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Karen Davis / Blog

Back in the Saddle

Finally, after being diagnosed with vocal polyps, I no longer sound like Marge Simpson, so can book shows again. The esteemed physicians at NYU Langone Center and at the ENT Infirmary in NYC told me that my speaking and singing voices would not improve without surgery. They were wrong. It's not 100%, but its a good 90 on most days and 95 on others. Vocal rest periods of half a day are still needed, but I can hit all my notes with power and reliability. I can even sing softly, which I wasn't able to do a few months ago - it was either belt or be silent. I've had a cold for the last few days, and my voice is 'rusty'. It's still pretty flexible though. What really turned the trick on the recovery was not singing very much for about a month after the hurricane. It knocked out the A Train, which I take out to my regular gigs in the Rockaways. No A Train, no gig; no gig, so singing. No singing, recovering vocal chords.

After all that rest, my range gradually expanded from an octave - g below middle C to g above, to a to b. It stuck at b for a while, but I didn't care because that's where the drama kicks in with my voice. A piece of drama is better than none. A few weeks later, I got a piece of the high C; when I got the D I was pretty happy. Most of the stuff I write tops out at D, so I was good for singing most of my original songs. One day, just for kicks, I tried singing an E - had the sound but not a lot of quality. Now, I'm back to where I was - working on quality - but gently.

The key seems to be working gently, and giving the voice a break when it's necessary, good breath support, relaxation, proper muscle use, all that stuff you're supposed to do when you sing...should keep me on the job and on the stage.

What A Long Strange Trip

Quite a trip indeed. First, I lost my voice almost completely - sounded like Marge Simpson for a while, actually. Went to the Eye and Ear Infirmary in NYC and got a diagnosis of vocal polyps, and was told that I'd only get the voice back with surgery. The good drs. at NYU Langone confirmed this. Well, fortunately, they were not correct. Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, which knocked out the transport out of JC and out to the Rockaways, I had to take a month and a half off from singing. My voice started coming back in December, and was 90% back by February. It's lost a little brightness, and I can't go nuts and belt for 3 hours, but it's mostly back on its feet.

Ironically, my lack of health insurance may have saved my voice. The operation to have these things removed is about $10K. We don't have that kinda cheddar lying around, so we'd have to save it up. How we'd do that - with the hurricane knocking the hell out of my earning ability - is anyone's guess. (Obamacare kicks in next year.) Either way, no surgery for me 'til we have the dough. Even though the surgeons are skilled and methods have improved, there's a 2% chance of not being able to sing again after surgery, even if everything goes well - there's no way to predict scarring until it happens. Since we can't afford this, we had to rely on my body's resilience - fortunately, the healing process kicked in, along with some rest and voila. No chance of post surgical scarring if there's no surgery.

Now we're writing mew songs - metallic, hard rock; I'm playing the SG when I can pry it out of Joe's hands, finishing up a cover demo, and starting to book gigs. The Rock rolls on.

Clicks and Clacks

Joe and I have been having an on-going, vigorous discussion abouth the merits and drawbacks of playing with a click track in rehearsals. I am against it, firmly believeing in the organic approach to playing. My playing tends to be rather rubato anyway, and playing to a click makes me feel confined. I only use the metronome voluntarily with classical piano pieces with tricky rhythms.

Joe, on the other hand is a firm believer in the click. He loves it, and practices with it all the time. Since I've decided to argue with my husband less, I've conceded the point, and we now practice with a click most of the time. I do not enjoy this at all. I have to admit, however, that it does tend to make my playing steadier, and we don't chase each other in the sections of songs with a gallop. I think this would happen anyway with sufficient practice; it's just happening more quickly with the click.

Another thing - it's important to get along well with your husband and band-mates. This is not always easy when you have to harmonize different practice/rehearsal styles. I tend to have a more free-wheeling 'let it evovle' in my approach - unless there's a time concern then I switch to 'do it my way' mode. Joe, surprisingly, has a very strong'my way or the highway' approach to rehearsing, which makes for some interesting interludes. Suffice it to say that we've agreed to disagree on some things, and understand that there are some songs we will never agree on and thus not perform.

Fortunately, we agree more often than not, and have built quite a repertoire of cover tunes. He's still trying to convince me to play Arnold Lane and Lucifer Sam though. That may take a while.

Love and NYC

We had a great time yesterday, wandering around the West Village. Usually, I only pass through NYC on the way to someplace else: Queens, Brooklyn, Jersey, etc. There's also the Bikeway that goes up the west side; but that's more for fitness than fun.

Thursday was the day to hand in paper-work at HAI - the arts organization I work for. Joe and I had the day free, so we decided to walk around.

Lower Manhattan - south of Houston - has beautiful quiet streets, loaded with super-high-end clothing stores and galleries. These have limited appeal, since they're astronomically beyond a workingclass artsit's budget. There are, however, adorable French bistros lined up on both sides of West Broadway - I had no idea about this until yesterday. All these places are moderately priced and look like they've been transported whole from France. We're planning to go to one tomorrow to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It's commemorative, since we had our honeymoon in Montreal.

