The Story plots music career with a different bent

September 22, 1993|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

If the key to success is a matter of following trends, things don't look too bright for the Story.

At a time when acoustic duos like the Indigo Girls seem hotter than ever, the Story's Jonatha Brooke and Jennifer Kimball are preparing for their first tour with a band.

And just when other bands are looking for a quiet, low-key sound to help them hitch a ride on the "unplugged" bandwagon, the Story is abandoning its old acoustic-guitar-and-voice approach and embracing drums, amplifiers and electronics.

"We sort of evolved the other way, I guess," says Brooke.

Besides, if bucking the current trends keeps the Story from being tagged a "folk duo," one suspects that would make Brooke and Kimball two very happy singers.

"So, you noticed our aversion to that label?" says Brooke with a laugh, speaking over the phone from her Boston home.

"It's been hard, because we've toured, for the most part, as a duo -- the two of us and my guitar -- we play in coffee houses and folk festivals. We're sort of part of the folk circuit.

"But we just don't really feel like the music is folk. I think this album may just draw the line for sure, so that we don't have to be categorized anymore."

How so? Because with "The Angel in the House," the Story's sophomore effort, the group is able to try a little bit of everything, from the acoustic balladry of "In the Gloaming" to the rich, percussive swirl of "Missing Person Afternoon."

Yet as varied as the sounds are, the arrangements never take away from the Story's basic sound; the added colors and textures simply heighten the duo's core sound.

"The arrangements definitely were a labor of love," says Brooke. "Part of it is, I'm married to one of the arranger-producers, Alain Mallet. And Ben Wittman, also, is just an amazingly devoted person. They were willing to try out a million different things until they found the one that enhances the song without changing its essential nature. So we've been really lucky to work with producers like that."

Perhaps the album's most imaginative touch comes in "Fatso." The song is a send-up of the ways people obsess over weight and dieting, and included a verse in which the protagonist confesses, "I get so dizzy when I stand up fast" -- a line Brooke and Kimball sing in delightfully demented disharmony.

"It just was suiting the action to the words in a way," says Brooke. "It just made sense to sing 'I get so dizzy' and be completely out of tune. And we certainly look dizzy onstage -- our posture gets a little weird at that point, and we act a little bit off-kilter, physically."

Brooke adds that part of the reason the song takes such a humorous bent is that she doesn't want to sound preachy when addressing the problem of weight obsession. "But it's an issue that I really am vocal about," she says.

"I'm so angry about the images that women are presented [with] as beauty, and that we all aspire to, whether we like it or not.

"We're all affected by it, and we become obsessed with what we eat, and what we look like, and how much we weigh every day. It's just epidemic, and it really undercuts women in particular. They just feel worthless and unbeautiful and undesirable.

"Some people don't get it. They'll come up to us after a gig and they'll say, 'What are you so worried about? You look fine.' "

She laughs, and adds, "They totally miss the point, because the skinniest people in this country are the ones that are the most obsessed. And it's so devastating to have that be your priority. It just wastes so much time.

CONCERT FOR CHOICE

What: Concert featuring Jackson Browne, David Crosby & Graham Nash, and the Story.

When: At 8 tonight

Where: Pier Six Concert Pavilion

Tickets: $25 reserved seating, $15 lawn

Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets

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