Who are the Coyote Sisters?  
  "In the biz" for a collective sixty years, Coyote Sisters Leah Kunkel and Marty Gwinn Townsend have been singing together since 1980, when they, along with singer-songwriter Renee Armand recorded their first album on Motown's Morocco Records. Born of a folk/pop/rock heritage blend and now into an unnamable mix of genres (see more on that below), they sold some 70,000 albums in the eighties. Their name is borrowed from those changeable mythic animals who serenade natives in Hollywood and the Berkshires, where the singer/songwriters now live.
...and where have they been all my life?  
  If you've ever heard the Coyote Sisters, you probably wondered where they've been. If you haven't, then you're in for a treat. For those of you in the first group, let it be known that Leah and Marty never stopped writing music or singing - they've just been doing other things as well. So you see this is not a comeback album. It's more of we're-still-here album.
Like what kind of "other things" have they been up to?  

Don't hold it against her, but Leah, who in her musical life has hobnobbed with the greats of rock and roll, sung with many of them (Jimmy Webb, Art Garfunkel, Arlo Guthrie, James Taylor, Stephen Bishop), and done two solo albums, is now (you should pardon the expression) a lawyer. The mother of two human children and one white toy French poodle, Chappy (named for his mom's favorite spot on Martha's Vineyard, Chappaquiddick), when Leah is not singing, composing or producing, she is court-hopping in Massachusetts and Los Angeles.

As for Marty, her checkered past pales in comparison to her polka-dot present. Her former life, punctuated by both theater and music, took a few detours, featuring vocations as diverse as dog walking ("a dirty job that kept me thin") and selling antiques. She has been featured in a musical "Keepin’ Em Off The Streets" directed by Robert Altman, been a background singer for, among others, Jackie DeShannon, Hoyt Axton, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and wrote and sang in both English and Japanese for two Japanese films, "The Nutcracker Fantasy" and "The Glacier Fox." She first recorded a solo album for Chelsea Records in Nashville, then a duet album with Rand Bishop for Infinity Records/MCA in the late seventies ("This Is Our Night"), "Making a 'trio' record seemed like a logical next step." But now, when she's not at work on her music or tending the home fires (she's a wife and mother, too), Marty raises pintos, andalusians and aztecas at her small horse breeding operation, Macchiato Horse Farm.

Renee Armand has been living on her farm south of Nashville since the 80's, continuing her singing/songwriting career. Although not a performing member of the Coyote Sisters on "Women and Other Visions," she is represented as a songwriter on "The Bath," a lovely composition written with Marty. "I've recently gone back to the way I started in the 60's in San Francisco, singing jazz (my mentors were Coltrane and Carmer Macrae, and the incredible Betty Carter)... I prefer live performance, and am writting a vocal pice called "The Divine," about women's real thoughts about God...what has been left out of all religions, the things that were never said, or were known and said, but silenced or disappeared," writes Renee. "I still write poetry as the basis of all my songs and am also writing a Nashville mystery about - what else? - the music business."

How did they arrive at doing this album in particular?  
  Actually, it started out as an album of Marty's songs, which Leah would produce. The project then evolved into a Coyote Sisters production, a record made by two singer/songwriters who had been composing music and lyrics for years and were now eager to let the rest of the world in on their secret. On each track of "Women and Other Visions," one or the other sister sings lead, but both women wrote everything on the record. "I knew this was excellent material for the Coyotes Sisters," Leah notes. "For me any album is a snap shot of where your art is at that moment. But you also hope that you create something that is timeless as well and touches people deeply."
Marty and Leah have managed to write and sing together for over twenty years with only a few arguments requiring couples therapy. Why is their collaboration so magical?  

Anyone who has ever seen the Coyote Sisters perform can't resist smiling at their affectionate banter on stage. This is evident in the studio as well. The two women's personalities complement each other perfectly. Marty, is "absolutely out of control," according to Leah, and often totes toys and brain hats into recording sessions. She keeps Leah, the great organizer, from being too rigid. Meanwhile, Leah helps Marty stay focused. And somehow it all works.

The most fundamental dynamic of this partnership, Marty maintains, is humor. "We make each other belly-laugh on a regular basis," she says. "Besides the many deep life experiences we've shared over the years, that comedic thing is just so important to us."

