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An Unlikely Dynamic Duo

John Davis and Laura Burhenn of the local group Georgie James create retro-pop music with lush harmonies and beats.
John Davis and Laura Burhenn of the local group Georgie James create retro-pop music with lush harmonies and beats. (By Shervin Lainez)

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By any name, the resulting sound was an energetic brand of power-pop propelled by Davis's chirpy guitar riffs and Burhenn's animated keyboards. They split vocal duties on many tracks, though some of their best songs are structured as duets, including the album's first single, "Need Your Needs," and "Henry and Hanzy."

Both musicians, who share all songwriting credits regardless of actual divisions of labor, have long histories. In the early '80s, Davis's father was program director and general manager at DC101 and several other stations, which brought John into contact with a lot of free records.

"A formative experience, just being around music all the time," Davis says. At 13, a year after getting a guitar as a birthday present, he started playing music with a group of friends, staying together through high school and college as the band Corm. As a high school senior, Davis started the first of two fanzines (Slanted, Held Like Sound) as well as Shute Records, which released Corm material and singles and compilations by local bands (Velocity Girl and Chisel would go on to major-label releases). Davis also hosted shows on campus station WMUC while attending the University of Maryland.

In Corm, Davis contributed guitar, backing vocals and eventually drumming, "never intending to be strictly a drummer in a band." When Q and Not U formed in 1998, he filled in briefly behind the kit. "After a while, we liked it and I liked doing it, and I didn't really have anything else going on," he said. "It was going really well, so we just stuck with it" until the band called it quits in 2005 after three albums.

Burhenn, who has a degree in literature from Catholic University, began taking piano lessons when she was 5. She made the first of two solo albums as a high school senior as part of an internship with the music department at Shepherd College in West Virginia, later starting Laboratory Records. Burhenn has played the local singer-songwriter/folk club circuit and has sat in with various bands appreciative of her skills on the Rhodes electric piano.

"Places" has earned positive reviews as well as airplay on college radio and major independent and online stations, including Los Angeles's prestigious KCRW. A new video for the guitar-driven "Need Your Needs," directed by Scott Mueller and Eric Cheevers, is on the band's MySpace page.

Next month, Georgie James will help launch an NPR offshoot of "All Songs Considered." "Project Song," recorded in NPR's Studio 4A, challenges artists to write, record and mix a song in two days after choosing a theme from six photo images and six words or phrases printed on white cards. The whole process is filmed and edited into a mini-documentary that will be available at http://www.npr.org/music, with the music available as part of the "All Songs Considered" podcast.

Georgie James's challenge: an empty office space filled with books and the word "joyful." "All Songs Considered" creator Bob Boilen says the song, told from the perspective of the books, is brilliant.

"I'm excited to see the final edited version," says Burhenn, who adds, "I'm also kind of mortified."

Georgie James Appearing Friday at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. Show starts at 9. Tickets are $10, available from the club's box office (cash only, no service charge) and Ticketmaster (202-397-7328 or http://www.ticketmaster.com). If you can't make it Friday: Georgie James will perform free at Crooked Beat Records (2318 18th St. NW) Saturday at 7 to celebrate the indie music store's 10th anniversary. "Places" was the store's bestseller in October and remains so in November. The Download: To see a video of Georgie James's "Need Your Needs," visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/weekend. To hear a sampling of the duo's music, check out: From "Places":¿ "Look Me Up" ¿ "Cake Parade" ¿ "Need Your Needs" Georgie James Appearing Friday at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. Show starts at 9. Tickets are $10, available from the club's box office (cash only, no service charge) and Ticketmaster (202-397-7328 or http://www.ticketmaster.com). If you can't make it Friday: Georgie James will perform free at Crooked Beat Records (2318 18th St. NW) Saturday at 7 to celebrate the indie music store's 10th anniversary. "Places" was the store's bestseller in October and remains so in November. The Download: To see a video of Georgie James's "Need Your Needs," visit http://www.washingtonpost.com/weekend. To hear a sampling of the duo's music, check out: From "Places":¿ "Look Me Up" ¿ "Cake Parade" ¿ "Need Your Needs"


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