Hilary Kaufmann and Robert Watts have known one another since 1994, but their musical paths didn’t converge until 10 years ago, when Kaufmann recruited Watts to play bass and drums in a church band she led. They began writing together, then recorded an EP and started performing around town as These Fine Moments. That led to touring, and more recording, and before they knew it, they’d logged 10 years of fine folk-pop moments. They’re celebrating that milestone with the Feb. 26 release of their fifth album, Season 10; on Feb. 28, they’ll live-stream a free performance at 6 p.m. Central Time from Austin’s One-2-One Bar (link at facebook.com/ONE2ONEBAR).
Kaufmann and Watts like to characterize their sound as “an honest blend of folk, pop and depression,” but their thoughtful lyrics, pretty melodies, rich instrumentation and gorgeous harmonies bring to mind another description: adult music. They sing about life, with voices of experience. They examine relationships, including the struggles. They reveal fears and admit failings, and confess how hard it is to keep it together sometimes. And yet, pandemic or not, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
The duo had released two of the album’s tracks, “Stage Fright” and “OK to Drive,’ as a double-sided single in 2019, but when touring ground to a halt, they returned to producer Mark Hallman’s Congress House Studio and recorded the rest of Season 10. Kaufmann, who sang on the late Rusty Weir’s final album and was a Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Competition finalist with her previous band, the Cosmic Dust Devils, trades lead vocals and harmonies with Watts and plays electric and tremolo guitar on the album. Watts, a bassist before switching to drums, then guitar, also plays electric and acoustic guitars, as well as EBow.
Hallman, most renowned for his work with Ani DiFranco and Carole King, handled bass, drums, electric and acoustic guitars, percussion, keyboards and vocals (those Fender Rhodes embellishments are his); Congress House recording engineer and Belle Sounds guitarist Andre Moran plays on two tracks, and Hallman’s son, Taylor, adds tambourine to one. Longtime R.E.M. sideman Ken Stringfellow, who cofounded the Posies, was a member of Big Star’s second incarnation and is a Minus 5 member, played electric guitars, piano and Wurlitzer and Hammond B3 organs on the second track, “Sensation of Flying.” On the 10th track, “Million to One,” he added vocals, bass and tambourine in addition to the aforementioned instruments.
“I've been a Posies fan for ages and follow Ken's solo stuff, too,” Watts explains. “Back in May, he had a Facebook post that he was looking for production or session work while on lockdown at his home in France, so I reached out to him. I thought it was a long shot, but he got right back to me. “
Hallman and the duo recorded drums, vocals and some scratch guitar, and sent the tracks. Watts instructed Stringfellow to do whatever he wanted on them. He gave “Sensation of Flying” its shimmery effects, and certainly had a hand in crafting the Big Star vibe on “Million to One.”
While These Fine Moments cite the Posies, the Jayhawks, Fleetwood Mac and the Decemberists on their list of influences (Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Jason Isbell and Shovels & Rope are some others), astute listeners familiar with late-60s San Francisco artists will definitely recognize sonic similarities to It’s a Beautiful Day.
It’s a beautiful sound — which they’ll also preview in a Feb. 23 interview airing at 10:15 a.m. on Wimberley community radio station KWVH 94.3 FM. On Feb. 26, they’ll also perform live on Fox 7 Austin’s “Good Day Austin.”
Like all performers, Kaufmann and Watts eagerly look forward to interacting with actual audiences soon. But until then, find them at these links: