Morgantown Band Almost Blue releases its debut album, A la Carte.
Esta Hill has a voice that is unique, powerful, and haunting. Tracks from the band’s debut album, A la Carte, like “Down a Blue Day” and “Jealousy and Love,” are reminiscent of a time gone by, something familiar, but not familiar enough to put a finger on. I spoke with Duncan Lorimer, professor of astronomy at WVU by day, guitarist and bassist for Almost Blue by night, to help me pin down Esta’s sound.
“I play a lot of old jazz records around my three little children. I put on a Billie Holiday record and they say, ‘Oh, Daddy, is that Esta?'”
Four years ago Esta responded to an advertisement Duncan placed in The Blue Moose Café. They played together in a jazz band that morphed into Almost Blue in 2012 with the addition of Esta’s son, Wade, and Duncan’s friend Chris Plein, a professor of public administration at WVU.
The band’s music is as unique as its members. Almost Blue spans a variety of genres, including jazz, folk, pop, and country. “There’s no single descriptor for our tunes. We all have a common love for different styles of music, so no two of our songs are ever the same,” says Duncan.
The themes of the songs are as varied as the music itself, as each song is drawn from personal experiences. The group says the tracks “take the listener on a journey to some new places experienced during the making of the album.” That journey is the creative process. “The sums of the parts are more than the individuals. When you put the words and the music together, somehow you get more out of it,” Duncan says.
A la Carte is made up of 11 original songs recorded between the summer of 2013 and late fall of 2014 at Zone 8 Studios in Granville. On April 18, 2015, the Monongalia Arts Center hosted a CD release party for the band. The intimate setting of the venue allowed the group to unplug and play acoustically. “The acoustics at the MAC are superb,” Duncan says. “We like that particular setting and how the instruments mix with the vocals. We’d certainly like to do another event at some point, either after we’ve recorded again or not. Either way we’ll certainly be looking to play at the MAC again at some point.”
Duncan says playing music is a nice way for the band members to relax. “No one of us is going to be giving up our day jobs. It’s always going to be something of a hobby for us,” he says. “We’ll take it as far as we can within the constraints that we have and play at the best places that we can.”