The Ladles Mix “Folk Sensibilities” And “Brilliant Harmonies” On ‘Springville Sessions'

Article Contributed by | Published on Thursday, February 18, 2021

With the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling an entire year’s worth of tour dates, The Ladles decided to turn their only remaining gig of 2020 — a three-week summer residency in the quaint town of Springville, New York — into their extraordinary and spontaneous new album, ‘Springville Sessions.’ Recorded over the course of four days in an historic former Baptist church, the collection mixes “folk sensibilities” with pop, jazz, choral, and chamber music, creating a “gorgeous” blend fueled by spare, acoustic instrumentation and “brilliant harmonies.” "When all three voices come together,” writes American Songwriter, “the sound lights up the space like a firefly in the night.”

The Ladies

Composed of fiddler/singer Lucia Purpura-Pontoniere, guitarist/singer Katie Martucci, and banjoist/singer Caroline Kuhn, The Ladles have always managed to walk the line between technical virtuosity and emotional intuition. But ‘Springville Sessions’ finds the trio reaching new heights with a less-is-more approach, embracing their environment at the Springville Center for the Arts and recording the entire album with the stripped-down intimacy of a live performance. The result is an entrancing chronicle of a singular moment in time, a raw, organic record that hints at everything from I’m With Her and The Wailin’ Jennys to Mountain Man and The Staves as it finds connection and hope in the face of isolation and overwhelming uncertainty. “With only the three of us and an engineer in the room, we were free to just be ourselves,” says Purpura-Pontoniere. “Everything was as intimate as it could possibly be.”

Intimacy is at the heart of ‘Springville Sessions,’ which opens with the dreamy “Sunset Pink.” Like so much of the album, it’s a spare and hypnotic tune, one which grapples with the difficulty of communication when barriers—be they physical, like distance, or emotional, like anxiety and depression—cut us off from the ones we love.

Founded roughly five years ago, The Ladles first came together by chance, when they realized they were the only three women in the New England Conservatory of Music’s Contemporary Improvisation program. While coincidence may have introduced the trio, it was chemistry that bound them, and from their earliest performances together, it was clear that the band had something special on their hands. “Certainly there was a shared feminine perspective at work there,” says Martucci, “but Lucia and Caroline are two musicians I’d want to play with in any capacity.” The group began recording and performing around New England before they’d even graduated, releasing an early self-titled EP in 2016 and following it up with their acclaimed full-length debut, ‘The Line, in 2019. The band supported both releases with extensive touring, playing festivals as far afield as Louisiana and Maine and selling out shows in Boston, New York City, and the Hudson Valley along the way.

With things heating up, they their sights on an ambitious 2020, only to watch it all disappear as the pandemic put a halt to live music everywhere. By the time summer rolled around, they were sitting on a treasure trove of fresh material, and the opportunity to share it with each other in Springville was too sweet to pass up, pandemic or not. The joy that came with performing together again was overwhelming at times, and it led to a newfound appreciation for the simple pleasures of collaboration. “It was the first experience we’d had playing with other human beings in months,” recalls Martucci. “Not only was it this emotional release from the stress and anxiety of the outside world, but it was also an artistic release, a chance to reconnect with this core part of our identities that we’d had to neglect for so long.”

Springville Sessions’ – The Ladles
1. Sunset Pink
2. Crushin’
3. Nobody Knew
4. Thank You
5. Sugarcoat
6. Baltimore
7. Pages
9. The Friends You Had