Aunt G and the Stone City Nephews
Gayla Drake is a veteran Iowa singer/songwriter who put out her first album 20 years ago. Her latest release, Aunt G and the Stone City Nephews, represents a relaxed, home-grown collaboration with the band Stone City Nephews—John Waite and Jake Niederhauser on guitar, Jim Leland on bass—as well as producer and musician Peter Becker. Dustin Busch also contributes on slide guitar.
It’s acoustic, folky, country music. There’s a lot of that going around. Within an hour’s drive you have Will Whitmore, Milk & Eggs, the Browns (Pieta and Greg), Dave Moore and many others. Drake shares with them a flair for original songwriting. Where she stands out is with her virtuoso command of the guitar and her unique voice, which has a rough, reedy quality that can follow the twists of her lyrics effortlessly.
In addition to the energetic, two-step bluegrass sound of songs like “100 Miles,” Drake and her band can nail the drifty modal blues drift of “If You Follow The River.” The quiet guitar virtuosity of “Tumble Down” has Gayla Drake echoing the sound of that notable folk singer-songwriter who shares her surname, Nick Drake. “If Only To You” features the songwriter on the fiddle, which she plays with the same nimble prowess she brings to her guitar.
Gayla Drake may never be famous, except perhaps in Stone City. Even so, what you hear on this album is an artist who has her priorities straight: write great songs, practice and perform until it sounds effortless and, above all, have fun doing it.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 174