Hot Date is a Saint Paul based duo who share not only their passion of making music together, but also share their real life passion for one another. The duo is Eric Carranza and Nora O’Brien and they create what might just be called “Era” music. Listening to their first full length release was like time traveling the broad history of the United States in the last century. Music that is evocative of speakeasies, chanteuses singing in backwater bars, and sipping something that might burn on the way down.
The couple have contributed to the building of an increasingly vibrant arts community in the Lowertown part of Saint Paul. They support local artists, participate in the Saint Paul Art Crawl, and even have a musical performance series called “Sweet 317.” Collaboration with other artists is key and on the album you will experience their community including Violinist/Vocalist Leah Ottman (LOTT) and Cellist Hilary James with whom Eric joins in the band batteryboy. Joining vocalist Nora there is Tabla player Pratik Singh, Banjo player K.R. Pangburn, Bassist Andy Sanford, Drums on certain tracks by Braden Dickie and Harpist Mattie Ernst all strong players who have made this album quite a feat. Carranza is a multi-instrumentalist who is also in Yeti Steady and batteryboy.A feat of Americana, R&B, Soul, Techno, and Folk-all of these things and none, though cohesive throughout. Perhaps the varied genres explored are due to the fact that several sites and studios were involved in the recording and mixing including: Sweet 317, IPR with the Grammy winning Kevin Bowe, Zachary Hollander at The Pearl, and Honeytone Studio with Patrick Boland and Mark Zbikowski.
The vocals of Nora O’Brien’s alone span time. She has the rare gift of being able to cross genres without losing credibility. A voice that can at one moment sound like Billie Holiday in the languid song ‘The Noise’, while channeling Kylie Minogue on the next with a modern edge. The couple can harmonize as well, especially on ‘The Fall’ a song beautiful with Leah Ottman’s violin and skilled finger picking on the guitar. It was easy to envision a chanteuse singing ‘New lovers’ in a Parisian cafe to the delight of passerby’s. Making a leap across the globe, the tabla on the song ‘Wake’ lent it an otherworldly quality, while what I perceived as a mandolin on ‘The Noise’ was actually a harp that Eric told me he “added an old school dub echo on it, really turned it into a texture.” This album is highly technical and creative, very textural in fact with clever but not overused effects and mixing techniques.
What Hot Date delivers is a smooth piece of work that will not disappoint, yet will leave you wondering what they will try next. Clearly unafraid of experimentation in the search for a taste that they both savor. The last track of “For Lovers’ has the a chorus that repeats “we’ve got some love to show you…’. Yes they do, yes they do.