Sera Cahoone’s latest work is a kind of retrospective on her previous four albums, with a difference. She has included seven previously recorded songs: “Couch Song” from her eponymous first album, “Baker Lake” from her second album, Only as the Day Is Long, “Worry All Your Life,” “Shakin’ Hands,” and “Deer Creek Canyon” from her third album, Deer Creek Canyon, and “Up to Me” and “Dusty Lungs” from her 2017 album, From Where I Started. However, this time the songs have been arranged for her voice and guitar, along with a string section consisting of a violin, viola, and cello. Just a small string section backing her guitar and vocals. It creates a more intimate setting for the songs that make them come across as less Country and more brooding Alt-Folk.
Cahoone’s songs were arranged by violist Alex Guy (who, BTW, is not a guy), of the group Led to Sea. Since I hadn’t heard of Led to Sea before, I checked them out, and if you get a chance, you might want to listen to a few cuts from their 2015 album, The Beautiful Humming of Ms. Fortune. Her six-piece band (mostly women), which includes strings, trumpet, bass, percussion, and Alex’s haunting vocals, create a fairly unique sound that fuses classical, pop, and experimental. I’m one of those people who gets a bit twitchy when they hear “experimental,” but I found their work very appealing.
But back to Sera Cahoone’s Flora String Sessions. I listened to each of the songs in both their original arrangement and in the arrangements done by Alex, and the difference is striking. In every case, I preferred the new arrangement. Of course, I am new to Ms. Cahoone’s work, and it’s possible that established fans would prefer the versions they first came to love.
I found that the collaboration between these two talented artists made something new and compelling. You might want to check it out. The tracks can be heard on You Tube.
Sera Cahoone Discography
2005: Sera Cahoone (self-released, licensed distribution via Sub Pop Records)
2008: Only as the Day Is Long (Sub Pop Records)
2012: Deer Creek Canyon (Sub Pop Records)
2017: From Where I Started (Lady Muleskinner Records)
2018: The Flora String Sessions EP
Led to Sea Discography
2007: Led to Sea (Eleven Records)
2013: Into the Darkening Sky (Scary Trophy)
2015: The Beautiful Humming of Ms. Fortune (Scary Trophy)
I found out about this from Meghan Toohey’s Instagram feed:
Meg Toohey is one of those awesomely multitalented musicians who fronted both The So and So’s and The Cold and Lovely, has written excellent music, has held the first guitar chair in the Broadway musical “Waitress,” etc., etc. Well, she has also done recording and production work, and now she’s taking on the production of the recording of Jesus Christ Superstar (with an all-female cast).
On January 16, 2017, a concert of Jesus Christ Superstar was performed at Highline Ballroom to a capacity crowd. The music was as it always was. The pronouns remained the same. Not a lyric, or key, or tempo was altered. But there was something historically different – the female centered cast. They stood in the wings, the weight of national events on their minds, and the wind of the largest single-day protest in American history at their backs. The excitement was palpable.
From the downbeat of the Overture to the final chord of John 19:41, the audience was exalted by the power and glory of these fearless performers and their all-female band. Over the past many months, we have heard from you – “Are you going to record this?” The answer is yes.
Our intention is to capture the electricity of that night while honoring the landmark concept album that started it all. As you read this, we are confirming participation from the incredible artists we have invited to join us. Shoshana Bean will reprise her role as Judas Iscariot to Morgan James’ Jesus Christ, with many of that evening’s company in place.
If you were there, you know what I am talking about. If you weren’t there, now is your chance.
So, if you like the idea of supporting women making music, hop on over to Pledge Music and check it out. For a measly $15 you can get a digital copy of the project, or if you have more to spend, you can get lots of different goodies.
These are my notes on Garrison Starr’s “August Residency #1” at ConcertWindow.com, 8/8/2017. (Who the hell takes notes on a concert? Sheesh, I guess that makes me a journalist.)