The highlight of the day, however, was the chocolate. We found this tiny shop - Kees Chocolates - on West Broadway. I have not been able to stop raving about this. Rose petal flavored chocolate is was not previously on the radar; now I'm wondering how long I can hold out before buying some more. The dark chocolate truffles were a revelation, the lavender infused dark chocolate was a revolution. The hazlenut pralines were like a homecoming. We split a box of 8 - totally sensually satisfying.

The absolute best part, though, was getting to spend an entire relaxing day with Joe - who is, afterall, my favorite person .

Riders on the Storm

There's some crazy snow/ice/rain/snow storm coming this way - had to buy new boots because my other ones have been defeated by this tough winter. Got some mid-calf high rubber fleece insulated heavy weather boots. Much more funtion than fashion, but cute goes out the window when it's sleeting. I'm ready - bring it on. Joe is outside digging out a parking space - we've still got huge mounds of snow from Dec. 26 clogging up the street. I told him to put the car in a lot - why listen to your wife when you can do manual labor on a cold night instead? Why, O cruel woman that I am, would I want to ruin his fun? Ah the paradoxical conundrums of this mystical union we call marriage... Speaking of the storm, had a request for Riders On the Storm today - was surprised and pleased that I came up with a decent rendition on the fly - never played it before, but don't like to turn down requests. It was fun. Working on learning War Pigs - interestingly enough, it works pretty well on acoustic guitar, and sounds like a Gospel tune. Go Ozzy. Also working on How Soon Is Now, Love is A Stranger, Magic Man, More Than This and Slave to Love. My allegiance to Classic Rock covers has not faltered, but my definition of Classic Rock has expanded. Still working on playing And You And I by ear. That Jon Anderson is a tricky little guy.

Holidays Hollerdays

When I was a little girl, I thought the word was hollerdays. Really. All my relatives are from the South, and very loud - especially my mother's side of the family. Standing close to these people has no effect on how loudly they talk to you. You could be 2 feet or 15 feet away and they're still going to be hollering like they're out in some freakin' field. My father's side of the family is much quieter. My father, however, is not. You can't talk to this man on the phone while holding the phone to your ear unless you want to go deaf in a hurry. My paternal aunts, uncles - you can converse with them without fearing for your auditory health. My father, not so much. Now, my parents are older and have settled down, so there's not nearly as much hollering as there once was. My father can still raise sand from time to time, but not constantly. It's a relief on one level, but I actually kind of miss all that confusion and even the annoyance that went with it. Never thought I'd feel that way. Curious. Joe's mother can get a little loud too, but there's nothing like a house full of southerners over a big dinner to really get it going. Nothing like it. Happy Hollerdays.

Billy Idol

For some reason, I have Billy Idol songs going through my head today - first it was Rebel Yell when I was sending out inquiry e-mails to summer music festivals. Now, I'm here and it's Dancing With Myself, as I do this blog, but start setting my mind to go do another hour on the stationary bike at the gym. Now, that wonderfully chaotic guitar opening from White Wedding is making an appearance. Not sure why my mind has chosen to entertain me with Bill today, but he is an interesting diversion. Always thought he was kinda scary, but cool in a leathery older-guy type of way. The Dancing With Myself tune is apropo of time spent yelling into the (apparent) void of cyber-sapce, then pedaling to nowhere on the stationary bike; and I will be all wet from sweat, sweat, etc... That sweat-thing sounded like so much more fun when I was in highschool. In highschool, I wouldn't have been caught dead on a stationary bike, but I was also 20 pounds lighter and cellulite free. Was never really nuts about Mr. Idol, liked him, but never was gaga over him like I was The Who and Yes - also - Zeppelin, CSN, Bach, Chopin, Janis Joplin, those are my folks - and can't forget Soundgarden, U-2, Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam - and lately Blur. Saw Bill at Madison Aquare Garden back in the day - he did one hell of a show - got to give him that. Ok - now, since I've been talking about him, my mind's gone silent - a bit of peace before the next tune gets in there. Wonder who it'll be. Blur - She's So High - love that song!

Lucky Sevens

Had a great gig at Lucky Sevens here in Jersey City. haven't doen an all originals gig in quite a while - lots of fun indeed. Thanks to Lance, Jennifer, Dave, Gerald and everyone else who came. Jim did teriffic sound for us, so we had a good mix. I'll be watching the video footage tomorrow or Thursday, so there might be some new stuff for viewage - there should at least be some new pics in the next few days. Go to the myspace site to check out the vids from last summer and this January - http://www.myspace.com/boomslang. Bon soir.

Connections

Interesting thing - the more I ride my bike, the better my singing gets. The cardio strenghtens the diaphragm, so I can hold out notes more strongly and have better control over pitch. On the other hand, the road bike outs lots of pressure on my hands - one year I got carpal-tunnel from the pressure. Makes playing the guitar a little harder. Amazing how something that helps you in one place and screw you up in another. Freakin' life, man... freakin' life. I'm off for a ride.

Once Again Into the Breach, My Friends

New year, new CD almost wrapped up. Time to re-start the booking and promo engine. Here we go with a new page, with new songs. Next, in a week or two we'll have a video. Or, if I can talk Joe out of some of his self-consciousness, we'll put up an informal rehearsal vid. Either way, you'll see us in action soon. Come on out to the gig at Sava on Grove St. here in JC. Free wine for early arrivals.