Almost a decade ago, Cleveland music audiences began to be charmed and amused by a sprightly new presence known as Uno Lady, a memorable one-lady act with a seemingly preternatural gift for harmonizing, daft wordplay, and knob twiddling. I’ve seen Uno Lady (real name: Christa Ebert) a good half-dozen times by now, and it’s never less than entirely enchanting. No sooner had she begun performing than she won two dstinctions from the local alt-weekly Cleveland Scene: not just “Band to Watch” but “Cleveland’s Best Female Vocalist” as well.
Onstage, Uno Lady stands alone with a self-fashioned device she calls a “DIY lit podium”—the electronic device, actually a repurposed suitcase, blends the capabilities of a loop pedal and a mixer (as well as generates lighting effects) and it allows her to sample snippets of her own voice in order to create a musical bed, over which she adds her voice again, all of which together generate a welter of distinctively spiffy and effervescent harmonies. In an evocative turn of phrase, Uno Lady calls herself a “one-woman ghost choir.”
Uno Lady performing at the Cleveland’s Beachland Tavern with her “DIY lit podium” (note the Xmas lights at bottom)
Music critics love mashing up well-known artists to define the essentially un-definable traits of what makes an artist unique, and I’m going to engage in a little of that now. Uno Lady is (more or less) one part Reggie Watts (you know, with the genius knob-twiddling), one part Laurie Anderson, and one part, ah, the Swingle Sisters, maybe? But it has to be emphasized that the overall tone isn’t like any of those people, it’s closer to a “New Sincerity” figure such as Wes Anderson (whom she name-checks in one of her song titles).
I asked Ebert recently about Watts, and she told me that she is perfectly aware of him, and insists that he’s “funnier than I am.” (Me, I’m not so certain of this—Uno Lady can be quite adept at the witty audience palaver—but Watts is certainly quite funny.) She also developed her gizmo independent of any Watts-ian influence.
Ebert, who spends most of her time working for an environmental nonprofit in Northeast Ohio, released her second album, Amateur Hour, in 2014 after receiving a Creative Workforce Fellowship. (Her first album, I Really Like Genetics But I’d Rather Have a Good Time, is available on Bandcamp.)
When she performs in public, Uno Lady is (as mentioned) a one-woman affair, but the album features contributions from a talented duo known as the Cross brothers (Nick and Tony), who are quite well regarded in the region for their work in Coffinberry and Little Bighorn.
When I last saw Uno Lady perform, it was just this past July; she was playing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a number I liked just happened not to be on Amateur Hour—it’s called “Day Drinking” and it predates the album by several years (it appeared on the Taco Cat 7-inch from 2010). Here, listen for yourself:
Today marks the premiere of her video for “Bikini Weeding,” which is the 5th track on Amateur Hour. The video was directed and co-produced by Uno Lady with Lauren Voss and Teresa Crockett of Sugarbowl Creative. The practice of “bikini weeding” sounds simply divine and certainly might have associations with an activity like, er, day drinking, but it seems it’s just “not as sexy as it sounds.”
I’ve never done any weeding in a bikini, but I invite DM readers to express their views in comments.
Beachland photo credit: Ralph J. Miller