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South African Duo Blend Folk With American Country Music

  • Darren Taylor

Singer-songwriters Josie Field (left) and Laurie Levine, in a publicity shot for their critically-acclaimed 'Tigerlily' album.

Singer-songwriters Josie Field (left) and Laurie Levine, in a publicity shot for their critically-acclaimed 'Tigerlily' album.

Two singer-songwriters have released Tigerlily, a record that critics are calling one of the best collaborations yet to have emerged from South Africa. Josie Field and Laurie Levine blend various music types, including folk, blues and country, with their rich harmonies and a variety of instruments.

Levine says they named their latest work partly after a legendary Korean love story, in which a mystic turns a tiger into a lily.

“We thought it was nice because it’s feminine but it’s also got strength,” said Levine.

The record is indeed populated by strong female characters, both fictional and historical.

Songs such as ‘Trailblazing’ are a call for the empowerment of women.

On the track ‘Bullets,’ a woman abused by a drunken husband fights back.

Tigerlily is filled with melodious harmonizing.

“I think it came very organically, very naturally. You know, we’ve been working together for three years now,” said Field.

“It really was a natural mixing of our voices. We both love harmonies and they came really easily from the beginning, and the same with this album,” added Levine.

The cover of 'Tigerlily'.

The cover of 'Tigerlily'.

Field said they also found it “surprisingly easy” to write together for the first time, with some songs emerging from just a few initial words.

“The one track, which is kind of like our fun track and was the last one we wrote for the album, was called ‘All Hell’s Gonna Break Loose.’ And I just had that line in my head and I really liked the idea of basing a song around the theme of ‘all hell’s gonna break loose,’” said Field.

The recording features instruments usually associated more with American country music, like banjos and ukuleles.

“We thought that this traditional sound combined with electric guitar and something a bit more contemporary would really give the songs the life that we wanted them to have,” said Levine.

Although there’s a definite twang to Tigerlily, Levine and Field disagree with iTunes classifying it as purely a country music album.

“I would say it’s mostly like a folk album. Obviously there are elements of country and Americana, because we both really enjoy that,” said Field.

Levine said she would rather the album be labeled Americana.

“I would have probably preferred Americana because Americana encompasses country and folk and a couple of other sub genres,” said Levine.

A strong theme on the record is the road, reflecting Field’s and Levine’s seemingly never-ending tour of South Africa and Europe.

Tigerlily is, on the whole, upbeat, although it does end with two songs soaked in sadness. One of them is the Field-inspired ‘Afterglow.’

“Basically I set the song with this end of summer feel, like it’s time to pack up and go home after you’ve had this amazing experience or time or holiday; just this golden moment,” said Field.

The duo have their hearts set on performing in Texas and Nashville.

Right now, though, Levine and Field are taking Tigerlily to their compatriots, and they’re garnering praise and acclaim across South Africa.

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