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Vocalist Joy Askew recorded much of her debut for Private Music/BMG, Tender City, in her home studio. She had no idea at the time that her tracks would be the foundation for her first solo album. But Askew, a veteran vocalist and sidewoman singer to performers as varied as Joe Jackson, Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson and Rodney Crowell, agreed with the record executives' assessment that it was time for her to step into the limelight. Aside from her work as a touring vocalist with these artists, she's also recorded with Phoebe Snow and Jules Shear, among others.
Askew was born and raised in northern England. After many years there, she moved to New York City in 1982. She played keyboards and sang with a group, Eye To Eye, signed to Warner Bros. Shortly after her arrival, she answered a call from Joe Jackson, who was looking for a keyboard player and singer for his "Night and Day" world tour. Askew later joined Laurie Anderson's 1984 "Mr. Heartbreak" tour. Askew's keyboard treatments can be heard on Jackson's albums Big World, Blaze of Glory and Laughter and Lust.
Perhaps the reason Askew's debut for Private Music/BMG sounds so fresh and innovative is because Askew doesn't write songs in the conventional way. She hears a musical mood first, and then puts lyrics to what she's hearing. She doesn't latch on to phrases or chorus until she's fleshed out the melody in her head first.
After touring with Peter Gabriel for a world tour, she left the tour in the summer of 1993 and formed her own band, signing up guitarist Shane Fontayne, percussionist Joe Bonadio and guitarist Chris Cunningham. Cunningham's playing adds the Mediterranean melodies to several tracks on Tender City. Also performing on her debut album are bassist Larry Klein and drummer Jerry Marotta.
On Tender City, Askew is joined by her former boss Gabriel, who contributes harmony vocals on "I'm Just Looking For A Home.'' Gabriel recorded the backing vocals from his chalet in France while Askew, based in New York City, continued fine-tuning the other tracks on the album. Tender City was produced by Askew, who also plays keyboards, in her home studio. The raw tapes were later transferred to 24-track in a proper mastering studio.