10 Day Album Challenge #5: Stella Donnelly, Beware of the Dogs

If you haven’t been following this series of posts, a friend of mine nominated me to do an album challenge. “The task is to post once per day for the next 10 days about the top ten albums that have an impact on your life, and to pay it forward by nominating someone else each day to do the same.”

Okay, so I’ll play. But I’m changing the rules to suit me. First of all, I’m not writing about this 10 days in a row. I will write about 10 albums, but only on the occasional “Music Monday”. And I refuse to nominate anyone else, because I try to avoid adding stress to the lives of the people I love. Having said that, if you’re reading this, and would like to take up the challenge, go for it!

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Once again, National Public Radio has introduced me to an amazing artist that I probably wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. (I struggle to keep up with pop culture.) But on this day, I was driving down the road, listening to an interview with a delightful singer named Stella Donnelly.

Before I even heard her music, I fell in love with her Australian accent and her upbeat, positive, enthusiastic personality.  She’s one of those people you can tell you’d enjoy hanging out with, even if you were only, I don’t know, folding origami cranes or something. She’s intelligent and fun and sincere.

From that, you’d expect to hear a bunch of songs about rainbows and unicorns. But what I heard next took me a little by surprise. They talked about how her first breakout song, Boys Will Be Boys, came out right around the time the #MeToo movement took off, and because of that she received death threats and obscene messages. In my opinion, messing with Stella Donnelly would be like drop kicking a puppy into an active volcano.

As the title makes clear, the song is about rape. And it addresses how women are often blamed, and made to feel guilty, for the violence perpetrated upon them. The last line in the song is “Time to pay the f***ing rent.” When I heard that, I cheered. You go, Stella! You tell ‘em!

Stella is a study in contrasts. Her melodies are as sweet as she is, but her lyrics are often like a straight shot with a barbed arrow, and they always hit the bullseye. I think that is because she speaks her truth softly, so people will actually listen.

After that interview, I ran straight to her website and discovered that her tour was taking her through Seattle, so I immediately bought tickets. The concert was at Barboza, a venue I’d never been to. It was a dark, sticky, underground, claustrophobic little hall. But this place manages to book some edgy acts. It was full of hip Seattleites, and we were arguably some of the oldest people in the place. I wanted to rescue Stella. It didn’t feel like she should be there. But she held her own. In fact, she thrived.

That’s Stella in a nutshell. She seems so fragile and vulnerable, but she has a backbone made of pure steel. It’s that dichotomy that appeals to me the most.

For an introduction to Stella Donnelly, check out this Tiny Desk Conert. After that, I strongly encourage you to check out her debut album, Beware of the Dogs. You’ll be so glad you did.

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Calling All Seattle Area Musicians

One of the things I love about Seattle is it has this amazing ability to think outside the box. As a matter of fact, at times it’s like there’s no box at all. That can be a little scary, but also a little exciting.

Every once in a while, the city will have an artist in residence occupy the tower of one of our drawbridges. We’ve had writers in residence, and lighting artists in residence, and now the time has come for a musician in residence.

It’s fairly good money for a really unique and fascinating gig. Free space in a tower with an incredible view! That should get your creative juices flowing! If you’re a musician who lives within 100 miles of Seattle, you may want to check out the application process here. But hurry! The deadline is March 20th, 2018.

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Credit Where Credit Is Due

If you were told that someone had a talent that only a handful of people on the entire planet had, wouldn’t you be impressed? Wouldn’t you be even more impressed if you knew that person was also a free speech advocate, had been in a few films, organizes for street performers, is a storyteller and has a radio show?

Meet Abby the Spoon Lady. This woman is talented beyond measure. She’s also intelligent, well-traveled, and dedicated. That should be all anyone needs to know about her.

But that’s not how the world works. If you check out her Youtube channel or Facebook page, both of which show you dozens of amazing performances, you’ll be enchanted. Unless you start reading the comments. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll be infuriated. While many people recognize her talent, trolls abound. They criticize her looks. They criticize her clothes. They criticize her lack of teeth.

It seems to me that if Abby were a man, she wouldn’t get this type of feedback. But being a woman in the music world, you’re supposed to be glamorous and perfect in every way, or you can’t be taken seriously. I don’t find Willie Nelson particularly attractive, but you don’t hear people discussing that to the point where his talent gets forgotten, do you?

Give Abby a break. I think she’s beautiful. I think her talent is also beautiful. I think the world is a much more beautiful place because she’s in it. I hope I get to see her perform live someday. And if I do, I hope the trolls stay home.

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Support Creativity!

What a strange world we live in. We are surrounded by creative people, people with talent that we can only dream about, and for the most part they’re the very people who have to struggle to survive. And that struggle often takes away from their ability to create.

Imagine a world in which creativity were rewarded; a world in which uniquely talented people were given the time and space to produce beauty, and use their imaginations for good causes. Creative people are often the problem solvers of this world, if only we’d get out of their way and allow them to do their thing. We need more people who think outside the box.

Well, you’re in luck! You have an amazing opportunity to support the arts, and it won’t cost you a dime. I have a dear friend named Sean Kagalis, and he’s an incredible folk musician. He’s part of a website called ArtistSignal which has a really interesting setup. You go to the site. You create a password. You vote for your favorite artist. Each month, the artist with the most votes gets $10,000. This month, Sean is currently ranked third, but the month has only just begun! With your help, he could win that 10k, and be able to tour more, and this would do wonders for his career.

