I have sung all my life, born to a father who played clarinet and shook the walls of our house when he played his favorite Big Band ‘78s.
I was twelve when I got my first guitar; a Sears’ Silvertone steel string. I played it as I sang the first song I ever wrote before the activity class of my Jr. High in Scituate, Massachusetts. I still remember the song – it was about watching all the people and wondering, “who are you, why are you, and where do you go?”
I am still a people watcher. I’m a listener, too. As a rather shy adolescent, music was the place I lived my emotions, and I listened for hours on the headphones, especially to Joni Mitchell, Procol Harem, The Moody Blues, Billie Holliday, and Muddy Waters.
In 1972, I married a man who loved music the way I did, and together we formed several bands. We incarnated at least 3 genres of original music from the seeds of rhythm and blues, country, hard rock, and punk.
We had a band called Legacy in the early ‘80s, playing the worst dives you can imagine. It was a rather outrageous time in my life, with lots of drinking and drugging. Our lead guitarist was sober and in AA, and he confronted me about my drinking. I went to a few meetings, and I soon stopped as well, grateful for the grace of that life-changing encounter.
Both my husband and I were environmental activists, and in 1989 we produced and recorded a compilation of some 20 songs to raise money for safe energy education. We named it “For Our Children.” Bernice Lewis and I wrote the title song. Dave Guard of the Kingston Trio joined us, as did Patty Larkin, Bill Staines, Geoff Bartley, and many more. The recording raised an impressive amount of money for the cause.
It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s, when my marriage of 20 years had dissolved, that I began to actualize my own style of music. It was a very difficult time. My mother died the same year my marriage ended, and the little island house I was renting burned down during a huge coastal storm in 1992.
Soon after, I found myself sitting on a rock in El Salvador, taking a break from working a relief project, and reviewing my life as a metaphor. Before me, I saw strong people returning home after 11 years of war that had destroyed families, houses and farm land. I also felt that my life was ravaged, and that I needed to return home, to replant and to rebuild.
It wasn’t that easy. I returned from Central America and quickly ended up in a hospital, still ravaged. I was only part way home. I had an 8-year-old gorgeous daughter I adored, but no vision for our life and my life. I didn’t know how to replant and rebuild, but with the help of a great therapist and some deep inner work, I found the courage to confront the ol’ demons and get my life back on task. I then focused on learning the healing arts, both at massage school and Leslie College, and I still work often as a retreat leader and empowerment counselor.
Of course, the deepest healing has been encouraged and sustained by music and by the songs I write to express the condition of my heart. Honest music bears fruit.
In 1996, I tethered to a star named Gypsy. As Gypsy, Leslee Preece and I created a duo sound that was often compared to the Indigo Girls and the Judds. We co-authored a set of country/pop songs that would later fill our CD “Crossing Borders.” We played the Boston north shore coffee house scene, opening for The Neilds, Cheryl Wheeler, Cindy Kalet, and others. After three years, and just days after the release of “Crossing Borders,” our partnership sadly ended. Gypsy didn’t get to travel as my gypsy heart had longed to do.
So I went solo and wrote songs about feminine power. It was time to get deeper still. My CD “Voices” was birthed in 2000. In 2002, the first song on that disk, “New Millennium,” was performed in Seattle at Benayora Hall by an 80 voice choir to over 1000 people.
At that time, Unity on the River, a cool church in Amesbury, Massachusetts, invited me to be their assistant music director. It was a fertile opportunity to write with a gospel feel and also to write heart-opening ballads, taking full advantage of a church band featuring Ken Clark on Hammond B3, Amadee Castenell on sax and flute, Roomful of Blues’ bassist Brad Hallen, and Matt Taylor on drums. The music director was Curtis Haynes, who played piano on “Voices,” and whom I had admired for some time. I asked Curtis to co-produce my next project, “Open Up to the Spirit,” which I released in 2003.
My favorite song on that CD is “Only Love is Real,” penned on September 10, 2001, arriving just in time to express my truth about the tragic events of 9/11. Curtis and I supported the new CD in part by sharing stages with Guy Davis, Lori McKenna, and David Massingil.
With the release of “Let’s Put the Moon to Bed,” I feel somehow that I have come full circle. It is a glorious tribute to my dad, and within it I hear the faint sounds of that 40’s smooth sexy romantic style, the ‘78s and LPs that were played later in the night.
Curtis has produced tracks that are dreamy and sophisticated, using the best musicians around -- Duke Levine and Matthew Stubbs on guitar, Roger Kimball on acoustic bass and cello, Billy Novick on clarinet and sax, Sandy Martin on pedal steel, Matt Taylor on drums and, of course, Curtis on piano and organ.
So these days I sing my heart out from a sexy bed of sultry, sassy music. I love this new recording, and I feel so grateful that I can offer music that just might help bring a little more love to this crazy world.