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Mercifully Brief Bio

Quick Pitch

Based in Western Massachusetts, folk duo Austin & Elliott is comprised of singer/songwriters Chris Elliott (voice, acoustic guitar) and Lisa Austin (voice, hand drum, 6-string banjo). “Dark and irreverent” (Radio Nowhere), their original songs tell stories of love gone wrong and death done right.  With driving rhythms, bracing harmonies, and thought-provoking lyrics, Austin & Elliott have performed their "fun original take on folk" (CBS Boston's Best Singer-Songwriters) since the early aughts on stages around their native Northeast. 

Tad More Info

Their third and most recent record, Cradle and Crow (2017), features two voices, acoustic guitar, bass, and hand drum, resulting in a “timeless quality difficult to achieve” (Greg Grant, Online Folk Festival). Cradle and Crow was written, performed, and produced by Austin & Elliott in their home studio. According to Metronome Magazine, "their voices meld together perfectly." 

With an MFA in poetry from Emerson College and a huge vinyl record collection, upstate NY native Chris strums hard on a distinctive handmade Alan Carruth acoustic guitar, which he won in Boston's WUMB FM Songwriting Contest in 1996. He delights in penning offbeat rhymes and "witty, smart" (Greenfield Recorder) narratives. His musical inspiration ranges from memories of his father singing "Froggie Went a' Courtin'" to the latest obscure Italian prog or Swedish metal LP.  

In the early aughts Chris met his harmonic other half, Lisa Austin, on the mean streets of Cambridge, MA. Lisa Austin was born on the North Shore, raised in the Pioneer Valley, and marinated in the brine of the Atlantic. She was indoctrinated into the raucous world of folk music in the family home in Arlington where she listened to her family sing countless renditions of "Barnacle Bill the Sailor" and "Charlie on the MTA."  A Lilith Fair semi-finalist, Lisa's bracing harmonies and powerful hand drum elevate the energy of their live shows, praised as "lively" (Recorder) and "memorable" (CBS Boston). 

Further Elaboration

Chris Elliott's striking songs have made him a finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition, the Portland Songwriters Association Songwriting Contest, and the Rose Garden Coffeehouse song contest (twice). Duo or solo, the pair over two decades have opened for or shared bills with a diverse array of artists, such as Josh Ritter, Bill Staines, Pamela Means, Anais Mitchell, Cindy Bullens, Gideon Freudman, Lisa Bastoni, Troll 2, Mary Gauthier, Atwater-Donnelly, Rod MacDonald, and many more. After years of performing on their own as solo artists, they began collaborating in 2003 with Lisa adding harmony vocals to Chris’s songs. Since then, they’ve deepened their musical partnership, incorporating new instrumentation such as hand drum and banjitar and honing their twin vocal attack.

Their third and latest recording, Cradle and Crow, was self-produced and recorded at home in the wilds of Leverett and Montague. Their previous record, the 5-cut Truth That Hurts, their first full-band effort, was produced by Lorne Entress (Lori McKenna, Catie Curtis, Mark Erelli) and features guitarist Duke Levine (Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jonatha Brooke, Ellis Paul) and bassist Paul Kochanski (Resophonics). Their debut CD 13 Songs Plus is packed with 21 songs performed in stark, powerful fashion.

Influences? Think duos like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Richard and Linda Thompson, Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer, Johnny Cash and June Carter, the White Stripes, Richard and Mimi Farina, the Handsome Family, and Timbuk 3. The more you listen, you'll hear: X, the Knitters, Natalie Merchant, Bob Dylan, the Decemberists, REM, Robyn Hitchcock, Randy Newman, the Pogues, Pixies, James McMurtry, Todd Snider, Grace Slick, and more.

Stuff about Chris

Born and raised in Binghamton, NY, Christopher Thomas Elliott likes to rhyme, sing, and play guitar as a solo performer and as half of dark folk duo Austin & Elliott.  Since moving to Boston in 1994 to escape food service jobs and attend grad school, he has become a fixture of the underground acoustic scene in New England. He starting writing funny songs in his teens. When he got a beat-up Ovation guitar while at Bard College, the satirical edge of his writing sharpened. Earning an MFA in poetry from Emerson College, he has developed a writing style that ranges from darkly serious to deadly funny.  His hand-made acoustic guitar is by luthier Alan Carruth, its powerful tone accommodating his soft fingerpicking and hard strumming style. In the words of Marilyn Ray Beyer of 91.9FM WUMB: "Laugh now, think later... A poet in a songwriter suit." He has two in-print solo CDs, a self-titled (2017) and Satellite, UFO, Jet Plane, or Star (2004), plus scores of unreleased and rare songs heard live or on OOP releases. 

In addition to his songster activities, Chris has self-published a mock heroic epic poem, Ferding and the Fly, Book I: A Ballad of Garbage and Picnics, which recounts the saga of a young boy’s crusade to swat a fly and the fly’s quest to conquer a picnic. 

Stuff about Lisa

A native of Western Massachusetts, Lisa Austin began playing live in earnest after moving to Boulder, Colorado in 1998. With a voice that recalls Natalie Merchant, she was a Lillith Fair semi-finalist for an opening spot at the 1999 Colorado Lillith Fair, and since then she has played and sung in many venues throughout Boulder and Massachusetts. While Chris takes a more cerebral approach to music making, Lisa is the more intuitive, creating original harmony lines by ear and unearthing the emotional core of songs. In addition to singing, she plays guitar, 6-string banjo, bass and percussion, adding energy to the live show. Her songwriting is dark and traditional-folk inspired, filled with rural imagery, reflecting her love of and reverence for the natural world. She often sings from unique points of view, such as a fisherman drowning at sea or a westward journeying pioneer who discovers his family dead on Christmas Day.  In addition to music-making, Lisa is involved with animal rights and spay/neuter advocacy.

From coffeehouses to night clubs, venues played include: in the greater Boston area, First Night Boston, Club Passim, the Nameless Coffeehouse, the Burren, the Cantab, Java Joe's, TT the Bear's Place, Johnny D's, Perk's Coffeehouse, and more. Further west, First Night Northampton, the Luthier's Co-op, the Iron Horse, Off the Commons Coffeehouse, the Center for Arts in Natick, Amazing Things Arts Center (Framingham), the Dove Cafe and Capo's (Lowell), the Pioneer Arts Center (Westford), the Java Hut (Worcester), the Stagecoach Inn (Groton), Studio Session Live for HCAM TV (Hopkinton), the Sit 'n' Bull (Maynard), Mocha Maya's (Shelburne Falls), Club Helsinki (Great Barrington), and more. Around the Northeast: Tupelo Music Hall (Londonderry, NH), Vanilla Bean Cafe (Pomfret, CT), Langdon St. Cafe (Montpelier, VT), Postcrypt Cafe (New York City), the New Jersey Folk Festival, and more. Live on the radio: WUMB 91.9FM (UMASS Boston), WMUA 91.1FM (UMASS Amherst), WMFO 91.5FM (Tufts University), WUML 91.5FM (Lowell, MA), WMPG 90.9FM (Portland, ME), WSCA 106.1FM (Portsmouth, NH), among others.