Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Little Bird Spring Tour: NorCal & So Oregon

We're hitting the road for a 3-show run in Nor Cal & So Oregon. Have friends along our route? Please send them our way!

Thursday, April 17th, 2014
1500 Q St Sacramento CA 95811 USA with Calling Tempo and High Alive
Friday, April 18th, 2014
Self & Soul House Concert - 7:30pm
9820A Wagner Creek Road Talent OR 97540
Price: $13 adv/15-20 door
 An acoustic house concert at this special Oregon venue."Self & Soul Center is a 25-acre biodynamic nature preserve and garden on year-round Wagner Creek. This land, infused with beauty and creative collaboration, is a healing container for personal and group renewal."
Call for more info: 541-708-0178
Saturday, April 19th, 2014
550 S G St. Arcata Ca 95521

Read.Eat.Listen: Regeneration

I was dismayed, heartened, inspired and confused by the latest report by the UN on Climate Change. Dismayed that things are as bad as they are; heartened that experts are not shying away from the truth; inspired by the possibilities for taking action and confused at how and where to start on the individual level. The upshot is, of course, there's no more time to waste when it comes to taking action to slow climate change and no more excuses to be made: climate change is a man-made problem. We've a couple more decades, if that, to halt or slow the crisis. This lifetime. Right now. Where to begin when the problems — from fossil fuel use, to fracking, to plastics in the ocean, to rampant development —  have such momentum? Fortunately, there are many people on it. Now it's our turn to listen and believe that what we do today affects tomorrow and  that the affect can be beneficial. Toward that end, I've been so encouraged to see all the footage of hatching Peregrines from the 'nest-cams' set up around the Bay Area. By the 1970s, the Peregrine was an Endangered Species, a victim of rampant pesticide use, but with diligent efforts by biologists and a ban on DDT use, the falcon population recovered. Thirty years of combined legislation and action works. Now look at them go: 

Read: Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior, a takes on climate change in novel form. "Flight Behavior is a brilliant and suspenseful novel set in present day Appalachia; a breathtaking parable of catastrophe and denial that explores how the complexities we inevitably encounter in life lead us to believe in our particular chosen truths." 
Plus, this article: UN Climate Report Charts Ways to Halt Global Warming
Eat: An afternoon snack at Piccino in Dogpatch the other day entailed a spring soup made with butter beans. Butter Beans, or Fava Beans, are those large, lovely kidney shaped beans that look engineered for presentation possibilities. They're also yummy. I've got my eye on this easy breezy spring salad of Fava Beans with Red Onion and Mint.
Listen: I've been on an Over the Rhine jag most of the year, I admire The Lone Bellow and I've been a fan of eTown since the 90s when I lived in Boulder and watched many a live taping. So I was delighted to see this Over the Rhine/Lone Bellow/eTones rendition of Slip Sliding Away. Beauty. Yes.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Willie Nelson, Shovels & Rope @ The Greek 4/12/14

I first saw Willie Nelson 10+ years back at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 3. I wasn't expecting to like him, this favorite of my best friend's mom growing up. Instead,  I stood in the lowering sun amid the gazillion other fans as he walked onstage and greeted the crowd with a sly grin and open arms, and went, 'oh' as my ignorance was elucidated. My husband remembered seeing him play a marathon 3+-hr set from years earlier. "He just kept going...' So when we saw Willie, now 80 years old,  would be playing opening day of Berkeley's Greek Theater we said yeah!
Shovels & Ropes opened the evening on Saturday with a raucous set of their high-energy rock, playing like gleeful children let loose in the instrument room and appreciating every moment of their time on the Greek stage. Cary Ann Hearst has a voice like Dolly Parton's wayward niece, matched nearly word-for-word by her husband Michael Trent's harmony vocal, each playing guitar, drums, harmonica and a synth bass and singing lead as the song dictated. They lit a fire under the crowd and it wasn't even dark yet, and their song 'Birmingham' has been in my head ever since. 'rock of ages....'
I'd never seen the next 'opening' act, Drive By Truckers playing as a 5-piece....and was completely underwhelmed.
 Fortunately, everyone was keeping to the schedule and Willie came on soon enough, starting with what seemed to be one big medley of every great song you forget you know — Crazy and Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain and Always on My Mind. It didn't feel like a country music concert rather than a performance of the revised edition of the Great American Songbook by one of the Great American Songwriters of our time. Jeepers. And like a large engine, Willie just ran smoother and hotter as the set progressed, playing several instrumentals to better display his guitar prowess, singing a few new songs amid his well-burnished hits,  his voice undiminished by time, laughing and tossing bandannas and hats to the crowd and generally making a good case for playing music and doing what you love to stay happy and healthy.

