Hardened and Tempered: hard enough to hold an edge; soft enough not to break. Austin-based duo Kristin Davidson and Carolyn Phillips live that balance and express it in their music. Their songs take root in the story-telling traditions of folk and country and flourish with textured melodies and harmonies, revealing an intimate look at the human condition from a perspective that the listener may not have previously considered.
Both women were raised to value tireless work and service. Phillips has worked as a nurse in oncology. Davidson advocates on behalf of the indigent. Both have always sought refuge and personal expression in music. At first, the weekly jams with friends, where Phillips sang and played the drums, and Davidson played guitar and pedal steel, provided the beloved mid-week stress release. Over time, and because passion often burns brighter than the rational mind, music evolved from a place of escape to the essence of home. They wagered that if they nourished themselves, they would be better suited to continue their work for others.
An Airstream trailer on the Texas-Mexico border made it so for Davidson. Having suffered up a ladder labeled “success” and never liking the view, Davidson’s move to the border required a leap of faith. It was new work, and a new life too, unfamiliar, apart, and not easy. She spent three years on lonely stretches of highway heading, if not home, to where home might be; three years in a vast and wild land that, at times, seemed better settled the further she drove from town; three years in a small trailer with herself, a guitar, and a pedal steel. Used to giving a voice to others, she decided it was time she had something to say for herself.
In the meantime, Phillips was also using music to pave a new path. Caring for patients and their families during the dying process remained a constant source of inspiration for Phillips. But it also began to take its toll. Born from her own experiences and those she observed of her colleagues, Phillips piloted a program that combined the healing effects of expressive writing and storytelling through music to help nurses grieve the losses they experienced in their work. Based on the success of the program, Phillips created Songs for the Soul, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, to continue providing the healing benefits of music to frontline caregivers.
The Trailer Sessions is Hardened and Tempered’s debut album, produced by Grammy award winning producer and Austin City Limits Hall of Fame member, Lloyd Maines. Influenced by Davidson’s time in the trailer, The Trailer Sessions explores the mythology of the open road and the haunting relationships between person and place. The songs imagine stark landscapes and protagonists at lonely moments when they must decide, should I stay or do I go? Maines shares his instrumental virtuosity and brings together a small cast of some of Austin’s finest (Richard Bowden, Jane Gillman, Riley Osbourn, Terri Hendrix, Bukka Allen, and Pat Manske), weaving new characters of sound into the stories to reassure the listener that, with music, no one is ever really alone.