music: Female Bonding 

After eight years of touring, CommonbonD took to the studio, this time their own.

Ashley's direct approach paid off, and the girls found immediate common ground that night singing old Journey tunes together until dawn. They kept in touch for the next two years and honed a duo act during Miller's college breaks. In 1994, they made the partnership official by tagging it with an attention-grabbing name that reflects the duo's shared interests and outlook. Now eight years on the road, CommonbonD brings its warm, acoustic style to Richmond on Friday at Babe's in Carytown.

April also finds the girls putting the finishing touches on their fourth full-length CD, "Chasing Solace," set for July release. The group's previous CD, 1998's "Naked Soul Dance," featured 14 original tunes focusing on positive themes of faith and truth. Introspective and full of love's uncertainties and promises, the girls cast a graceful and harmonious spell throughout "Soul." The women say they took a similar lyrical and sonic approach for the new CD, avoiding political statements for guitar-driven songs about love's intricacies.

But a big change comes on the production end. For the first time CommonbonD is responsible for the entire process, recording the tracks in the studio the girls built in Mary Beth's Northern Virginia basement. This time, they're in charge and owning the studio means they can take more time. Ashley admits the girls can be "sidetrack queens," but both agree the process progresses at a quicker pace when they, rather than a hired producer, are in control.

"This one, we're making all the calls," de Pompa explains. "It's more laid-back [and] there's no 'time-is-money' feel. There are not too many overdubs .… We want to keep it similar to our live performance."

While Mary Beth enjoys twisting the soundboard dials, Ashley admits she's uncomfortable sitting in a recording session for hours on end. But both women are excited about the new project and the pluses of independent creativity.

"There's a little bit of a learning curve," Miller says, laughing. "But we're leaps and bounds from where we began."

CommonbonD spent most of January and February in the studio. Now, back on the road playing Southeastern cities five days a week, they say returning to live gigs does not mean there's a preference for the road. The women's shared musical joys are rooted in one basic theme.

"It's not 'live' or 'studio,'" Miller explains of the duo's favored performance mode. "The answer is going to be 'music.' We just keep moving." SCommonbonD plays Babe's, Friday, April 19, 8 p.m. Call 355-9330 for information.



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