Friday, February 12, 2016

Bay Station (nee KCDC) "Go Out And Make Some" Celebration in Alameda

I'm excited to report that Bay Station (nee KCDC) is getting ready to release Go Out And Make Some, a diverse mix of 11 new Americana songs about love, lust, sandy beaches, dusty roads, wandering holy men, wolf birds and more. Recorded at Lost Monkey Studio in Hayward, CA,  Kwame Copeland and myself co-produced Go Out and Make Some with Mike Stevens, who also served as mixing and recording engineer, and played drums. Andrew Gibson (bass) and Steve Waters (guitar, backing vocals), round out the band and will all be playing live at the upcoming Bay Area shows. The tunes were mastered by Ken Lee in Oakland, CA, and artist Alicia Buelow designed the CD. We're excited to share it with you!
Please join us as we celebrate the release with a live show at The Fireside in Alameda, CA, on February 20, 2016. ​​1453 Webster Street, Alameda, CA 94501. We go on at 9pm. Plus our blue-rocking friends, The Dirty, will be sharing the evening. No cover!
If you'd like to join the Bay Station mailing list, please visit our site and Facebook pages for news about our upcoming shows and tour. 


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bird Songs II: "I Like Birds" "Broken Wings Heal" and "Proud Penguin"

More selections from the world of contemporary bird-referencing songs

"I Like Birds" by The Eels
This punchy number caught my ear more than a decade ago when a friend turned me on to The Eels. No birder pretension here, just simple bird appreciation:
"I can't look at the rocket launch
The trophy wives of the astronauts
And I won't listen to their words
'Cause I like birds
I don't care for walking downtown
Crazy auto-car gonna mow me down
Look at all the people like cows in a herd
Well, I like birds
If you're small and on a search
I've got a feeder for you to perch on"

"Razor Wire" by Carolyn Aiken
There are bird references all over Aiken's latest recording, Broken Wings Heal, and the title track itself is a confident ode to healing. But "Razor Wire" is the heartbreaking gut punch of the album, a song I first heard live at The Freight a last summer:
"behind razor wire
sings a song bird
her heart beats strong
her spirit flies free
undaunted and sublime
she sings to the sun and the wind and the trees
she remembers in her dreams
Outside her confines
she knows what it’s like
flying tandem with her kind
free to dive and climb and be
and she…dreams
of the time she will fly
and readies her wings
calming her mind
knowing that all that stands between her and the sky
is time.

"Proud Penguin" by Jamie Purnell
Purnell is a Bay Area songwriter I met at FAR-West. He performed this song live the other night at the KC  Turner Presents Shhhongwriters Open Mic at Doc's Lab. A shorty and powerful ditty about flying, swimming, being only who you can be and self acceptance, I couldn't help but love it. 
"hey there seagull, it's fun to swim in the sea/I may not be able to fly, but I'm happy to be me."

Know of a fairly-recent (post-2000) "bird song" I should hear? Please email me! 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Songwriters in the Round at Oakland's The Octopus Literary Salon, January 20, 2016

A new series at this heart-of-Oakland center for the arts! Every other month, featuring Bay Area and touring artists playing their music in the round. January's lineup is great!:

Melissa Phillips (with James DePrato)
Michael McNevin
Paul Griffiths
host Deborah Crooks

The Octopus is a literary salon,* re-interpreted in the 21st Century to engage and entertain readers, writers, musicians, artists of all ages in Uptown Oakland, California. The Octopus Literary Salon includes a most excellent café with delicious food, beer & wine, a small-scale specialty used and new bookstore (we sell used records too!), and a space for public readings and discussions as well as other literary spontaneity and, of course music performance.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Bird Songs: "All Over Ohio", "Birds Fly South" & "Scarecrow"

