Vocalist, singer/songwriter, and guitarist Syd Straw first made a name for herself as part of the Golden Palominos, a band led by Anton Fier that enjoyed a cult following in the 1980s. Her Capricorn Records debut, War and Peace, was released in 1996, and since then, her unique blend of folk-rock and blues-rock has found a home with Triple A (adult album alternative) radio stations and their audiences around the country. Straw released Surprise in 1990 to good reviews. That recording chronicled Straw's emergence as a songwriter; she had thought of herself primarily as a song interpreter before that. On Surprise, Straw was joined by Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), John Doe (X), Ry Cooder, Daniel Lanois, Don Was, Richard Thompson, and Marshall Crenshaw.
Straw was raised in Los Angeles, the daughter of Hollywood film and TV actor Jack Straw, best-known for his starring role in The Pajama Game. She was drawn to the life of a performer, and after high school, she headed straight for Manhattan, arriving in New York in 1978. Shortly after that, she landed her first job singing harmonies for Pat Benatar, and later joined the Golden Palominos' ever-changing lineup, which also included Michael Stipe and Matthew Sweet. Straw can be heard on the Palominos' Visions of Excess and Blast of Silence albums. She also toured the U.S. and Europe with the band, performing at the Montreaux Jazz Festival one year.
In the midst of promoting and touring for War and Peace, Straw has kept up her profile as a scenemaker, sitting in at clubs and lending her gifted musical sensibilities to records by Vic Chesnutt, Wilco, Rickie Lee Jones, David Sanborn, and Evan Dando. A version of her song "Howl'' served as the title cut for a film by Eric Stoltz, Sleep with Me. Straw was the first female singer signed by Capricorn, a roots rock and blues label based in Nashville. On War and Peace, she's accompanied by a gifted bar band from Missouri, Lou Whitney & the Skeletons, and she recorded the album without a lot of extras at their studio off Route 66 in Springfield, MO. On the album, Straw addresses themes ranging from love and the lack of it on a track by the same name, "Love and the Lack of It,'' as well as loneliness, as on "All Things Change.''
Straw is an enormously gifted vocalist and songwriter who has her own distinct musical vision, as evidenced on her self-produced War and Peace. That vision is a rootsy one, with lots of country and blues influences. The 14 originals on the record prove it. Although she didn't set out to, she also plays rhythm guitar on many of the tracks on the album. Straw says with the biography accompanying War and Peace that she doesn't see the album as a "comeback'' at all, "because things have been constantly busy and changing for me since Surprise came out. But I really threw myself into the new record in a way that I haven't been inspired to do for a long time.'' Great records and a wider following are in the offing for this unique, multi-genre vocalist and songwriter. She released her third album, Pink Velour, in 2008. ~ Richard Skelly