Rachel Ries, hailing from the prairies of middle America, crafts sly and compassionate songs for the crooked-hearted. With an electric guitar and piano; a clear voice and steady hand; she deftly pulls listeners in with disarming candor and holds them there with smart and tender poetry. In Spring 2016 Rachel released Cardinal; a handcrafted EP of songs written while on residency in Rouen, France. For Rachel, each of the songs is a key; a direction; a red-blooded essential for living – be it bravery, belief in one's path or the bonds of family and blood. Each Cardinal includes a limited edition linoleum block art print, handmade by Rachel herself.
Recorded by the inimitable Jeremy Messersmith in Minneapolis, Cardinal is Rachel's 2nd handcrafted EP and follows in the wake of Ghost of a Gardener (2014). A well-lauded, ambitious album co-produced by David Vandervelde, Ghost features a duet with Gregory Alan Isakov, members of Cuddle Magic and cameos by Devon Sproule, Carrie Elkin, Danny Schmidt and many others. Many may know Rachel by her longstanding collaborations with Anaïs Mitchell and their country ep (2008).
Proudly carrying the torch of a heritage rich in the domestic arts, Rachel's homemade preserves and hand-stitched notebooks can often be found at shows, nestled amid 180 gram vinyl, cds and t-shirts. If you need comparisons, think Joni Mitchell, Carole King or Jeff Buckley. If you don't - just listen.
Rachel's first album, For You Only, was released on Waterbug Records in August of 2005. For You Only is a charming and literary work given additional breadth with a laid-back smattering of banjo, fiddle, piano, accordion, pump organ and percussion. Judith Edelman for Acoustic Guitar magazine writes, “The album was recorded on vintage analog equipment, presumably to further capture a bygone sound. Some artists might need the boost in creating atmosphere, but Ries is well up to the task of invoking mood, memory, and nostalgia all on her own.”
In 2007 Rachel put her heart into making her second album, Without a Bird. Warmly analog and carefully orchestral, Without a Bird showcases the artistry of some of Chicago’s finest players: Kevin O’Donnell (Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire, Neko Case), Joel Paterson (Devil in a Woodpile, Kelly Hogan, Steve Dawson), Alison Chesley (Bob Mould, Verbow, Poi Dog Pondering) and Ariel Bolles (Bakelite 78). Without a Bird was recorded & mixed analog and is available on both CD & vinyl through Rachel’s own label, SoDak Records.
In the winter of 2012, Rachel spent a month tucked away and writing in eastern Tennessee. The drafty lakeside house filled with instruments, she recorded the Laurel Lake EP - a limited edition of 405; each one packaged in a sewn and hand-numbered fabric sleeve.