how much money you have, or the number of material possessions you own, or even the influential people you may know — it’s about love and making every moment you have count. In some ways, “Borrowed Time” is a folk-rock song reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” (minus the heavy guitar riffs and southern rock flavor), in that both bands provide departing wisdom about what matters most upon those who take the time to stop and listen closely enough.
Slowing down for the euphonious, but gut wrenching ballad, “Gracefully,” Camps’ vocals soar as she professes everything she would do for her love, even if an impossibility. In the end, however, sometimes the most “graceful” thing to do is let go and accept when enough is enough.
“Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring” is perhaps one of the most fun tracks to listen to on the entire album. It’s full of toe tapping energy and has a great country and jam band feel. When the ladies play this live, the audience can actually pinpoint the exact moment where the rest of the world falls away for each musician. It’s like watching art in the making; the instruments become a seamless and fluid extension of self — all there is is the stage, the lights, and the well oiled machine that is as Antigone Rising. Watching individuals so passionate about their craft is a beautiful sight to behold.
The lyrics and playful imagery of mid-tempo “Pink Sunglasses” evoke feelings of eternal optimism in listeners:
I just want to drive with the windows down
In my pink sunglasses
Wavin’ at all the boys, checking me out
In my pink sunglasses
Anything is possible
Anything is possible
Perhaps the ladies are correct, their tone is so upbeat and so positive — maybe, just maybe, the world really is filled with possibilities and dreams really can come true.
“Breaking Me” wouldn’t be out of place if used in a feature film. Like “Gracefully,” this emotionally charged mid-tempo number portrays an attractive vulnerability to Antigone Rising’s new front woman. Despite her best efforts of self-protection, Camps croons about falling in love and the realization that she is powerless to prevent it:
Standing on the edge of all my disappointments
Looking back as far as I can see
Terrified to take a step in your direction
I won’t let that get the best of me
And you’re breaking me, breaking me down
I can’t stop my heart
The production and mixing of this track alone is worth listening to. Kristen Henderson’s smoldering and hypnotic bass line nicely complements Taurillo’s drumming, and the subtle guitars add an almost dream-like quality.
“Goodbye,” the record’s concluding track is an ambiguously hopeful, but perhaps impending breakup song. Every relationship has its problems, but maybe there is something salvageable about this one, so goodbyes need not be said. While extremely catchy, this tune seems to build its momentum just to abruptly stop. But like the relationship, it is to be enjoyed for as long as it lasts.
Once again, Antigone Rising has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that women really can do it all — write meaningful lyrics, successfully master their instruments, and sing in such a way that makes listeners hang on their every note. These ladies bet it all on 23 Red, and have proved to come out winners for it. Their music is like comfort food for the soul, and this album has been worth the wait.
Antigone Rising - 23 Red,