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I have 2 lovely lovely shows coming up!

Saturday, July 29, 10 am – 12
Sophie’s Cuppa Tea, Oakland
With Graham Hill
No cover

Saturday, August 12, 5-8 pm
House concert, Albany
Sets by Mike Glendinning, Jeff Zittrain, and me
Suggested donation

X-posting from my other site, allenskye.com, since this touches on music.

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Lately I had the supreme good luck to have a poem accepted in the brand-new publication Atmospheric River. It’ll be published with my real name, Skye Alexander (Skye Allen is my fiction pen name). The editors needed an artist statement. I’d never written one of those before.

I found this handy post, “The Artist Statement and Why They Mostly Suck,” at the Bmore Art blog. These instructions were vastly helpful:

“The essentials of the artist statement are as following:

1. An explanation of the materials and media – What tools do you use? Be as specific as you can.
2. An explanation of the subject matter and concepts explored – What are you communicating? Again, be specific – What sets your work apart from other work?
3. How these two aspects reinforce or contradict one another – What does your work DO?

Additional, optional aspects:
4. A short and specific personal narrative – no longer than 2 sentences
5. Historical context – explaining one or two influences on the work and placing it into an art historical continuum
6. NOTHING ELSE – save your feelings for your diary

Other suggestions:
1. Do a studio visit with a colleague, artist, or critic and have them answer questions 1-5 for you and take notes. Let someone more objective than you put your visual work into words.
2. Read artist statements by artists who do work similar to yours. If they did a good job, write something similar.”

The poem that will be in Atmospheric River is a sonnet, strict syllable and line count and everything, and it’s about taking voice lessons with Laurie Lewis at the Freight and Salvage. Here’s the artist statement I eventually came up with:

“This is one of a group of sonnets I wrote on slow days at a past job, all centered on the theme of limitation. I was taking singing lessons from a well-known bluegrass musician at the time — the singer in the poem — and exploring a classical poetry form helped me reconcile the need to sing with the strict traditions of an unfamiliar genre and with that day-job despair so many artists have in common.”

Me and Graham and the gifted young Abby will be at High Street Station soon…

Graham Skye Abby April 23

Me and Russ have a show next week at the Octopus! With Wilson Wong & the Dudes, one of my most favorite bands to sing along to from my seat. And MJ Lee., who has a lovely lovely voice.

2-5-16 flyer

The Octopus Literary Salon is an intimate new venue in downtown Oakland. Me and Russ Pollock are playing some traditional songs there next week. With Graham Hill doing a set of originals.

Octopus poster

Russ and me doing bluegrass karaoke with Special Consensus at Walker Creek Music Camp:

Graham Hill:

We’ll have to rustle up a hat for this guy too.

I was supposed to go to Walker Creek Music Camp today. I don’t have to tell you how desperately I’d been looking forward to it. There’s a singing class with Alice Gerrard! There’s a bass petting zoo! There’s dancing! And a handful of my besties are there. But the sore throat I woke up with yesterday turned into a truly nasty example of germ warfare today. So I am home, fending off the self-pity and hoping all that echinacea will set me right by morning.

There was an icebreaker happy hour today at camp. We were told to bring our favorite beverage to share. Here’s the drink I was going to make. I was inspired by the recipe in BUST’s Oct/Nov 2015 issue, but of course this is road-tested and tweaked to my liking.

November Dream

2 oz bourbon (I used Bulleit)

2 tsp orange liqueur (I used Villa Massa)

1 ½ oz apple cider

1 oz orange juice (more if you like it tart-er)

1 TB brown sugar and spice simple syrup (recipe below)

Soda water

Brown sugar for a sugar rim if you like

Orange slices or cinnamon sticks for garnish if you like

Fill a glass with ice and add the bourbon, orange liqueur, apple cider, simple syrup, and orange juice. Top with soda water and stir. Garnish if that’s your pleasure. Enjoy.

Brown Sugar and Spice Simple Syrup

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup water

1 TB cloves

3 cinnamon sticks

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a strong boil. Turn off the heat and let stand until cool. Strain. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Me and the outrageously talented Russ Pollock are doing a set of duets on July 11 in Alameda. With Wilson Wong and the Dudes and Graham Hill! Who are really songwriters. Our set is covers by…other songwriters.