"We fall in musical love when we sing," Leah adds. "We admire each other as singers and writers. As a result, we revel in one another's expression." She points out that while this particular album features Marty more as songwriter, her "voice" is heard, not merely as a singer but as a producer.

How does Leah describe her greatest challenge and greatest triumph making this CD?  

"With this record the biggest challenge was the money. We had a very small budget, and I knew the statement I wanted to make. I was challenged by the idea of presenting complex material simply. So, I had to ask myself, ‘How could we present this material with limited paintbox in a way that would insinuate all the other colors that are there?' Just as in a piece of art where the absence of color is a statement, in these arrangements, the absence of sound is a way of intensifying the sounds that are there. My "triumph" is that we did it."

What about Marty?  

"My greatest challenge was to not fall asleep on the couch in the studio. That's how I deal with stress. I check out. I used to do it at parties in Hollywood, too. The thing about recording is that you've done the work before you walk into the studio, and in this case I was particularly proud of the work. This new record contains songs in which I wrote both the lyrics and the music. I also collaborated with the poet, Mary Jo Salter, on lyrics to three songs; and with Renee Armand I co-wrote "The Bath," supplying the music and making my piano playing debut on record. And, although I usually collaborate, here for the first time, I wrote the music and the words to one of the songs ("Emily'). Still, once it's time to step into the studio, you have to be focused, relaxed, and inspired. You have to really sing from your heart and sound good. Especially after the last many years of singing, not singing, singing, not singing, I had to make sure I was vocally in shape and make sure that I managed to get my heart and my voice to work together."

How would you characterize the music on Women and Other Visions?  

It's folk, pop, theatrical, jazz. One song almost sounds as if it was part of old-fashioned Broadway show. "I would call it multi-genred," Marty adds. "It doesn't fit neatly into any category." Overall, it's smart music - music that tells a story. The Coyote Sisters wanted to say something without being saccharin or predictable. They wanted people to pay attention to the lyrics.

As a result, listening to the songs on this album requires sensitivity, taste, and an attention span. Unfortunately, we've been conditioned by TV and video games to expect an immediate payoff - and not to have to work for it. That's not what this album is about. This is music that inspires the listener to participate, the way an artist in a gallery asks for viewers' participation. "We wanted to create an album that had a kind of dreamlike quality," Leah explains, "so that the experience would be like finding an old album in an antique store and looking through someone else's family photos."

Marty puts it a bit more bluntly, "I just wanted people to listen to our music and cry."

Compared to what's commercially viable these days, whether it's rap or pop 40, where do the Coyote Sisters fit in? With it's ballads and poetic lyrics, isn't this album a bit of a throwback?  

Absolutely not. The style of recording is very current. Production-wise, the album utilizes the latest technology. But even more important, twenty years ago, no one was writing songs with lyrics like this: "My mother hides behind the curtain, waiting to hear our kisses/She's afraid of the shadows/All of the children she gave away come and haunt her after the night closes in." Remember too, that groups like the Indigo Girls, Wilson Phillips, and the Dixie Chicks all came after the Coyote Sisters. Leah and Marty were there first!

Who is the audience for this album?  

"If one creates a piece of real art," says Leah, "your audience is everywhere." Watching Leah and Marty in a live performance, it's clear that when they sing, there's something about their solo voices and their delicious harmonies that moves people. There are fifteen year olds who "get" their music, as well as sixty year olds.

Recently, in fact, Marty gave a CD to her sixteen-year-old son. "He and his friends can download from Napster any kind of music they want to listen to," Marty observes, "but they choose to listen to us."

Marty recalls the time when two record producers took her out to lunch to convince her to re-write lyrics they considered "too raw for the public," or have the song cut from the record. "But Leah is not only fearless – She believes in my work."

Was there a particularly different approach to recording "Women and Other Visions"?  

Both women have spent years in LA recording studios, where the goal is to make a record sound flawless. They intended this album to be more about performance than perfection. Hence, they hope that people listen as if at a concert: Sit down, have a glass of wine, put your feet up, and listen to the whole thing - ideally, with headphones on.


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