photo by Don McCullough
As I'm one of those lifelong bird people (I considered a bird-related career path in college, studying natural history and working to release peregrine falcons for the Predatory Bird Research Group) I notice the actual and metaphorical birds wherever I am, and birds tend to show up routinely in my own writing. But even music lovers who are the most disinclined to ornithology know many bird-related songs: The Beatles "Blackbird," Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" and Skynyrd's "Freebird" (like it or not) are pretty much of the modern-day canon. At a concert last summer, I was struck again at how often birds appear in lyrics, even among songwriters that aren't really "birders." The past few months I've started "collecting" contemporary (post-2000) bird-referencing songs, and will be sharing my favorites here. Know of a fairly-recent "bird song" I should hear? Please email me
In the meantime, here's a sampling of some of my recent favorites: 
"All Over Ohio" by Over the Rhine
I swoon over the sensibilities of Over the Rhine in general, who call an Ohio farm home between their own musical peregrinations,  and whose lyrics bespeak their deep connection to place. They know their land deeply, as well as the creatures who share it. "All Over Ohio," sung in duet, is a long, lovely tour both of place and the birdly need to come and go: 
"And the starlings they were flying
Earlier today
Doing their maneuvers
Clouds of feathers on display
Makes me wanna kneel in prayer but
I’ve forgotten what to say
I’ll just name all the birds in Ohio
All I wanna be is a thousand black birds*
Bursting from a tree into the blue
Love – let it be not just a feeling
But the broken beauty
Of what we choose to do"

*Listen to an actual blackbird call HERE.
"Birds Fly South" by The Mastersons  
The Mastersons, an Austin-based duo, also evoke bird migration in the title track of their 2012 release, a song about their own need to move, the pull of the heart, the mystery and reasons  of why humans and animals pick up and go when they do. 
Birds fly south, before the cold
all night, I'm going to drive
New York's getting me down
run out of reason to hang around
that's why birds fly south, 
when it all comes down 
All night, I'm going to drive
Will you be, right by my side?

"Scarecrow" by Michael McNevin 
This is one of my all-time favorite songs for a lot of reasons: not only it it a great evocation of the behavior of gulls* (the species of sea bird I've projected upon this song), its a beautiful love song, period. I believe its won some awards, and I've a CD containing the song, but it's hard to find online to easily share.  Fortunately, for these purposes, there's this video (Track McNevin down at one of his shows or hit him up at Muddpuddle Music if you want your own copy.) I heard him sing it the first time I saw him perform and became an insta-fan. 
She's a sea bird I'm a scarecrow
She came to rest upon my elbow
She flys fast I watch the corn grow
Will she come back, well damned if I know
Damned if I know
She's a sea bird I'm a scarecrow
Will I turn to driftwood in the shallows?
Damned if I know, damned if I know

*Listen to an actual California gull call HERE.

(McNevin's also got a song called "Early Bird" worth giving a listen)

Friday, December 11, 2015

On the path, less so on the blog

"I am circling around God, around the ancient tower, / and I have been circling for a thousand years, / and I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm, / or a great song." — "The Seeker," a poem by Rilke in his Book of Hours (translated by Robert Bly)

Thank you for reading Bird in the Tree! Though I continue to write, I'm going on a bit of a blogging hiatus. Writing is much on my mind, in my hand and in song, though blogging (as I've been doing it) hasn't felt like the most accurate expression for me at the moment. While I play with other forms, you can find more of what I'm up to that's ready for eyes and ears at my Music Site HERE and on Soundcloud HERE. I'm also a contributor to No Depression which you can find HERE. And finally I'm a big fan of Instagram.  Stay in touch!

A photo posted by Deborah Crooks (@deborahrcrooks) on

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bazaar Stock #8 December 5 at Bazaar Cafe

 KC Turner Presents: Bazaar Stock #8
December 5, 2015 10am-10pm
Bazaar Cafe
5927 California St
San Francisco, CA 94114
I'm pleased to be a part of Bazaar Stock #8, when KC Turner Present 36 (!) local musicians at SF's venerable and loved songwriter haven, Bazaar Cafe. Free and all ages, a tip jar will be passed with 100% of the proceeds to be donated Music in Schools Today. I play at 3pm and encourage you to come for as much of the event as you can! It's going to be be a great display of original music.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Desert Postcard: A week in the Mojave

Moonlight Mesa under the sun.
A visit to Radio Free Joshua Tree
Another sunrise

Joshua Tree is beginning to feel like a home away from home. Sunrise, sunset, ravens, rabbits, writing, singing, playing and strolling the desert mesas and trails is good for the soul. I'm so grateful for this piece of land and sky. 
As most areas of beauty in these times, there's careful balance to be struck between conservation and recreation. You can find out more about the hard-won, and always in need of protection, California Desert Conservation Area via The Center for Biological Diversity.