Singing in Sacramento’s Spring

Never have I been more thankful for my teachers and technique, than in Sacramento’s glorious spring.   A layer of gold pollen covers cars, the trees are blooming and colorful flower petals float back in forth in the light valley breeze.  Everywhere I look, there’s flowers, poppies, roses, lavender, dandelions, mustard and wild weeds.  It’s beautiful here and it’s beauty has been a muse to many an artist beit painter or composer.

What does it mean for a singer with notorious hay fever?  Having a good understanding of the typical physiological response to allergens and a plan of action, is so important.  Last year I tried a new product, Sensimist by Flonase and I have finally found real relief.  I still get some breakthrough sneezing so an Allegra on top does the trick.  Kudos to Flonase for coming up with this fabulous product.  

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I do my best to head it off early but sometimes still miss the mark.  My toolbox contains:

  • Sensimist by Flonase
  • Allegra
  • Zaditor
  • Albuterol
  • Neti pot
  • Water
  • Water

It’s a well known and ongoing issue which is why understanding the physiological response to allergens is so important for singers.   The natural inclination is to become tense and press- but don’t!  Just don’t!

Relax, fall back. retreat, do some easy ooohs and gentle well placed eeees – resist the temptation to panic and consider your antihistamines and environment.  Listen to the people around you.  So many of the workers in my office have raspy sounding voices at the moment and my best buddy told me she couldn’t even sing the hymns in church on Sunday.  So I know it’s related to the environment and to rely on my understanding of my instrument and careful technique.

There are a few things I’ve done to make it easier performance wise as well:

  • Lowered my repertoire
  • Became good at changing keys depending on the scenario or on the condition of my instrument
  • Learn to trust my technique – go low for the high notes, high for the low notes, never press, sing the vowels and be patient.   When the pollen’s crazy it takes a little longer to warm up, and more awareness to keep the support.

As soon as we bust 100 degrees it gets better.   But look at these guys, is it any wonder??

They’re like little assholes, standing poised to ruin your spring performances.

When you feel their affects, proceed with caution, go back to the gentle basics of good singing technique and if that’s not enough:

  • After two weeks of insurmountable symptoms, see your doctor
  • Hit the Benadryl when you have to.  Though it knocks me out, nothing calms the stymptoms better
  • Rest when you need to, wait for that 100 degree day, adjusting the pitch of your repertoire (still practicing good technique) and
  • resist the temptation to look up various online diagnosis
  • Resist the temptation to scratch your skin
  • Water
  • Ricola
  • Water

If you can afford an allergist and can handle the shots that may eliminate the whole ordeal, and local bee honey is supposed to help as well.  But if not be patient, summers coming!

Friday Night Music in Sacramento

Where to begin?  Last night was packed with fun, friends and superb talent.  If you don’t get out to see live music in this town you are really missing out.  I started the night out at The Shack in East Sac and got a Lyft down to Old Ironsides right as Anton Barbeau was going on.  I recognized some of his songs and was blown away by the tightness of his band and how the songs themselves had matured into really fine works.  Aural pleasure.  Here’s Anton:

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Next I ran over to the Fox and Goose and walked in on Dr. Velocity playing and singing some beautiful songs.  I was struck right away by the quality of his songwriting and the sweet vocal delivery.  I will definitely be following his work.   Next up was Kimberlina and Jeffry Wynne-Prince.  Both of them are excellent musicians in their own right and you put them together and bliss is the word that comes to mind.  It was heaven to hear Kimberlina sing with Jeffry backing her, great guitar sounds and I swear that woman has perfect pitch.   I did not hear a single wrong or off note and I am in awe of her consistency.  Great work and I look forward to seeing them again soon.  Photo by Allyson Seconds.

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I ran back over to Old I and caught Harley White Jr. with his band Clouds Roll By and again, I was struck by the superior quality musicianship and Harley’s performance.  Dripping with sweat he easily commands attention, he settles into the beat and lifts you up.

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Next up was Blame the Bishop.  I’m biased as two of the members play in my band as well.  But I love these guys.  Great songs, harmonies that are infectious and unfortunately for the video guy, my big mouth can’t help but sing along too from the audience.  I get a little enthusiastic when I hear great local acts.  I love that about this group, accessible songs and some truly gorgeous harmonies.  Add to the mix the fact that you’ve got two great guitar players who sing well and it’s a recipe for magic.  Down with the Ship is a favorite.  That song is something else, but they’re all well worth hearing.  Photo by Dan Smith.