This is the first time I’ve attended a live musical performance online. It’s an exciting concept for me since I am unable to attend concerts in person.
Like any real concert, it would appear that this one is not starting exactly on-time. Ooops, turns out I didn’t have Adobe Flash turned on on my MacBook Pro.
She’s starting with an oldie (after complaining about the heat in her home, where she’s performing). I didn’t catch the title. It’s got, “I am born again” in the lyrics. Will try to figure it out later. (Had to switch to taking notes on my iPad, lest it bugger up the audio on my MacBook Pro.) She forgot the last verse of the song. The performance was halted for a moment due to technical sound difficulties, and while Garrison consulted the lyrics. It’s got, “Singing like a victim” in last verse.
It’s too hot for make-up, Garrison commented. She’s performing in a black tank top and looks like she’s sweating profusely. The next song is, “Nobody’s Breaking Your Heart,” written with Maia Sharp. This is not a song that I’ve heard on albums by either Garrison or Maia.
Each week will be different, and next week, she will have some “special guests.” Hmm, I wonder who it will be? I would so love to hear her with AG and/or Maia, but that’s probably too much to hope for.
This must be so hard, performing without a visible/audible audience. It’s like doing a reading, which I’ve done, in front of people who close their eyes and drop their chins to their chests while they listen. You wonder, “Are you deeply moved by what I’m reading, or are you all sound asleep?” My motto: Hey, no sound of snoring, no problem.
Technical problem: One person isn’t getting the sound. The rest of us are. Oops, now that person “tipped” Garrison and is now getting the show.
Garrison is in good voice tonight. Hearing her in a stripped down situation puts the emphasis on her voice and musicianship.
She is playing “Put Your Weapon Down,” from the new EP, “What If There Is No Destination” (2017). She’s singing her heart out, despite the high humidity. Proves that she is at least water-resistant, if not water-proof. (The scene is almost as wet as, albeit not quite as artsy as, the water scene from the movie, “Flashdance.”)
Now she’s playing one of my requests, “Sit with Me Tonight,” from the 2010 album of the same name. A beautiful song, and she is sounding terrific this evening. I was afraid that sans backup players or over-dubbing, some of the songs would come across diminished, but that’s just not so. For a moment, it sounded like she was swapping riffs with a bird outside. (smile)
Amy Wilkins is handling the video and audio. Garrison says her dog, Gracie, is there, too, but I haven’t seen her yet.
Cool, she’s doing my other request, “Slow Crawl,” from her 2012 “Amateur” album. It’s wild to be able to type in a request or encouragement and have her respond to it directly. Ah, modern technology!
Next, she’s doing, “The Lucky One,” from her 2017 EP, “What If There Is No Destination.” She seems very relaxed and into the songs. The one song she didn’t remember, she promised the requester she’d perform in a future show. (Ah, she wants to keep us coming back!)
Finally, Gracie has a few things to say (she’s the pup). If you tip US$12 to get an MP3 recording of the show, Garrison says she’ll add some sparkle to make it sound better. (Note to any other physically/medically challenged folks out there. Getting the MP3 is a nice way to hear the whole show even if you don’t have quite the stamina to sit through the whole thing. Luckily, I’m doing well tonight.)
Next is “Tough Girl,” off her latest EP. What a beautiful song. This ought to be picked up to be used in some TV show or something. It’s a very woman-positive song that shows some really vulnerability. (She lost her voice, just a wee bit, at one point. She came right back, though. Real pro.)
Next is “Burn the Dark,” which apparently got played in its entirety on some TV show. I can’t find it in the albums/EPs I have by Garrison. Does anyone else know if it’s on a recording?
Sign on the back wall of the area of her home that she’s using for the performance, “Proud Owner of a Rescue Pet.” You go, girl.
