The Be Good Tanyas - Biography
By J Poet
The Be Good Tanyas are a trio of female singer/songwriters and multi-instrumentalists based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Klein grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba and picked up guitar at an early age. She dropped out of school and hit the road at 14 years old to escape an abusive home life. She played in a funk band called Saltwater June with Frazey Ford before meeting Samantha Parton in 1998. The triumvirate of Frazey Ford, Samantha Parton and Jolie Holland—a Texas-born songwriter and multi-instrumentalist—met in the Kootenay Mountains where they were all part of a reforestation project. Parton and Ford started harmonizing and formed a trio with Holland in 1999. When Holland moved to San Francisco to pursue her own career, Klein replaced her. They took their name from a song Holland introduced them to, “Be Good Tanya,” by Obo Martin.
The band’s first gigs were at a used clothing store where they played in exchange for the Depression-era clothes that they wore on stage. The early band played traditional folk songs mixed with a few originals, and toured heavily throughout Canada and the United States.
Early in 2000 The Be Good Tanyas cut Blue Horse and put it out on their own label. The Canadian Broadcasting Company loved the album and played it on heavy rotation, all the while praising the album’s beautiful songwriting and hailing it as a traditional approach to the music despite the electric guitar flourishes on several tracks. In 2001, Nettwerk Records signed the band and put out the album in the US, Australia and England. The Be Good Tanyas hit he road playing folk festivals in the US and Europe.
Chinatown (2003 Nettwerk), their self-produced follow-up, got more rave reviews for its Gothic-folk sound. When their song “In Spite of All the Damage appeared on an episode of The L Word—Showtime’s posh lesbian hit—the band got a bit of mainstream exposure. In 2004, the band took a break when Ford got pregnant. Klein started playing with Allison Russell as Po’ Girl.
Ford and Klein returned to the group for Hello Love (2006 Nettwerk), and another round of touring ensued. However, in 2007, The Be Good Tanyas went on hiatus so members could pursue other musical interests. Klein continued to tour and record with Po’ Girl, while the band released an animated video of “Human Thing” in 2008, which was as bare bones as their music.