I’ve been listening to Lavender Blue for a few months now. I don’t recall exactly when I was first turned on to her sound , but I do remember what drew me to it. With a voice like Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star, and guitar chops like Leo Kottke, she creates a chill lo-fi mood that is immediately infectious.
“She” is Asheville, North Carolina based singer, songwriter and guitarist Kayla Zuskin. An artist better known professionally as Lavender Blue. Her story is almost as interesting as her music.
Kayla perfected her Jazzy, Folk guitar technique at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. While she was in school, she also secretly developed her singing and songwriting skills. After college, and a bit of cross-country busking, she landed in Asheville and finally let her voice free.
Lavender Blue’s latest release is a two song EP titled, “I’ll be Your Dog.” It features Kayla’s signature guitar and vocal style, unadorned. With no accompaniment, no reverb, nor any other studio effects she pulls you into her world just as effectively as ever. Maybe, more so.
I’ll be Your Dog
The title track is a quirky Alt-Folk/Pop song. The lyrics are alternately cute, clever and disturbing. On the surface, the singer is innocently using the image of a loyal dog’s blind faith to its master as a metaphor for her devotion to her lover. The analogy doesn’t remain simple or innocent for long.
For example, it is sweet when Kayla sings, “I’ll be your best friend. Give you all my love and affection.” However, shortly thereafter the refrain of, “I’ll be your dog, come when you call” makes it clear that there are more complicated emotions at work. Sometimes the song is funny, as when she sings about the GPS tracker in her left hip. But even then you know there is something darker going on that you really shouldn’t think is funny at all.
Lady on the Run
The second track, “Lady on the Run” uses imagery and out of context scene description to create a dark landscape. Lines like, “Lady on the Run, don’t get caught,” are followed shortly by, “What’s your dying wish? Peel back the skin.” Expertly finger-picked blues guitar sets exactly the right mood for Kayla’s beautiful and haunting voice as she paints an unsettling scene.
Kayla’s ability to lay such uncertain emotional ground on both songs is a testament to her writing and musicianship. She makes you think, and then immediately second guess yourself. That is no small task.
In addition to “I’ll Be Your Dog,” Lavender Blue has a full eight-song 2018 album titled, “Dusk”.
Listen and follow….
This is what Kayla says about Lavender Blue…
Lavender Blue is the musical alias of guitarist and songwriter Kayla Zuskin. Fusing electric guitar with minimalistic vocals, Zuskin’s compositions are musings on existence in a hazy and lo-fi landscape.
Lavender Blue was launched as a project as Zuskin was busking and traveling across the United States in the fall of 2017. Upon returning to Asheville in 2018, Zuskin wrote, recorded and co-produced her self-released LP Dusk.
Originally identifying as solely a guitar player and discouraged from singing by her family, Zuskin has been writing songs in secret since she began playing guitar in 2004. She channeled her desire to play and perform into the guitar, studying rock, blues, jazz, folk and their subgenres. This led her to attend Berklee College of Music (’15) where she studied guitar as well as recording and production.
It was only after her move to Asheville, NC in 2015 that she began playing and singing outside of her bedroom. During this time, she began trying to imitate the country, bluegrass fingerstyle playing she was hearing all around her. She also continued to play guitar in neo-soul, blues, jam and indie-folk bands. She is heavily influenced by indie-rock, folk songwriters, art, nature, film, and literature. The sum result of these multitudes of experiences is the sound that is Lavender Blue.
Zuskin will be releasing a Lavender Blue single in support of a two-week Europe tour in July of 2019.