Formed by bassist/violinist/DC hardcore refugee Dan Cook and his guitar-toting brother Phil, South Carolina’s intriguing Lay Quite Awhile eventually (after a pair of EPs) came to be fronted by colorful and talented local singer/songwriter Danielle Howle.
Delicate Wire, the quartet’s sole album, is an eclectic, tasteful blend of folk-pop and electric art-rock filtered through a decorous indie sensibility. Howle’s ingratiating voice alludes to much but never gives her secrets away; diverse, finely played arrangements turn the literate reflections and stories of life’s little excitements — a robbery, a cracked skull, a first plane ride, the veins of a leaf — into enchanting miniatures. Howle is a sturdy singer, and her bandmates match her enthusiasm and precision.
On her own in Columbia after Lay Quiet Awhile dissolved in the midst of preparing for a second album, Howle made a 1994 single for Simple Machines and then began working on a solo record (with accompaniment by her electric trio, the Tantrums) for the label. In the meantime, using a lot of the same material, she cut and self-released Live at McKissick Museum, an engaging acoustic album that showcases her husky singing and clever tunes. “Big Puffy Girl Handwriting” and “Frog Song” favor her whimsical side; “I Held the Satchel” (also on About to Burst) and “Back of Your Mind” take a more solemn look at love and life. What’s more, the live disc preserves the irrepressible comic commentary with which she introduces each number. The infectious mood of this modest record makes it hard not to laugh and applaud along with the small audience.