Monday, April 7, 2014

At the Roots: Music, Matthiessen & Earth Day Marin

©Dave Perkes photo,
The weekend was punctuated by hearing a bunch of great music, attending and playing a tune at the Earth Day Marin Celebration and learning of the passing of writer and naturalist Peter Matthiessen.
Friday, we waved goodbye to a songwriter-friend who is moving across the country and then got ourselves to Lafayette's Lamorinda Music Store for "3 Voices in Song," an evening with songwriters Wendy Beckerman, Louise Taylor and Karen Almquist. Wendy is the ringleader of a 'songwriter's exchange' we've been participating in for years. I've written about 'song group' before — a regular, grassroots gathering of diverse songwriters who come together to share a meal, their latest work and feedback — as it powerfully and stealthily became a trusted sounding board for many of my songs.
The trio's show at Lamorinda displayed the long-time friends' musical mastery. This wasn't flashy or trendy music, it was real and heart-filled music by dedicated artists. Three-part harmonies, blues riffs, delicate finger-picking... a great expanse of musical range and heart. Everyone had a firm command of their instruments and the joy they were taking in playing together was palpable. Wendy has a finely tuned sensibility for melody and meaning. When she isn't writing songs, she's teaching mindfulness classes: her songs are exacting, excellent and poetic. Karen, a kick-ass guitar player and self-proclaimed song 'interpreter', covered Jesse Winchester and early James Taylor, offered up several beautiful originals and added some cooking harmonica to the mix. Louise Taylor, also new to me, is a longtime troubadour who calls Hawaii home and wields a hollow-body Duesenburg guitar with the confident swagger of a gunslinger. Only it's her voice which is the real weapon. When she's not writing and performing, she's a voice teacher so...think Bonnie Raitt's long-lost sister. It was a truly nourishing night of authentic and highly skilled music. 
You think that would have been enough but ...we had tickets to Gurf Morlix house concert presented by KC Turner on Saturday night.  As a longtime devotee of Lucinda Williams and lover of Austin music, I'd heard Gurf's name a long while: he accompanied Williams for 11 years, and produced her first two albums (also co-writing one of my favorite Williams' tunes ,'Big Red Sun Blues'), but that's just a note in a long and storied career. As well as being a sought-after producer, he's a master guitar player and to-the-bone honest songwriter in the tradition of Townes Van Zandt, Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen and Blaze Foley (to whom he pays homage to live and in multiple recordings). Sitting back in a living room and hearing him sing and play a small-body guitar accompanied by singer-songwriter Amilia Spicer on vocals, I was musically transported to South Austin, and lyrically transported to the back roads of Texas where the living is hard and choices life or death. Again, a night of real-deal music.
Right before we left the house for the Gurf show, I learned that writer and naturalist Peter Matthiessen had passed. Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard was required reading for any self-respecting Environmental Studies major at UCSC. As a nature loving,  aspiring writer undergrad, I ate up that landmark book, as well as, in subsequent years,  his many New Yorker essays and writings on Buddhism and nature through the years. His words are steeped in integrity. When I had the privilege of meeting him in person after hearing him speak in SF a while back, I was struck by his immense heart and exacting presence. Reading his obituary and the many, recently penned tributes  (he has a new book that's set to be released tomorrow),  I'm struck again by his dedication to truth and activism: "it’s our duty [as writers] to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves."
Mostly, I'm reminded it's a privilege to read and to write, period.
On that note, while a contest is somewhat antithetical to the spirit of the artists mentioned above, I was nonetheless honored to have a song co-written with Kwame Copeland, "Your Own Reaction," chosen as a finalist in the Earth Day Marin Song Contest. And despite my cold-compromised voice, we ventured to Larkspur for a full day in the sun, listening to many speakers and musicians who are actively working on behalf of the environment and sustainable living, and performing our song. Marin residents are truly leaders on this front, and I was impressed with the effort made by producer Hannah Doress to pull the various organization and events together to share their knowledge and activism.  Kudos, Hannah!
Alas, our song did not win the grand prize (and a recording of it is just getting mixed so I can't post it) but I hope its message will add to the effort to make the world a better place:  
"Start your own reaction/See what you can do"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Read.Eat.Listen: Surrender