Next is “Other People’s Eyes,” which she wrote while living in someone’s basement when she came back to California. This song was definitely written at a low point for her, “feeling washed up…all the dreams I once had are dead.” It’s a good song. Maybe that’s a cricket, rather than a bird that is occasionally harmonizing with her.
(Note to Garrison, if she happens to read it: You really ought to be kind to your fans and get someone to put the lyrics to the songs on your albums and EPs on your web site. These days, I get my music by download, and most of the lyric sites on the web don’t do a decent job of covering your catalog. I had wanted to put in a snippet from this song here, but I can’t find the lyrics. Grr.)
Next, “Train bound for glory.” (Cool, my Apple Watch tells me that I’ve met my move goal for the day while sitting here listening to this concert. I guess I’ve been rocking and rolling, and bouncing around as I’ve listened to the music.) (Smile.)
I lost the audio and video for a moment, but a page refresh got it back quickly.
Next, she’s performing “Closer My Love,” from “The Forgotten Street” (2014). She’s doing a nice retrospective of her compositions. I’m really enjoying this.
Gracie, the dog, is once again, having her say. We still haven’t gotten to see her.
Next, she’s doing, “Sing It Like a Victim,” off “The Sound of You and Me.” This is the song she started with that she didn’t feel right about since some of us couldn’t hear it at that point. So, she’s doing it again.
Each of these shows she’s doing will be different. There are still three left to go.
She’s ending this set with “Bend It Till It Breaks,” another song I cannot find on the albums and EPs I have.
She’ll be performing in Fairfield, CT, this fall. Even though that’s in my state, I won’t be able to attend. At least this way, I get to experience a live performance by a musician I really admire.
I’ve had a very enjoyable hour, and if you think of it, surf on into ConcertWindow next week, and check it out. She’s a very talented composer, singer, and musician, who puts on a good show.
We’ve moved down the block, a bit, in going from the Rescues to Garrison Starr, but it’s still in the same neigborhood. Adrianne Gonzalez (AG) of the Rescues is also a member, with Garrison Starr, of The Silent War, a writing and performance collaboration that has produced some fine music and one video. Also, both AG and Garrison have toured and performed with Maia Sharp. All three of them together are a pretty damned awesome combination.
But Garrison is also a singer-songwriter who has released 15 solo albums and EPs. Some of the songs she’s done that you might recognize include “Superhero,” “Sit With Me Tonight,” and one my faves, “Slow Crawl.” Interestingly, it was AG who wrote and directed the video for “Slow Crawl,” and if you look closely in the “Superhero” video, that lovely harmonizer with the neon-red/pink? on her head is none other than AG. That girl gets around.
Her latest effort is an EP, “What If There Is No Destination,” which is a collection of six new songs.
The six songs on this EP are strong, honest compositions. They show the artist in a reflective mood, and they cut closer to the bone than some of her earlier work. The songs and arrangements are engaging and have stayed with me.
’Tis the season for albums to be drop, drop, dropping ahead of summer tours. It’s like a tropical Christmas for music lovers!
Somewhere between their sophomore 2013 outing, “Blah Blah Love War,” and their latest, eponymous1 release, “The Rescues,” this Indie Supergroup has gone from a foursome to a threesome. The current line-up consists of out lesbian Adrianne Gonzalez (who has also performed solo and with others as Adrianne or, more recently, AG), Gabriel Mann, and Kyler England. I’m sorry to see the group lose Rob Giles, but this latest album is as strong as anything they have done previously.
If you need some background on The Rescues, you might start with the video of their early release, “Can’t Stop the Rain.” It’s an off-beat but catchy song. If you just can’t get enough of it, you might enjoy their more recent rendition of it, which features a fair portion of a marching band.
Or you could check out one of my favorite Rescues songs: “Break Me Out.” This is a live version the foursome performed back in 2010. It’s a great song, and I love the energy of the live performance. Plus, we get to see Adrianne front and center, which is always nice.
One more suggestion: The Rescues do a fascinating cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.”
