Del Rey plugs in to retro sound

Del Rey, a champion of the vintage sounds of early 20th-century blues and jazz, will headline the next Acoustic Brew concert series show.
Del Rey, a champion of the vintage sounds of early 20th-century blues and jazz, will headline the next Acoustic Brew concert series show. Photo provided

Seattle-based singer-songwriter Del Rey is a meat-and-potatoes musician who revels in the simplicity of strong song-craftsmanship, and immerses herself in a wide varying range of seemingly forgotten genres that uniquely harken back to early 1900s America. On April 5, she will bring those decades of experience backed by a blues-based boogie to the Center for Well Being in Lemont as part of the Acoustic Brew concert series.

“I like the songs that are a little outside of the mainstream,” Rey said. “I don’t do very many songs that have been covered a million times, I try to find the songs that are right next to the more popular ones that nobody covers, but in the end it has to be all about the music.”

Definitively American, the lumbering spirit of the blues seeps its way throughout Rey’s music and provided a refreshing peek at a recently rediscovered genre whose influence helped to create pop music in the Western world. The importance of this style of music cannot be overstated, and its ability to strongly resonate with contemporary audiences is even all the more remarkable.

“This music is such a vital tradition,” Rey said. “The African-American music from the teens and ’20s that later melded into what we know as jazz today, it’s so strong in its own way and is just as instrumentally complex as classical music or any European tradition.”

“Artwalk,” Rey’s latest album, released earlier this year by Hobemian Records, showcases her guitar and ukulele expertise while highlighting her ability to breath new life into and rearrange songs that are close to 100 years old. Of course, “Artwalk” also features a fair amount of incredible original material too.

“It’s been a very DIY production and I’ve been in charge of all of it,” said Rey, who has spent much of 2014 in the studio and at the soundboard. “My favorite thing about it is that some of the originals are like going into a time machine. There’s one that really sounds like you’re back in the ’60s playing in a jazz combo and another one that goes back even further that is like something from the 1920s, where you’re maybe playing with a cabaret band in Europe. Recording can be a form of time travel in a really neat way, and I think that this record accomplishes that.”

A veteran of both giant concert festivals and living room performances, Rey said she prefers the bare-bones, intimate spaces.

“In a world where so much is ‘virtual this’ and ‘technological that,’ I like having people see that this music really has no wires, there’s barely any electricity,” Rey said. “I play through one microphone, I don’t plug my guitars in and I think there’s something empowering for people to say, ‘Wow, that’s just a person making that music happen. It’s only a person providing this experience, there’s no corporation, she’s not a machine.’ I find it empowering that what I’m doing is a product of skill and art and not something through a machine. Music just sounds better before it’s been mixed through a lot of machines and I think it sounds best when it just gets right on you.”