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If I could have been in two places at once I would have put myself both at Old Ironsides and the Fox and Goose as I unfortunately missed Kevin Seconds and his wife Allyson play and they too are top quality musicians.  I’ll be catching them the next time.  I caught a Lyft back home and was tucked in some time after midnight.  I can’t believe I got all that entertainment for less than twenty bucks.  I couldn’t have asked for a better night out in this fine town.

Happiness

Oh I’m a happy gal these days! I worked my booty off over my two week break from my med center job and during that time I worked with a fervor I didn’t even know I had. I went deep and at times felt like I was cliffhanging- my Craigslist super iMac kept crashing and there were several times I thought a song was done in that I couldn’t get past the crash factor. But persistence and patience paid off.

A great mix is key – it’s the hinge. I was good to go through the mixes but when it comes to mastering that’s where I sorta kinda know what it should look and sound like but there were times I knew something wasn’t quite right. Thankfully there’s a service for that process.

In the end, I feel like I grew my grey matter and pulled out the tools in my arsenal, humor, harmony, and a dose of whimsy. Let the Wild West Medicine Show take you on a journey! To be released soon!!!

Bourbon on my Deathbed

I’m terribly impatient. I want to release these as I get them recorded and don’t have anything keeping me from doing that. Freedom is a beautiful thing. I’ll eventually pull them all together into a CD format and hopefully manage to keep a few songs a surprise.  

My family is from Ashland Kentucky and my Granny and I had an especially close relationship.   She was an amazing and entertaining lady.  She would talk about how beautiful Kentucky was and how she ached to return to the land of her roots.

When she was in the assisted living facility she was a hoot.  I was visiting with her one afternoon and she was telling me about what was happening with the lady she shared the room with and somehow we started talking about  Kentucky and she said, “Oh, what I wouldn’t give for some KY bourbon.  Just a taste would be sooo good.”  and I said, “Granny, I can take care of that for  you right now.  There’s no good reason why you can’t have yourself a little swig of bourbon if you want it.”  You could see her eyes just light up at the thought and then she said, “Oh, no…no. I just couldn’t,”  “Yes, Granny, yes, you can.  It’ll only take me a moment to run to a package store and get you some!”  She refused.   It was a funny moment that stuck with me.  So this song is for her.  I tried to capture her passion and love for the state and I accidentally made up a word, which I can fix in editing  – I’m just  not sure I want to.

Lyrics:

Give me bourbon on my deathbed
fill my cup, before I die.
In that cup, I place my solace and the
secrets of my life.

Kentucky bourbon on my deathbed
when the bells begin to chime
Oh the devil comes a callin,
If I drink before it’s time.

Give me God that sweet refreshment
it’s like horses running wild
through the bluegrass fields of heaven
as I cross the great divide.

One last kiss of pure delightment –
one last taste upon my tongue,
for this land has been my heaven,
Kentucky bourbon take me home.
Kentucky bourbon take me home.

Two Days Gone

I’m terribly impatient.  I want to hold back until the whole CD is finished, but I can’t wait to share when I think I’m onto something.  I guess the great thing about being an indie musician/producer is that you don’t have someone telling you not to do something.  So here it is.  I typically close out my shows with Two Days Gone as it’s a natural fit.  I love to sing and play this song live.  And I admit to being somewhat twisted.  When I wrote this song, it was with the intent of writing the “complete” country-blues song.  It had to have certain elements (I think I even collected a list of these words before finally writing the lyrics), trains, a gun shot, lightning and a shack, red clay roads, Alabama and Memphis, family drama, someone in jail, someone in heaven, a bar, a hotel and a twenty.

The photo is by Pat Henson and can be found here: www.flickr.com/photos/80297647@N00/2275352946

Two Days Gone by Kally O’Mally
I got crippled back in Memphis when Bessie
shot me in the knee.
Lightnin hit our run down shack and I was
begging God to please, take me now I’ve had enough
I can’t take another day. So I packed it on up and took
the south bound train.

Whoa Momma’s gone to heaven.
Bessie’s all locked up in jail.
Papa ain’t been seen nor heard from for the
past fifteen years.
I’m sleeping here in this cheap hotel.
Girls in short skirts hanging out in the stairwell.
Down on my luck ain’t got nothing,
nothing to sell.

Chorus:
I’m two days gone, so all alone, no
dial tone on the telephone,
holes in the wall, no one to call, no one at all.