You can vote once, or vote once an hour like I’m doing. I just leave his web page up the entire time I’m logged into the internet, and click the vote button whenever it tells me I can again. It only takes a second, and you could really help change a wonderful person’s life. Wouldn’t that feel great? Go here to vote, and to check out his music, too!

Come on, guys. You know I don’t ask you for much. 🙂

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The Milk of Human Kindness

A couple of years ago I met a musician in the virtual world of Second Life who went by the name of Strum Diesel. He’s a folk/pop/bluegrass artist, and an amazing talent. I started going to all his performances. I love his music.

In real life his name is Sean Kagalis, and he often tours. I was very lucky to see him when he performed in my town, and I got to meet him in person. Not only is he good at what he does, but he’s a very kind person, and a delight to be around.

Recently he heard about my Indiegogo Campaign. I’m nearly $10,000.00 in debt because I moved 3100 miles across country to start my life over after a long series of setbacks. You can see my video explaining all of this here. (Please do contribute if you can. Every penny will help me.)

When Sean heard about this, he offered to do a benefit concert for me in Second Life. I don’t think I adequately expressed to him just how much that meant to me. Whether his efforts raised any money for my cause or not, just the fact that through his actions he was basically saying, “I am on your side. I care about you. I wish you well. I am willing to donate my time and talent to your cause,” was more precious to me than gold. I’m all alone out here. I don’t know anyone. Everything is new. So having the support of friends means the world to me.

He did the benefit the other day, and I danced for joy throughout. And in the real world I had tears in my eyes. I am very lucky to know such an amazing human being. I honestly don’t know why he’s not world famous. I can’t imagine anyone who deserves it more.

Check out his music video below (for those getting this blog through e-mail, it can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKYP2KXyE-M ) and support his talent if you can. People like this should be allowed to shine. Thanks, Sean! For more than you know.

Kindly Stick a Screwdriver in My Ear

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to a Ray LaMontagne concert, and had a wonderful time. Once he got on stage, that is. The tickets said the show started at 7:30, so we arrived promptly. And the usher who scanned our tickets said the concert would end at 11:30. Wow! We were really going to get our money’s worth!

Of course, there was an opening act. The Belle Brigade. They are a sister/brother act that kind of reminds me of The Indigo Girls. Their songs aren’t very sophisticated or complex, but I could see the potential there.

I always kind of feel sorry for opening acts. People are anxious for them to get off stage so they can see the singer they really came to see. But these two acquitted themselves well, overall. We discovered later that they were also part of Ray LaMontagne’s band. If that had been all there was to it, I’d say that the evening was rather perfect.

But no.

After the Belle Brigade left the stage, another band came on. Two opening acts? Oh God. Okay, get it over with. But the minute this new band walked on, I knew they were going to be trouble. They were all dressed in white from head to toe. They looked like members of some demented cult.

And then out walked Jenny Lewis. Dressed in a white pants suit with a big old splash of pastel, and a pastel guitar, she looked like she had been farted out of the hind end of a dyspeptic cotton candy machine. I cringed.

Her songwriting style seems to consist of making a point and then belaboring the hell out of it. Repeating the same lyrics over and over and over and over until you want to scream, “We get the message!!!!” I leaned over to my friend Steve and said, “Please kill me now.”

To add to the farce, during instrument solos, Ms. Lewis liked to pose seductively on a royal blue box with silver stars painted on it. I have to give her a certain amount of credit for this. It is not easy to pull off seduction in a white pants suit. And then when it’s time for her to sing again, she would have to leap up and run back to the microphone. Then she’d go back and drape herself over the box again. It was all rather sordid.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, she started singing a song called “Just One of the Guys.” The message of this song appears to be that if you are a woman and you don’t have a child, you are somehow incomplete. How sad that she feels that way, and how tragic that she chooses to apply that belief to a snappy tune that will convince other girls to feel the same. Here are some of the lyrics:

No matter how hard I try to be just one of the guys
There’s a little something inside that won’t let me.
No matter how hard I try to have an open mind
There’s a little clock inside that keeps tickin’.

There’s only one difference between you and me.
When I look at myself, all I can see:
I’m just another lady without a baby.

I have to say I wasn’t just disgusted. I was appalled. I had to get up and go out to the lobby for the rest of her set to keep from screaming. I could not believe that this was 2014.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, because I have never seen a lobby so crowded. People were 25 deep around the bar, and none of us went back in again until Ms. Lewis exited the stage and took 1950 with her.

Thank God Ray LaMontagne was fantastic when he finally came on at 9 freakin’ 30, or I’d have considered the experience to be cruel and unusual punishment. But imagine my further horror when I got home and googled Jenny Lewis to try to figure out how she must be blackmailing Ray LaMontagne in order to be a very innefectual part of his show and discovered that she made a video of that wretched song, and the Actress Anne Hathaway is actually in it (among other famous women who must be after my time). Is she blind? No, actually, she must be deaf. Am I wrong? Check it out:

(For those of you getting this blog via e-mail, the video in question can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Irvcf6dCk-k )