I am WAY late to the party here regarding Thao. Last month’s CD release by Portland Cello Project, “The Thao & Justin Power Sessions” [buy it HERE] has put “Beat (Health, Life And Fire)” into full rotation on Indie 103.1, where it caught my attention. Turns out she released the song in January 2008 with her own band, The Get Down Stay Down.
When I asked my very hip 15 year old about her, she was happy to tell me that she’d been telling me about Thao for months, at the urging of a friend who knew I would like her. Shame on me! Thao has me thinking again about Zee Avi, but not so much due to big musical similarities. Rather it’s a reversal of the surprising backgrounds of each singer: where Zee Avi’s voice initially sounded to me like she must be an Appalachian native folk singer who turns out to be from Borneo, Thao’s exotic and obviously Asian tone does not even hint at her Falls Church, Virginia upbringing. I’ve been listening to both versions of the song “Beat (Health, Life And Fire)” side by side, and I can’t decide which I prefer. Portland Cello Project is an admirable enterprise (they had me at “cello!”) of 8-16 cellists who are likely to follow a Bach etude with a Salt N Pepa cover (read all about them HERE), and their version of the song is, of course, beautifully produced. The original, from the CD “We Brave Bee Stings And All”, may be less lush, but it distinguishes itself with some rockin’ banjo/mandolin-like sounds she gets out of her modified acoustic guitar. Here are both versions – you decide!