Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Something Special EP Official Release

Big thank yous to those who helped me celebrate the release of the Something Special EP a few nights ago at Awaken Cafe in Oakland It was a great night of music and friends, with sterling performances by my billmates, Loretta Lynch and Yours Truly, Michele, and a great band at my back. Capped off with a big ole supermoon sighting at the end of my set, it really did feel like something special. Today is the EP's official release date, and its now available via iTunes, CDBaby and other digital outlets (as well as at my shows.) I invite you to take a listen, leave a review and share with your friends! Much gratitude for your continued support of independent music. 

Something Special (EP) Sept. 1, 2015. By Deborah Crooks, featuring Kwame Copeland (guitars); Andrew Gibson (bass) & Mike Stevens (drums) Recorded, mixed & engineered by Stevens at Lost Monkey Studio; art by Rebecca Stees; design by Alicia Buelow.

Monday, August 17, 2015

'Something Special' EP Release August 29 at Awaken Cafe

EP Release Party: Saturday, August 29th, 2015 in Oakland, with Deborah Crooks, Yours Truly, Michele, and Loretta Lynch 

Awaken Cafe

"Something Special" EP Release - 8pm

1429 Broadway (@ 15th Street)

Oakland, CA 94612

Price: $7 adv/$10 dos

I'm so looking forward to playing with the band in celebration of my Something Special  EP. Please join me, Saturday, August 29,  as I showcase songs from the EP on a bill with two of my favorite bands Loretta Lynch and Yours Truly, Michele.

Loretta Lynch: 8pm With dreamy three-part harmonies, raucous, surf-tinged guitar and more than a bit of tongue in cheek, the East Bay Area’s own alt-country outfit Loretta Lynch’s stirring songs reach the shady grove in all of us. A little tear in your beer, a little knife in the back – think "O Brother Where Art Thou" meets the Andrews Sisters’ disreputable cousins at a warehouse hoedown. It’s Americana Noir.

Yours Truly, Michele: 9pm Michele Kappel-Stone began singing onstage as a teenager, when she donned a head-to-toe white leotard and crooned “Sex in Wetsuits” as part of the multi-media avant theater company Impossible Industrial Action. The Baltimore native’s latest venture, Yours Truly, Michele, may best capture the heady mix of influences and experiences she can bring to any party simply by showing up.  With a sound infused with 60s pop and soul and infected by Americana Roots-Rock, YTM can evoke Debbie Harry, Erin McKeown, and Patsy Cline.

Deborah Crook: 10pm Deborah recorded Something Special earlier this year at Lost Monkey Studio in Hayward with Mike Stevens on drums, Kwame Copeland on guitars and Andrew Gibson on bass. The songs on the EP cover such topics as seeking transcendence in the myth of Bigfoot; recovering from a breakup in a 50s era LA Travelodge, and keeping the faith while being lost. Come take a listen!

Hear “India Street: on Soundcloud:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Local Postcard: Walking inspiration

“There comes . . . a longing never to travel again except on foot.” ― Wendell Berry, Remembering

Once upon a time, in a different chapter of my life, I got a lot of mileage out of adrenaline and/or endurance-testing activities: racing bikes; hiking mountains; dabbling in rock climbing, occasionally jumping out of a plane. Once upon a time, I couldn't imagine living without doing some sort of high-intensity interval several times a week (when I racing bikes, I was very upset with myself if I didn't get my heart rate up a certain amount per day). Burning out on those things, and then transferring that drive (initially) to yoga practice eventually eroded most of that edgy intensity.  Now I'm hard pressed to do anything more than my practice! (Proof, after all, that yoga practice will prepare a person to sit.)
But it's best if I move some and in the past couple years, walking has become my thing. Not race walking, not walking meditation, not walking a dog, just walking.
These days, I have two favorite walks: one, out by the water, goes right by 'the birds.' This is my favorite local walk to get in some nature, check in with the avian population, get my feet in some beach sand and generally change my perspective. 
However, unless I'm willing to take half the day to go there, I must get in a car to reach my destination.  I don't always like to drive to get somewhere to move, and sometimes I flat out don't want to invest too much time. Nonetheless, I know so many things can be changed, gained, realized, simply by taking a walk.  I usually figure things out on my walk: the next line, what to write,  a handle on my feelings of the moment, etc. et. al, or get inspired in general.   So if I'm working from home, I'm often going 'around the block' a couple times of day to change channels so to speak. 'Around the block,' not unlike 'the birds,' is not completely accurate. 'Around the block' is really several blocks, and goes past a community garden full of flowers, vegetables and a stray cat or two. As things are, the community garden is also one of the best places to see birds (Western bluebirds, goldfinch, hummingbirds, scrub jays, brown towhees, black phoebe's, crows and house finch are generally on hand) in my patch of Alameda. Bonus!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Read.Eat.Listen: Water & Weather

