The Carly DuHain Band makes music best paired with beer, love and heartbreak
She curses like a sailor, drinks the guys in her band under the table, and will make eyes go teary when she roars the lyrics of classic Beatles tunes.
With Carly DuHain on vocals and guitar, the singer’s eponymously named band—featuring Gabe Aiello (lead guitar), Richard Williams (bass, trumpet) and Tony Ledesma (drums)—combines its love of Muddy Waters, Janis Joplin and George Jones to craft its sound.
Think seductive, soulful tunes with an Americana flair sealed with enough bluesy bravado that it might even make the late Waters raise an eyebrow. Think music culled from a lifetime of experience, including DuHain’s chronic struggles with health.
In short, think songs that are primed for bars.
“Drinking music,” DuHain said over a pitcher of Pabst Blue Ribbon with bandmates and a handful of friends at their dive bar of choice, the Old Tavern Bar & Grill in Midtown.
“[It’s] drinking music because people congregate, drink and end up discussing what’s going on.”
Not too long ago, on a late summer night at Luigi’s Fun Garden, DuHain set out to live up to her words as the band launched into a cover of the Beatles’ “Oh! Darling.”
Barefoot onstage and accompanied by her three best men, DuHain stepped up to the mic in front of a crowd of more than 40. Her voice began modestly as she recited Paul McCartney’s lyrics, but DuHain was building up to the song’s second verse. With a gustlike force, she belted out the second half, strumming her guitar as Williams and Aiello joined in, screaming behind her. It’s tricky covering such a widely known hit, but on this night, she brought the song to a close, eyes squinting as she sang intensely to the audience. Their approval was clear, with the majority of the room raising their beers in the air, hollering right along with the singer.
The Carly DuHain Band doesn’t just bust out covers, though. In December, it will release InsideFires, a 13-song album of originals, produced by local singer-songwriter Justin Farren.
DuHain describes the record, which the band is still recording, as comprising songs as varied as “a drunken-circus” to “a raw opus.” But if you ask guitarist Aiello what separates DuHain’s lyrics from other female vocalists in town, he won’t put a bow on it.
“Most of the female singer-songwriters in Sacramento go for cutie, indie, soft-spoken,” Aiello said. “What’s different about [Carly] is [that she’s] way more raw. There’s just way more passion.”
And whether she’s singing about heartache, depression or illness, DuHain said she writes music as a way to connect with the audience and insists they leave knowing one simple thing.
“[T]hey’re not alone,” DuHain said. “Any weirdness, any oddities, any pain, any singularity that they felt was damaging or solitary, they’re not alone. And they can convene with people who are like-minded.”
It’s not all sweet and cozy, though. Indeed, DuHain isn’t one to sugarcoat things.
“Life isn’t fucking perfect,” DuHain said, swiping her black locks behind one ear.
DuHain should know. Despite a tough exterior—tattooed arms, a boisterous personality and a powerful voice that suggests invincibility—the 30-year-old singer has long battled lupus and rheumatoid arthritis to the point of being bedridden and, at times, even hospitalized.
DuHain doesn’t linger over the topic of her health: She admits she’d rather kick both illnesses than let them control the music.
“I’m a tough cookie. I’ve got a seriously high pain tolerance. I would prefer to not be weighed down by a disease that really has no cure,” she said. “But it also gives me more of a fight, which I feel makes the music better, because I feel like I have something to prove.”