No 210: Sarabeth Tucek

Today, Paul Lester tells us about a singer-songwriter who has been given the Dylan, Callahan and Newcombe seals of approval

Hometown: Miami, Manhattan, Malibu.

The lineup: Sarabeth Tucek (vocals, guitar).

The background: Yesterday's new band expressed their love for their hero Phil Spector by constructing a musical homage in his honour. Today's act got to perform live with hers. And not just any hero - the most hero-worshipped hero of them all: Bob Dylan. One Tuesday night in June 2007, Sarabeth Tucek, an American singer-songwriter and a virtual unknown, got to support Dylan at the Pines Theatre in Look Park, just outside Northampton, Massachusetts. It was a dream come true for the Miami-born musician, and it came about quite simply: Dylan's people were sent a copy of Tucek's eponymous debut album of sombre, solemn, spartan, spooked confessionals, and they liked it enough for them to invite her to open for him, which she did, to a mixed reaction from the crowd (see below).

His Bobness even deigned to speak to her after the show. "It was a surreal experience," said Tucek as a clock melted over a tree on the horizon. "I don't think I was ever so excited about anything in my life. My whole life is wrapped up in his songs. He is wholly original. There will never be anyone like him again." The feeling wasn't quite reciprocated by Dylan's audience. One blogger, reviewing the concert, referred to "the morose and derivative warblings of one Sarabeth Tucek on Tuesday, the worst Dylan opener I'd heard since the metalloid version of Mercury Rev bounded off the walls of Woolsey Hall in Yale in 1991. Artists of the finest calibre would clamber to open for Dylan for the honour, never mind the money. So there's no reason for sub-par performers."

For someone so soft-singing, small and unassuming, Tucek gets great big loud reactions. Released last February on the Sonic Cathedral label, her debut single Something For You, with its B-side remix by Tim Holmes of Death In Vegas, moved one journalist to write, "If you don't think this is the most beautiful record released this year, then you might as well fuck off and die." And the mere slip of a singer-songwriter has some heavyweight supporters. In 2002, after relocating to Los Angeles, she sang backing vocals on a record by EZT (aka Will Oldham associate Colin Gagon) which was produced by Bill Callahan who, impressed, invited her to Chicago to sing on Smog's 2003 album Supper. Around the same time she hooked up with Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and collaborated on a few songs that ended up on the band's 2005 mini-album We Are The Radio, after which she appeared in their infamous documentary Dig! Over two weeks in 2006, she entered the studio with Ethan Johns (Kings Of Leon) and Luther Russell (Richmond Fontaine) to record the 11 tracks that make up her debut album. And she is currently on tour with Ray Lamontagne, with a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club support slot in November.

The buzz: "Her darkly cryptic words are reminiscent of the sinister 'flipside of Hollywood' atmosphere of Neil Young's On The Beach."

The truth: Her songs do aspire to the sinister simplicity of Young's so-called Doom Trilogy and Big Star's Sister Lovers, but they don't quite capture their creepy essence.

Most likely to: Start a Hope Sandoval/William Reid-style affair with one of the BRMC boys.

Least likely to: Start an affair with Craig or Charlie Reid of the Proclaimers.

File next to: Hope Sandoval, Neil Young, Judy Collins, Natalie Merchant.

What to buy: The single Something For You is out now on Sonic Cathedral. The self-titled debut album is released by Echo on December 10.

Links: MySpace page

Tomorrow's new band: Morton Valence.

Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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