Hymn for Her's unique sound and character can be attributed to some no-less-unique elements, including an electric cigar-box guitar, a 1961 Airstream trailer, and a rogue chain saw.
Those three objects played pivotal roles in the formulation of Lucy & Wayne and The Amairican Stream, the second release from the duo of Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing. The spiritual genesis of the album goes back a few years to a time when they were on tour with their longtime group, the MPE Band.
During a stop in Memphis, Tenn., the group was helping a friend clear some fallen limbs from a storm, when the chain saw bucked and hit one of the bandmembers in the head, sending him to the hospital. Afterward, the friend gave the group a lovely parting gift — a combination electric slide guitar and bass (one string each) with a cigar box for its body and a broomstick for its neck.
The "Lowebow," which was made by Memphis luthier John Lowe (Colorado Springs bluesman John-Alex Mason owns one as well), ended up sitting in the closet for a good while.
"There were a lot of mixed feelings about the cigar-box guitar; every time we'd pull it out, it kind of reminded us about the chain-saw accident," explains Tight. "So it kept on going back in the closet. Then finally for some reason, Wayne and I just took it with us and we said, 'You know what, we'll play this thing one day when we have some time to learn it.'"
That day arrived after a tour, when the married couple decided to go on a retreat with the intent of finishing a graphic novel they had started writing several years earlier.
"We were staying at an inn in Maine," Tight recalls. "And the guy said, 'You know what, you could stay here for free if you play some shows.' And that's kind of how the folky Hymn for Her started."
The duo recorded a 2008 debut album, Year of the Golden Pig, which showcased the stripped-back acoustic sound — a stark contrast to the full band's sound. "People would describe us as Frank Zappa meets the Beach Boys meets the Beatles," Tight says. "We were all over the place. So when Wayne and I formed a duo, we wanted to turn it down and just have it as simple as possible."
It was after establishing this new sound that Tight decided to pull out the Lowebow, plug it in, and see what it could do: "Everyone started dancing and clapping and yee-hawing." So when it came time to record the rockin' Lucy & Wayne and The Amairican Stream, the cigar-box guitar became the centerpiece of the new album.
Tight and Waxing recorded their new songs on tour, using their on-the-road home — a 16-foot 1961 Bambi Airstream trailer — as a makeshift studio. For them, Diver (their 3-year-old daughter) and Pokey Joe (a 90-pound Labrador), the trailer made for a compact studio, but Tight said it was all worth it.
"We laughed a lot and had a good time doing this recording," she says. "Sixteen feet, there's not a lot of movement there. But the Airstream's round edges make for a very unique sound, I think. It kind of bounces back and forth in a very lively way, which makes our album sound really live and rocking."