Take a bow: Soozie Tyrell visits Cornelia St. in the Village - where she used to play in the streets; now she's rocking with Springsteen and making her solo live debut with her first CD.
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Spotlight for Soozie, Bruce's 'Rising' star
By DAVID HINCKLEY DAILY NEWS FEATURE WRITER Soozie Tyrell was not eased gently into her first live gig with Bruce Springsteen. "I thought I'd be coming out for three to four numbers in the middle of the show," says Tyrell, one of the city's best-known accompanists and backup vocalists. "So around the time it's starting, Patti [Scialfa, Springsteen's wife] and I are in the dressing room, chatting, putting on our makeup, and someone says, 'Bruce wants you now.' "It turns out I'm starting the show, with a 16-bar violin solo. There's just one spotlight, it's on me and I can barely stand up because my knees are shaking. The crowd is so loud I can't even hear the notes I'm playing. Then Bruce comes out, and it really gets loud. It was quite an initiation." She clearly passed, because Bruce invited her into the band for his current "Rising" tour. Between road trips with the year's biggest show, Tyrell has racked up a major milestone on her own. After 25 years playing in live bands and recording behind the likes of Southside Johnny, Buster Poindexter and John Hammond, she has cut her first solo CD - "White Lines" (Treasure Records) - with strong and often strikingly personal songs written over 15 years. "White Lines" is eclectic. It has a lot of rock, a good dose of country, a few jazz riffs. After romping workouts such as "Wild Ones," she closes with a lovely quiet ballad, "Everything Good." With Springsteen on a two-week break, she's now sneaking in a few solo live shows: tomorrow night at the Bottom Line, Wednesday at the Cutting Room, and Friday at the Stone Pony. "I can't tell you how gratifying this whole experience has been," says Tyrell. "A few years ago, I realized even though I've always had bands, I'm known to most people as a sideperson. That's okay. That's how I've made a living, and I've learned from everyone I've played with. But at a certain point you think, I'm 45, it's time to make some music that's mine." Once she made the call, she had no trouble getting players. You make many friends over 25 years on the New York music scene, so "White Lines" has contributions not only from Scialfa, with whom Tyrell once busked on the streets of the Village, but Springsteen and such veterans as Larry Campbell and Tony Garnier, whose regular gig is playing with Bob Dylan. "Larry is a genius," Tyrell says. "I'd love to have him and Tony in my live band. But Bob pays better." She knows that deal. She won't do much promotion for "White Lines" before Bruce's tour ends this fall, "because right now he's my priority." And both sides win. "Soozie's fiddle brings another layer of homespun to 'The Rising'," says Bob Buchman, program director of WAXQ. "It brings more warmth and life." "Her violin - not a constant in rock 'n' roll - adds a special poignancy to 'The Rising' and a wonderful exuberance to 'Waitin' on a Sunny Day,'" says Dennis Elsas of WFUV, who had Tyrell on his show Thursday. "The first time I ever thought about playing music for a living, I was maybe 12 or 13," Tyrell says "I thought it would be cool to be, like, a quartet playing behind the Eagles." And how does reality compare to that vision? "Better," she says. "Much, much better." Originally published on April 28, 2003