Sounds Local: Tall Heights
Reflecting on his early days as a musician, guitarist and vocalist Tim Harrington said, “I always thought I’d end up doing the rock band thing.”
But Harrington’s musical career didn’t quite follow that path. Instead, he teamed up with cellist and vocalist Paul Wright. Working under the moniker Tall Heights, they play a brand of folk-informed, harmony-based music that is more Bon Iver than Bon Jovi.
Harrington never imagined himself working as part of a duo and he certainly never envisioned a cello as being part of his musical equation. With Tall Heights, however, he has found the creative outlet he always hoped for.
In a recent phone conversation, Harrington summed up Tall Heights as “indie-folk pop” adding: “We like to think our sound is intimate, full and ethereal.” Ethereal may be an overused word when it comes to describing music, but it’s a word that perfectly describes Tall Heights. Harrington and Wright brilliantly complement each other and play off of each other’s strengths. They weave their delicate harmonies with Wright’s deep cello work and Harrington’s shimmering acoustic strumming to create music that is memorable and distinct, encompassing a variety of moods that range from the mournful to the joyful.
Tall Heights will perform at the 1739 Unitarian Meeting House in Bernardston on Saturday, June 14, at 7:30 p.m.
Local favorites Pat and Tex LaMountain, who will be joined by Rick Mauran on drums and John White on bass, will also perform. This concert is to benefit the Meetinghouse Restoration Fund and the arts programs of the Deerfield Valley Art Association, which is based at the meetinghouse.
Wright and Harrington have known each other since they were kids growing up in Sturbridge. Harrington, who lives in Boston, started teaching himself guitar when he was in high school. Wright is a classically trained musician who started playing cello at 9. The two first performed together in a high school glee club, but later went onto to pursue different musical goals. While in college, Harrington was recording an album he described as being in the singer-songwriter vein and asked Wright to play cello on it. He later returned the favor and performed on a recording that Wright was involved with. From that point on, they started casually playing music together and formed Tall Heights in 2010.
“We chose the name Tall Heights because we liked the sound of the words and it didn’t strike me as a normal band name — and we aren’t a normal band,” Harrington said.
Soon after forming Tall Heights, the duo took to the busy streets of Boston to hone their craft.
“Once we started street performing, something definitely clicked,” recalled Harrington about that summer.
“We could really see this narrative swing in what we were doing and how we were doing it,” he said. “We played for four to six hours a day and got a strong response.”
Of course, it’s not often that you see a cellist playing at Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
“Maybe the streets were hungry for a cello and that’s why it worked,” said Harrington with a laugh.
Tall Heights worked as buskers for an entire summer. “Playing on the street makes you think about how you can stay interesting, how you can grab somebody’s attention in just a second and that thought process lends itself to the club scene,” Harrington said.
The experience also provided him with endless stories to share, like the time a patron was complimenting the band with a comment like “your music touches my soul,” while also frequently tipping the duo. Unfortunately, this person was taking more out of the tip jar than he was putting in. In a scene that sounded straight out of the movie “Once,” Harrington confronted the man and got the money back.
These days, Tall Heights plays clubs and festivals and has shared the stage with Caravan of Thieves, Laura Marling and Ryan Montbleau. It has released two EPs and an album, “Man of Stone.”
The beauty of their music carries over to their lyrics, which contain memorable lines and strong imagery: “Wearing the name on my body/painting the faith on my soul/baring my teeth just to hold on/practice the art of control/emblems of cavemen they taught me/the importance of typing in bold.” These are from “Man of Stone,” the title track and first single off the band’s album.
Tall Heights is a truly collaborative effort with both musicians contributing to the song writing.
“This is as 50-50 as you could possibly be — that is what makes me really excited about our future together as songwriters,” said Harrington.
They currently have about 20 new songs to consider for the next album and are always exploring new ways to make their sound more interesting.
“We don’t want to be the old dog that can’t learn new tricks,” Harrington said. “Besides, it’s always enjoyable and liberating to take a cool idea and move it forward.”
Tickets are $12 in advance and are available at World Eye Bookshop, 156 Main St., Greenfield, at Falltown Spirits, 3 South St., and 7 South Bakery, 7 South St., both in Bernardston. Tickets can also purchased by emailing email@example.com.
Tickets at the door are $15. The Unitarian Meetinghouse is located at the junction of Church and Depot streets.
Tall Heights will return to the area later in the summer when it appears at the 1794 Meetinghouse in New Salem on Thursday, July 24, at 7:30 p.m. The 1794 Meetinghouse, 26 South Main St., kicks off its summer series on Saturday, June 7, at 7:30 p.m. with a champagne reception and show by Li’l BeeDee & the Doo-Rites. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 978-544-5200 or visit www.1794meetinghouse.com.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org