Sat July 11, 7 – 9:30 PM
1303 High Street, Alameda 94501
$5-10 / all ages
highstreetposter2

So I kicked off the great guitar upgrade adventure recently. I’ve had my trusty Yamaha for almost 8 years, but I can tell the dear thing has its limitations. I’ve been dinking around on guitar all my life and practicing in earnest for 3 years, even though most of the time I’m still too mortified to play in front my Baby Boomer friends who bought their first guitars before I was born. I’m starting to appreciate that it’s not always just the skill of the player, it’s the quality of the instrument too. Or at least I don’t have as much of a string-buzzing problem on my baby Taylor, which is a fine creature but hurts my left arm too much to play regularly. The time seemed ripe to embark on the quest.

Plus I just got an advance for my new book, The Songbird Thief, coming out from Harmony Ink Press in 2016, yes that is the sound of SQUEEEE!! It seemed appropriate to celebrate with music, since the book is about a musician. Even though I know it would be prudent to reinvest the advance in promotion for the book. Or keep trying to recover from the 30% income tax hit that came from working as a music teacher for all of 2014. So, prudently, I went straight to Guitar Solo.

Let’s talk for ten seconds about being a girl in a guitar store. Back in the 90s when I was a newly minted adult let loose on my own in music stores, it was more accepted for the (always male) staff to actually say things like “So are you looking for something for your boyfriend/dad/brother?” Now I get the feeling they’re only thinking that as they look over my shoulder for my inevitable chaperone. Some places have gotten better. Guitar Center in Emeryville might deserve its reputation for not training their staff on acoustic instruments and only stocking mega-brands, but they do have a few female employees, and I’ve always been treated with the same hipster disdain as any male customer as far as I can tell. Bless the retail staff at Starland Music; they’re an all-woman crew of walking encyclopedias and most of them can play rings around you. But Starland mainly caters to students, and this is an upgrade quest.

Also, full disclosure, I am a chick singer who strums. I’ll never be an instrumentalist first. There’s a tired stereotype that singers are not musicians, that we just grope around by instinct and have no training or discipline while the rest of the band works hard to make us sound good. But that stereotype mainly comes from the fact that not as many women played instruments up until recent times. Nobody calls Bono a dude singer. I applaud the hell out of the Tom Tom Academy and the Girls Rock Camps. I’m sure I’m not the only one who replayed that scene with Tia Carrere playing the bass in Wayne’s World over and over or obsessed about Kim Gordon. But those are exceptions.

At any rate, I did not get the standard chick singer treatment at Guitar Solo, so thumbs up to them. The nice staff person asked me about my price range and the style of guitar I was looking for and then picked out a few instruments for me to try. It was lunchtime on a weekday and with 2 staff and 3 or 4 other customers, I was the only woman there, but that’s no surprise. Everyone left me to shop on my own, which is way better than asking if I was there to look for a guitarist (!!). I commandeered a handy bench and spent the next 45 minutes trying to compare instruments.

I followed the advice I got to play the same thing on every guitar for an honest side-by-side comparison. My choices were a G major scale, the melody to If I Needed You, and Pretty Saro with different chord shapes. Next time I’ll be bold enough to sing my song choice louder, since what I need is a guitar that can stand up to my singing.

I didn’t think I’d be able to hear a real difference, especially since I wasn’t the only one test-driving the stock right then, but I was wrong. I played a Larivee cutaway that was bigger than I wanted and I wasn’t especially looking for a cutaway, but it had a nice even voice (and I do love things made in Canada, ever since that adorable little Art & Lutherie guitar I rented at Acoustic Corner in Black Mountain, NC for the Swannanoa Gathering). And I tried out 3 Blueridges with different woods. One had a similar sound to the trusty Yamaha, a little too bright for me. One clearly had a bowed neck and I didn’t want to get into repairs before I even bought the thing.

And one was Goldilocks. It had rosewood back and sides, which gave it that warm counterweight sound I was looking for. It was narrower than my dreadnought, so it was lovely and comfortable to hold, but it didn’t sound too light. I tried the other ones and then went back to Goldilocks in between. The sales guy came by to offer me a discount on it. I only hesitated because a) this was my first stop on the quest and b) I was holding out hope for a used instrument I could afford. But I may just be back for that lovely thing.

images

Next stop on the shopping tour: Gryphon Strings!

Me and Douglas Closson are playing songs in our usual Irish/country/pirate style on Sat March 21. Plus a few ace musical guests who will blow you away. They definitely blow me away. There’s not enough practice time between now and the gig to ever be worthy.

Saturday, March 21, 7-9 PM
High Street Station Cafe
Food, wine & beer available
Cover: $10

I’m on the lineup!

Songwriters’ Night
Featuring Steve Witt, Yolanda Cazessus, David Kent, C, Graham Hill, & Skye Alexander
Friday, Feb 27, 7-9:30pm
High Street Station Café
$5-15
Beer, wine and food available

Song Writer's Night Feb. 27 (4)