Anyway, that brings us to the album at hand. The first song I heard off this album was “Haunted.” There’s no video, per se, for it (ah, the joys of low-budget indie existence), except for a lyric video. If you can listen to this without getting goose bumps, well, it would make me wonder how much you have lived.
You can’t leave this life without being haunted
Somewhere between what you got and what you wanted
is powerful, but when Kyler begins listing the many kinds of things that haunt us, the song really cut me to the bone:
All the ones I couldn’t save
All the ones that slipped away
All the things I broke in two
All the times I cheated you
All the times I let you down
All the dreams I left to drown
All the ends I couldn’t change
All the times I turned away
It’s a brilliant piece of song-writing, arrangement, and performance. I’m sure some TV show will snap it up to use to add emotional punch to a pivotal emotional scene of some kind. (A number of the Rescues’ songs have shown up in the soundtracks of television shows.)
If “Haunted” is a bit too dire for you, the album also offers more uplifting fare, like, “We Are Not Alone” or “If It Were Not for You.”
The songs, the harmonies, the arrangements, the moods are all engrossing and wonderfully done. This is an album that I’ll be listening to all summer.
Crazy Ever After (November 2008)
Let Loose The Horses (June 2010)
Blah Blah Love and War (November 2013)
The Rescues (June 1, 2017)
The Rescues (March 2010)
To avoid confusion, perhaps I should mention that the group also released an eponymous EP, “The Rescues,” in 2010. So this one is the eponymous album, not EP. What’s an “EP”? According to Wikipedia: “An extended play record, often referred to as an EP, is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single, but is usually unqualified as an album or LP.” So a wee album or an album-ette, as it were. ↩
One of my mother’s greatest gifts to me was sharing the many kinds of music she loved. She might follow Ravel’s Bolero with Sarah Vaughn with Rhapsody in Blue or a record of mariachi music she picked up in Mexico. Her influence helped create my very eclectic tastes in music, which is a very important part of my life.
Am I any kind of music professional? No. I taught myself to read sheet music in second grade, and I played first trombone in my high school’s marching band. Today I play a number of different instruments (badly). I also have the dubious distinction of having taught two different people how to play the saxophone even though I have never played it. When I was a kid, I was big on singing, but in my teens I developed a cyst on my vocal cords that ultimately ate the middle out of my range. This bummed me out greatly. That’s about the extent of my music credentials.
Oh, and often, when I sleep, my dreams are accompanied by music. My niece and I share the ability to “play” music in our heads, note for note — in my case, even very complex orchestral pieces.
While I could go on at length about my love of Chinese flower music or the English concertina, in this blog I want to focus on women making music, with a special emphasis on music by members of the LGBTQI community and their allies. Why did I choose that focus? Well, as in most things, it seems as though women don’t get as much ink (digital or otherwise), and anyway, it’s an area of music that encompasses a huge array of different instruments, styles, and attitudes — just the ticket for an eclectic listener like me!
I am old enough to remember sitting around a record-player listening with awe, excitement, and a little bit of terror to “Lesbian Concentrate,” which was at least the first lesbian musical (and poetry) anthology, if not the first explicitly lesbian album. How we howled at Meg Christian singing ”Ode to a Gym Teacher”! It was so new — it felt both so daring and a little bit naughty to be hearing it.
For a time, a long time, the performers we had came almost exclusively from Olivia Records: Cris Williamson, Meg Christian, Linda Tillery, Teresa Trull, and others. Now, we have come so far that I was reading a 2010 list of “The 50 Most Important Queer Women in Music”, and guess who wasn’t listed? Cris Williamson. That sort of blew me away. Her music was so important to so many of us. I don’t think many who followed would have followed if it hadn’t been for those intrepid foremothers of women’s music.
But I’m not here to teach history or rant about who got left out of a dumb article on a now-mostly-defunct web site. There is music happening, right now, all around us, and that’s what I want to focus on.