Last year my band chamber folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers played one of the many gigs we've played at my favorite venue in New York City, the Rockwood Musichall, a serious listeners room nestled on the Lower East Side. When one finishes a gig at said venue, you either take your conversation outside or prepare to listen to the next band. This particular evening the band after us was the quartet Doll Hospital fronted by singer-songwriter Heather Eatman. As I watched them set up, I couldn' help but notice they had a manic-looking vibraphonist (Nick Mancini), a tall ponytailed upright bassist (Jim Whitney), an alarming subtle-looking drummer (Andrew Burns), and a striking woman sporting a vintage red chapeau and a vintage archtop Gibson (Ms. Eatman). When they dropped into their first song, I was riveted.
Now Heather once plied her trade with John Prine's Nashville-based boutique label Oh Boy Records. Luckily for us, that move didn't provide the blueprint for this new outfit. I don't mean to imply that Ms. Eatman's not talented. (You can watch her vidcast here on this site from the same aforementioned venue.) I'm just not sure that if she had achieved superstar status with Oh Boy whether her self-titled debut Doll Hospital (Impossible Records) would have ever happened. And if not, the world would be a much sadder place without it. That in itself doesn't mean that the characters that inhabit her noir jazzbo pop vibe are happy-go-lucky, uplifting folks. Rather they inhabit the same sad-sack world that the L.A.-based Rickie Lee Jones characters created back in the â€™70s, but with more of a Raymond Chandler noir veneer.
These are people that live next door to your in your New York City apartment building, people you pass in your hallway every so often knowing they carry some tragedy or secret you don't wish to explore. They scurry past as you avoid eye contact for fear of being swept into their drama. From the drunken, faded debutante in "Life of the Party" to the loser lathario in "Charlie Takes the Cake" to the old musty smelling spinster with baby doll makeup in "Bluebird Ballrom," these quirky tales unfurl with vibes, upright bass, guitar, drums, and Heather's easygoing, self-deprecating vocals adding just enough lilt to keep it all swinging. And kudos to Marc Copely's understated production for keeping it totally uncluttered and real.
They are the broken dolls that need a little love, a little attention, someone to take them home and hold them at night. - Dusty Wright
Mr. Wright is the former editor-in-chief of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, and music. As a singer/songwriter, he's released 3 solo CDs and one with his folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all of this he was an agent at William Morris!