Some mornings are worth everything. Such was the case today, when after dropping Kwame at the airport, I stopped for a walk by "the birds" on the way home. That's what we've come to call the Elsie B Roemer Sanctuary on the west side of the east side of the island. The sun wasn't quite up, and everything was blue and pink, the only other folks on the trail were far and few between. The Sanctuary, however, was going off, a riot of Pelicans souring, Canada Geese honking, terns twittering and oyster catchers hueeping past. Alameda is a good place to be if you're not-so-secretly a bird geek.
I make a determination every week or so to get out to "the birds"  daily, but as I don't live in easy walking distance anymore, I often forget. The world is a wonder if you pause a moment to take it in. I'm reminding myself this as much as anyone else, who often forgets that all that I love is close by. Times like this morning are usually when I make the determination anew.
In the wake of the latest spate of climate change news  — thank you Obama for the Clean Power Plan — I've been reading up on sea level rise in California again. Many people have been trying to alert the masses to this eventuality for a few years now, and now word is really out. It's hard to imagine what this will mean for the place I call home. On a flood map, our little patch of island, is still that, an island, but the shore will be much closer. Then it will be easier to get out to "the birds"... if the birds are still having any of it...

Read: "Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life" by William Finnegan. I've only surfed (or tried to) a couple of times— alas, even growing up in Santa Cruz County I never lost my fear of the cold, changeable ocean. That said, I love the ocean, its coast and have always loved surf culture...and I LOVE this book, and have barely been able to put it down this week. I get the feeling Finnegan, a longtime writer for The New Yorker who has had a life-long push-pull affair with surfing, could rewrite a phone book so it was engaging, but this really is a notable memoir. Anyone whose spent time on the California coast or in Hawaii will appreciate the insider's view Finnegan depicts so well, from the people, to the waters to the tortures and rewards of loving something deeply. 
Eat: Japanese Sweet Potato. A humble vegetable that gives. I can and do eat them straight up. This is a recipe that splits the difference: Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes
Listen: We saw Ray Wylie Hubbard at The Freight last week, my first time seeing this Texas musician. Been there, seen it all, looked-under-every-rock, not-afraid-to-say-anything gritty goodness.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Saturday: KCDC at The Bazaar Cafe

Saturday, August 8th, 2015 

Bazaar Cafe 

KCDC Acoustic w/Alex Walsh 7pm-9pm 

5927 California St San Francisco, CA 94114

Once upon a time, many years ago ago, I made a weekly visit to The Bazaar Cafe in the Richmond, where songwriters gathered (and still gather) to play their latest songs at the Open Mic. It was a nerve-wracking experience, playing in front of the other songwriters, kind of like an unofficial adult school of songwriting. Plus the Bazaar is unplugged, and acoustic. No PA, no microphone, no nada. I often broke out into cold sweats before and after, but somehow, over time,  I got better at holding it together to play my songs in front of people, and a I met some long-term friends. 
A very large percentage of Bay Area songwriters have come through its unassuming doors to play and listen over the years. It has a living room feel and at this point, it would be very interesting to hear what its walls would say if they could talk. 
We still play there once or twice a year, and this weekend, we're up, offering an all-acoustic set of KCDC songs from our "Your Own Reaction" CD and new material for our next one. Alex Walsh joins us for a set and to play guitar and we'll have Andrew Gibson on bass.  Plus...there's pie!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Full moon in July-Guru Purnima

