T&A, the new collaboration between Tom Hall and Alice Spencer, isn't really new at all. Both musicians have made a mark on St. Louis music that few veterans can match, and their friendship and work together go back to the '90s with legendary folk/blues band the Geyer Street Sheiks.
Now with The Kitchen Record, their first album as a duo, Hall and Spencer have officially rekindled a partnership that never really ended -- though Spencer has been living in Austin for the last two decades and Hall soldiers on as one of St. Louis' most accomplished guitarists. Hall and Spencer's long-time fans know what newcomers to T&A are about to discover: These are two of the purest musicians to ever draw breaths from this impure St. Louis blues air.
Hall and Spencer first met through the late Steve Mote, the de facto leader of the Geyer Street Sheiks, whose first incarnation had dissolved, toying with the idea of re-forming in the early '90s. Spencer was years younger than the rest of the Sheiks and had been planning on a career in musical theater until the rock band the Three Merry Widows lured her away.
"I was going to the conservatory at Webster University, and that is supposed to be the only thing you do," Spencer recalls. "Did I want to stay up all night, drink, smoke pot and have fun, or did I want to go to class and learn how to tap-dance? My choice was made. I didn't even finish my freshman year, much to my parents' dismay."
Spencer may have been introduced to the life of a musician through the Three Merry Widows, but that band, as successful as it was locally, never reached the national audience it hoped for. As the Widows courted major labels, Spencer was being courted by Mote, who was looking for a singer to re-energize the stalled Sheiks.
"Steve must have heard me sing somehow," Spencer says, "and he must have thought, 'She sounds like someone who should sing for the Sheiks!' Somehow I lucked into it. But I just loved the music. It was more closely related to the music of my family. It all felt familiar, but it was also totally new."
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