Authenticity and character in rock some 60 years into the fray are getting harder to see and more challenging to believe. But you can see and hear — and believe both — about the emerging artist Courtney Yasmineh, whether it's in her cogent body of work over four albums, or in her bewildering back story that continues to inform Yasmineh's convincing amalgam of alternative rock, folk, pop and soul. It's a deep, poisoned well she urgently draws from, filled with hard reflection, brutal honesty, bittersweet inspiration, brief flights of sexual fantasy and blistering romance, and saving graces. Live onstage, she's sexy, smart and somehow simultaneously shy and brazen.
As a teenager whose family life in late '70s Chicago suddenly cratered around her, she fled to the great north woods of Minnesota that Bob Dylan once facetiously claimed he ran away from. It had something to do with her father, a freaked-out mother, broken brother, the law and insider trading. That glimpse into her saga is told, in part, in the redeemingly funny and ironic "Married to Bob," a fanciful tune from her six-song EP, Early Days, pretending herself hitched to Hibbing, Minnesota's most famous native son. Imagine Yasmineh Musically as Cinderella in a Family of Stylistic Sisters Comprised of Lucinda Williams, Sheryl Crow, Liz Phair and Alanis Morrisette ... and Leaving the Ball on Her Own Terms
Up North at seventeen, she started her life anew in her grandfather's hunting cabin — alone — faking it to local high school officials that her parents were living with her. Yasmineh started singing in bars and waitressing to support herself. One of the school officials eventually called her bluff but took no action other than to encourage her to go to Macalester College in the Twin Cities where her writing and singing talent earned her a full scholarship. She graduated and hit the real world again, using her tough and tender character and her sturdy guitar as her maps.
Fast forward through years of writing songs alone, for herself, as she attempted to make sense of hurt and fear that kept her imprisoned in a conventional life married to a doctor husband feeling trapped and isolated — until the urge to share the music lead her to some nurturing musicians and recording opportunities: "The Minneapolis musicians I met felt like the tribe I'd been missing." Then came the big D-i-v-o-r-c-e and the even bigger L-i-be-r-a-t-i-o-n — leaving the ball on her own terms. And when she did, she emerged a self-made artist. There were recordings and performances, and eventually a band was formed in collaboration with producer and musical director Rob Genadek (Michael Baker — musical director for Whitney Houston — Sacbe, Rocket Club, Keri Noble, Billy McLaughlin, Peter Himmelman, Charley Drayton — Fiona Apple and Divynls producer — and others).
All these dissolutions and subsequent re-makings she captured poignantly and in different alt rock, folk and pop styles over her next two impassioned albums, Sufi Line and Beautiful Lonely, the latter work rightfully described by one critic as a "Fluorescent Pop Masterpiece." That album also earned Yasmineh other acclaim. What made both works so appealing was the subtle through-line of her personal narrative transformed into accessible songs that appeal to broad tastes and all ages. Since then — sans booking agents, managers and a stretchable budget — Yasmineh has successfully booked nine European club tours to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, London, and more and shot many music videos, while also getting radio airplay abroad and in the U.S. Lufthansa Airlines discovered Sufi Line in 2008 and played tracks from it on their in-flight summer playlist.
On the release of Red Letter Day which has all the makings of the breakthrough moment she deserves, and after a year of touring on the strength of 2013's Wake Me When It's Over, Courtney says, "this is my most rock album yet, with songs that are a blast to perform. I wanted my fans and my band and me to all have a road trip-worthy, dance-floor worthy album experience. This album and the last are not just about digging out of a deep hole, but about collaborating with others and hanging on for the ride! The parts about love are hopeful and celebratory. The parts about loss are triumphant. The parts about sex and drinking are raucous. This is life without apologies, taking no prisoners, refuting the downside." Now, with her most promising years straight ahead, Courtney is no longer bearing the weight of her past across her shoulders. Instead she's carrying the genuine goods to get her dream on.