Full moon in July = Guru Purnima, a time to thank your teachers. So this week of the full moon 2015, I'm thinking of, and thanking, Sri K Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, and an immense influence on yoga as we know it, who would have been 100 years old this week.
Its no accident, and a huge blessing, that I met Jois, first in New York in 2001, and again in India late 2004, between my dad’s death and mother’s relatively quick decline. My parents, my first two teachers, taught me many things, some valuable and precious — like my love of nature and appreciation of the written word — and some debilitating — such as disappointment carried too long — that desperately needed a counter.  Jois, aka Guruji, a model of faith and devotion and acceptance, provided just that.
I remember him squishing me in a forward bend during that first trip to India to practice at his Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, laughing and saying “yes, yes” as I breathed. This was 11 years ago already, and as I sat there, folded over (I don’t know if I’ve bent as deeply since) on the carpeted studio floor in Mysore, a vivid image of the California coast came to mind, even as the sounds of India streamed through the open windows. His voice in my ear saying  “yes, yes” was in reference to my practice, but I thought it was as much a  “yes, yes" of agreement with what was in my mind, that the image in my head was indeed home. Pacific Ocean, rolling coastal hills, sea breeze, and my family. I could taste it, even being around the world from the US, parrots flying outside in the hot Indian air.
It was sweltering that October, when the world seemed upside down, and my usual frame of reference for living was forever changed. I couldn’t drink enough coconuts, or escape getting sick, on water or food I'm not sure. For two days near the end of the trip, I didn’t think I would be able to get out of bed. I thought I was going to die there, alone in a foreign country, upstairs in a rented apartment with a patio shaded by palm trees.
I didn’t die then, obviously, instead, influenced by this great man down the road, who'd been teaching tirelessly for many decades, I recovered and got up, and at first weakly, went on. At the shala, Jois laughed his encouragement, appearing out of nowhere every time I thought "I can't do this." And I came home a stronger, and changed, person.
My mom did die, a few months after I returned to California from India. It was an ugly process that I don't know I would have been able to face if I hadn't been introduced to Ashtanga Yoga by several of Jois's early students, who eventually led me to Jois himself. When things are challenging, it's his voice I hear, 'yes, yes.' 
Yes. And thank you.  
 Thank you to Jois, and the many others who continue to carry on the tradition of Ashtanga.

In celebration of Guru Purnima, the good people at The Yoga Workshop in Boulder have put together a lovely tribute "Guruji lives here":

Friday, July 17, 2015

Read.Eat.Listen: Big Pictures

Another benefit to road-trips/tours is the capsule that the car becomes, be it for listening to music closely, having long conversations or reading. Last week's run up and down the 5, to Washington State and back for shows and family visits contained all of that. The passenger gets to be reader, sometimes to oneself, sometimes aloud, and much of my time on this trip was consumed with news and long-form essays on big picture issues. On the way North, it was climate change, on the way down I scared the bejesus out of us, reading aloud from the New Yorker article about the Cascadia Fault, while driving through the very landscape which would be irrevocably altered by a mega-earthquake. By the last day, we were in outer space, marvelling over the NASA reports about Pluto. I'm not sure why I'm seeking solace in geologic and space time, time where I'm small, a speck of animated dust just holding on like a bee in a hive, working for the honey. Part of it might be the sheer wow-factor: all this big science reminds me of how wondrous the facts, including our little lives, are. And part of it, I think, is that as much as I find the thought of huge earthquakes and tsunamis terrifying, I'm always glad to know the earth knows how to take care of itself even as we humans so often fail it.

Read: "The Earthquake That Will Devastate Seattle" by Kathryn Schulz, in The New Yorker. 
"When the End of Human Civilization Is Your Day Job"by John H Richardson, Esquire
A view of the worlds around us With the fly-by of Pluto, we now can visualize all of the planets in our solar system. Here's a two-minute tour of the sun and the nine planets. Posted by Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eat: Healthy eats at Harlow PDX
Portland was the food winner on this trip, and how nice we were staying walking distance from gluten-free veggie Harlow. Just read their menu and get the idea.

Listen: Kwame's brother Kwab Copeland is another fine musician writing and playing "raw, rustic verse set to rollicking badland bomp" (Chris Estey) out of Seattle. He, aka The Demon Rind, just released a winner in "Love Is Perfect":