The Mercury Dames are a trio of talented High Country performers who bring three-part harmonies to a mix of swing, jazz, blues and American songbook standards.
The group was formed with the idea of recreating and moving forward the tradition of close female harmony singing that was popular in the early part of the last century.
The lineup of The Mercury Dames includes original members Kim France and Lauren Hayworth, along with newcomer Kappa Hobbs.
“Lauren Hayworth, who is our soprano singer, is a voice major who did her graduate studies at Appalachian State University, and she has always wanted to form a female vocal trio,” France said. “She loves the Boswell Sisters, which was a group in the 1920s from New Orleans, and The Andrews Sisters, who were popular during World War II. She asked me if I wanted to be a part of a similar band, and I said yes. She sent me a lot of YouTube links to songs that she really liked, so I schooled myself a little bit on the music she was interested in doing. And I listen to and play a lot of jazz on my own, so I took some songs that were formerly standard vocal numbers and arranged them so we could do them with three-part harmony.”
Working out the three-part harmonies is a challenge, but the love of that genre comes through in the music of The Mercury Dames.
“Lauren has done most of it,” France said about the group’s vocal approach. “She has arranged a lot of our music. And then, after I got into it, I started arranging, as well. I’m not as experienced at it as she is, but I hope at some point that I will be doing more of the arranging. Harmony singing is something that comes natural for me. But most of the time, I am playing in groups with the guys, so I am used to singing on top of a male vocal, singing what we call a tenor harmony in bluegrass music. That is naturally in my range, as I am kind of an alto. With The Mercury Dames, I get to sing harmonies off of the bottom. That has been challenging for me, and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it. ”
France is an accomplished musician and also performs with other groups, including bluegrass band Boss Hawg, the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra, Boone-based big band Swing Set and the Americana group, Glory on the Floor, which has performed at FloydFest.
As for The Mercury Dames, the group is gearing up for 2014, looking to book concerts at various venues in the High Country, as well as private weddings and parties and, hopefully, a return to the Jones House after their successful concert there last summer. In the meantime, the group is working with new member Hobbs, who’s succeeding original member Maureen Klinedinst, and they are excited about what the future will bring.
“It’s harder than you think,” France said about choosing a new band member. “We were trying to find a woman that has experience in the music industry, who knows how to play an instrument, knows how to arrange music and knows how to speak in musical terminology. Kappa came along, and our voices blended really well together, and she will be our third Mercury Dame. It is a rehearsal-heavy kind of group, because the harmonies are so specific, and everybody needs to be very solid with their parts in order for it to sound right.”