So I made my way to a bar named Sam’s
Deep down in southern Alabama.
Where the land is red and there’s fools a plenty
bought me some beer, spent the last of my twenty.
Gonna find me the reaper he’ll have plenty to sow.
Gonna pack it all up, it’s the end.
Gonna pack it all up, it’s the end, end of the road.

I’m Gonna Run

I spent Saturday working on this piece using Logic Pro X, my Ipad and IMac and my Blue Yeti microphone.  Composing brings out my OCD. I love nothing more than delving into edits and continually fine tuning the instrumentation and mix and getting it out of my head and into a solid format.

The scandalous NFL Rice and Peterson incidents have instigated much needed discussions surrounding domestic abuse and family violence.  The #WhyIStayed comments have been incredibly revealing and I wanted to write a song that was more hopeful and optimistic about the topic.  It takes a lot of strength to break out of something bad, especially if it’s been going on for awhile and conditioning takes hold.

This is for the women who aren’t afraid to run.

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It’s gotten bad, it sure ain’t good.
His temper’s rising, he’s gotten cruel.
It’s time to go. I’m no longer safe.
Ain’t no therapy, gonna change that face.

I’m gonna run, I’m gonna hide
I’m gonna find, the strength I left, behind, I’m gonna run.

I’ve got a plan. I’ve packed some bags.
Gonna head straight up through North Carolina
I’ve got three thousand dollars, and a clean car title.
I know I’ll be just fine, if I can make it past the state line.

Bridge:
I’ve grown stronger. I’m standing tall.
I may bend, but I’ll never fall….
cause I’m gonna run.

Photo by Sascha Kohlman

My Songwriting and Producing Process

I work in academic medicine during the week and my evenings are packed with workouts and band rehearsals so Saturday and Sunday are ideal for composing and getting deep into my craft.  I’m coming down to the final process of my instrumental CD, 12 songs are mixed and ready to be looked at for line up, transitions and mastering.  I accidentally fell into my 13th composition for that CD last Saturday and I think I’ve decided on a name, Delandia.  Naming instrumentals is much tougher than a lyric based song so I look for a word or group of words that conveys the color/hue/vibe of the piece.

I’ve also started recording the tracks for my next CD, which will include, Sweet Delta Breeze, Fly, Oops I Fell Off the Barstool, Miss Understood, Got my One Good Eye On You and a bunch of other tracks.  As a sound engineer, I am extremely interested in the mix and the tricks, continually asking myself, what can I do to make it better, richer and sonically clear. I see so many folks listening to songs right from the speakers of their phones so I think about that mix as well.

My songs are born from all sorts of methods.  Sometimes I get the music first, sometimes I get the lyrics first.  Sometimes some sort of event occurs in my life that is so vivid, so strong it becomes the catalyst for inspiration.  I often get the song all at once, as if I opened up the front door to discover a beautifully wrapped gift left on the porch.  All I have to do is pick it up and unwrap it.  Sometimes it’s so simple it’s downright silly.   Other times it’s silly but not quite as simple.

Oops I Fell Off the Barstool took a little longer and it belongs in that vivid life event category.  Here’s how it went down: A very nice looking blonde lady was sitting at the bar of One Speed restaurant in East Sacramento and enjoying dinner and beers.  She looked a little tipsy but not drunk.  She was laughing and chatting and having a nice time.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw her hand fly up and then heard a big commotion and looked over and she was on the floor and the barstool was on it’s side.  The servers and busboys came running over to make sure she was okay and she popped right up, red in the face and embarrassed.  She went back to her meal and things settled down.

About 4 days later I was sitting in that same barstool.  I had just finished teaching yoga and was enjoying a nice cold beer or two and don’t quite recall exactly how it happened.  I may have leaned back a hair and not realized it, but the next thing you know, I’m on the floor and the chair is on it’s side and I was like, “What just happened?”  I got up and pulled myself together and did a mental review of the incident but couldn’t quite believe it.

The next morning I was in the shower getting ready for work (I get a lot of songs in the shower) and I heard the melody and the line, “Ooops, I fell off the barstool last night!, Gave the poor bartender a terrible fright…the chair flew out and I fell down, people the restaurant turned around when Oops I fell off the barstool last night.”  The rest of the song came over the next few days and involves a bump on my head, a sore butt cheek and one or two beers too many….  Bright fun harmonies and a nice rowdy feel with humor.

So tell me, have you ever fallen off of a barstool?  Or seen someone else fall off of a barstool?

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