Seemingly out of nowhere this week, I came down with a 24-hour-ish bug and ended up canceling two-days worth of my oh-so-carefully made plans. Poof! I didn't go out of the house for a day and (mostly) unplugged. Kind of a drag and kind of a blessing at the same time. Today, everything was so vivid, the sun coming out after rain rendered the sky that much more blue, sprouting seedlings in the garden that much more green, that I felt grateful for the enforced break from it all. It's really easy for me to get busy, to try too hard, to try to figure it all out now, when the truth of the matter is I only have a certain amount of control over events.  The benefit of getting sick is how easy it makes it to stop — thinking too much, doing too much, whatever — and listening.  I'm reminded that surrender is not about giving up or giving in, it's simply about stopping the fight.

Read: Yay, it's national poetry month. There's a nice blog "A Year of Being Here" that features a mindfulness poem each day. One recent entry from poet Chris Forhan:

It seized me—never mind the circumstance: sudden
scent in the breeze like cinnamon, sun silvering
a roof as the unicycle parade began—it seized me

as sickness does, wholly, with no mercy,
all of my body obeisant to its law as though none of it
were mine, finally: not the joy or the body. 
Chris Forhan

Eat: Caldo aka hot soup. There's a Mexican restaurant in town, Acapulco, that does a kick-ass version, either veggie or with chicken, and its all I wanted to eat while under-the-weather. Here's a veggie version from Food 52. Simple, good, healing.

Listen: My pal and life-long music eductor Sally, gave me David Sylvian's 'Dead Bees on a Cake' on cassette many years ago (it was first released in 1999). Today I got in the car after yoga and heard one of the songs from that record, ' Krishna Blue,' and recalled how great that CD was. I also remembered another song on Dead Bees that fit the day: "I Surrender."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April's Full: Something Special & Fools

When I lived in Colorado, I learned that one of the most respected professors at CU, Patricia Limerick, a MacArthur fellow who heads up the Center for the American West in Boulder, was also the "University Fool." In her official capacity as fool — a title she proudly holds — she dresses up as a clown each April 1 to act the jester around town and campus, "bringing some levity" to an otherwise serious institution.
Limerick's combination of irreverence and excellence impressed me. While you won't find me in clown makeup today, April Fools' Day, I thought I'd nonetheless join in the spirit of foolishness (or foolhardiness) and share a demo of one of my newer (and quirkier) songs  'Something Special.' About my childhood fascination with the legend of Bigfoot, I wasn't sure this song was going to leave the house after I wrote it. Nonetheless, since I've added 'Something Special' to the set list, it's been finding its legs (err, feet). Plus I've found out a lot of folks are still very interested in Bigfoot! I hope you enjoy it. 
 "SOMETHING SPECIAL (Bigfoot Song)" 
(view email on your browser to see the player)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

TONIGHT! Songwriters-in-the-Round @ High Street Station Cafe, in Alameda

Enjoy an intimate evening of music with Bay Area Folk-Rock, Americana singer-songwriters: Amber Snider, Ari Fellows-Mannion (of Loretta Lynch) & Deborah Crooks. $10 door.

We'll play the first half in-the-round, followed by mini-sets by each artist featuring their bandmates and accompanists.

High Street Station Cafe has a full dinner and drink menu. Located in a historic building, High Street Station Cafe is a cafe by day and a lounge by night. A comfortable atmosphere, High Street Station is packed with many cozy couches and chairs, a stage, great food, and friendly staff. Make a reservation for dinner by calling High St. at (510) 995-8049;