If Bonnie and Clyde had been musicians instead of bank robbers, they would have been the vocal duo, A Tale Of Two. Combining the best of Americana and Blues melodies with timeless “Southern Gothic” storytelling, Nashville-based A Tale Of Two is an undeniable rising duo in today’s Roots Music scene. Meeting in the local Nashville Jazz venues, Award-Winning vocalist Stephanie Adlington and guitarist Aaron Lessard began performing and writing together, recognizing their artistic chemistry.
A Tale of Two’s inspiration comes from an earlier time and place. In the 1930s, Adlington affirms that “the culture of the time was a lot more interesting than it is now. But of course, we romanticize it. We weren’t there.”
Adlington, otherwise known as, “The Siren of the South”, is an award-winning Nashville recording artist and jazz vocalist. Born and raised in Grafton, West Virginia, she is a graduate of the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London, England. She was recently was named the Josie Music Awards 2021 Jazz/Blues Vocalist of the Year. Adlington confirms, “Anytime anyone celebrates independent artists, I get very excited.”
Stephanie Adlington reminds me of a jazzier version of Patsy Cline. Even though no one in her family was a musician she says, “My granny was a huge fan of Elvis gospel. She loved Hank (Williams) Senior. She loved George and Tammy and even Lawrence Welk,” she recalls.
While her dad loved classic rock like the Beach Boys and the Doors, her mother listened to Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and musicals. “I grew up watching and learning about all these musicals.”
As a voice major, she learned about and loved Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, and Nancy Wilson who are now her biggest influences.
“When I moved to Nashville and started gigging, jazz paid when nothing else did.” The vocalist sang at hotel lounges and piano bars.
Lessard is the modern take on vintage rock ‘n’ roll. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Aaron developed a love for jazz guitar, which has remained an integral part of his playing today. His drastic variation in style is reflective of his biggest influences began with classic rock then slowly moved into jazz. Artists such as Brian Setzer, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Pass, Leon Bridges, Eddie Cochran are included as influencers.
Though he is a multi-instrumentalist, his guitar of choice (at least in this setting) is the Resonator. He states, “I am a lot more comfortable playing larger guitars. In this project, I wanted to incorporate the Delta Blues influence and some slide guitar.”
When he found a vintage resonator in a store, he bought it a reworked it to be for the left-handed person that he is. It is his main guitar for A Tale of Two.
Lessard was one of the musicians who began accompanying Adlington and three years ago at one of their first official gigs at South Main Sounds in Memphis. That’s when they realized they had remarkable musical chemistry. After that, they began writing songs together.
When he moved to Nashville, Lessard states he started to understand the “importance of lyrics.” Until that point, as an acclaimed guitarist, lyrics/storytelling were not a focal point. Artists like Jason Isbell and Tom Waits inspired their songwriting.
He explains, “For me, I’ve been trying figure out how I can draw all my influences of bringing a lot of dynamics and different musical moments into folk and Americana and trying to add a unique twist to that.”.
Nevertheless, regardless of the skill level of the performers, the first thing that gets my attention is an artist’s music. When their PR team sent me “Chicago Lightning,” I knew immediately that this pair was a cut above the average “trying to make it Nashville duo” that often comes my way. The timeless tune held my attention and I was drawn to the story of the song while these masterful musicians drew me in. I understood exactly why Adlington was called, “The Siren of the South.”
Their debut self-titled EP, A Tale Of Two is a refreshing take on age-old themes of loyalty, love, heartbreak, and the struggle of the human condition. Their music is the song versions of classical American fictional tales. The duo’s songs frequently dabble in stories of revenge, drinking and feature sinners of all stripes and persuasions. When you visualize the black and white movie trailer to prohibition-themed songs like “Chicago Lightning” and cover of Tom Waits’ “Gun Street Girl” you have no idea that these songs were recently composed.
With the tune, “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Fool,” Adlington channels in her inner Patsy Cline. She affirms, “I feel like that is a song that Patsy would have understood completely. She had the voice that if she had wanted to be Ella Fitzgerald, she could have done it. She could sing any genre but chose country music.”
Sonically, the song “The Letter” is a departure from the other music on the EP. Accompanied by a forlorn violin, the singer laments about missing a lover. The melody for this song was written before the lyrics.
“We added lyrics and slowed it down and started thinking of this idea of romanticizing the idea of writing a letter to someone. We really wanted it to be a super dynamic song with soft-spoken moments then a lot of energy later on. This song really defines us and is not in the same space as other artists.”
The song encompasses all the emotion one goes through as one writes a heartfelt letter.
Even though Adlington has played at the Bluebird Café once before, Lessard confesses he has never stepped foot in the place. A Tale of Two will be featured in “Sunday Spotlight” at Bluebird Cafe on Sunday, October 24.
Their self-titled EP A Tale Of Two offers a different kind of Americana that will have knowledgeable music aficionados resting on their laurels eagerly awaiting what is next. This gifted pair of genuine fun-loving storytellers are not to be missed.