This edition of Boss Ladies is brought to you by member Lizabeth Yandel, who reviews Dixie Maxwell's new single, “Uncharted Territory.”
In just the first descending notes of Dixie Maxwell’s newest single, “Uncharted Territory,” as they dance down over a dreamy organ sustain, her thirst for life is made palpable. A San Diego native, Maxwell has been playing and writing music since the early age of 15, when she first taught herself to play guitar. Since then she has utilized her seasoned songwriting skills to co-write a number of tunes, one of which, a rock banger called “Monster,” became the title track for the Lionsgate film Killer Holiday. Focusing more recently on her own heartfelt songs, Maxwell’s undeniable talent and unmistakable voice have been streaming on all platforms, one single at a time, since 2014.
A power ballad in its own right, “Uncharted Territory” speaks to one of the most compelling and familiar aspects of the human experience: the unquenchable thirst for freedom. Maxwell’s words paint a clear picture of a young woman preparing for a grand adventure, but they also speak to a truth in all of us.
She eases us in to start—a lone guitar, then the opening lyrics:
I can’t predict what it’s gonna feel like
If I get lost it’s okay
The only thing I’m really looking for is me
This all sets the stage for a slow, powerful build into the chorus, starting with the part-confession-part-declaration: “I crave to live a life that has no bounds.” Melancholy guitar licks from Veronica May, the atmospheric drums of Paige Miller and tastefully simple bass line of Rick Nash, all fold in around Maxwell’s sweet-yet-sultry vocals and carry us through the rest of this personal, yet so relatable song.
Produced and recorded by San Diego’s own Jeff Berkley, the production is flawless—balanced and clean without detracting at all from the track’s raw energy. Even the overall production tone speaks to the song’s spirit and helps to paint the picture of standing on a precipice, unsure of but ready for life.
Maxwell, currently on tour in Australia, remarks on how natural the process was of creating the track. “There were no huge challenges. It all came together so effortlessly.” The idea for the song came to her, as Maxwell explains, “after quitting [her] job of 10 years and deciding to embark on some travels in an old camper van.” It speaks to the uncertainty of life and the excitement and beauty one can find in that uncertainty. “It really embodies me the most out of anything else I’ve released so far,” says Maxwell.
“Uncharted Territory,” released on May 27, 2019 is available for you on all platforms and is one in a series of singles Maxwell has put out over the past few years. Keep your ears open for more singles from Dixie Maxwell in the near future, not to mention a music video for “Uncharted Territory” once she returns from her Australia tour.
5/8/2019 2 Comments
This edition of Boss Ladies is brought to you by member Heather Miller Janiga, who reviews poet Lizzie Wann's new book The Hospice Bubble & Other Devastating Affirmations.
Good poetry doesn’t require that the reader understand the mechanics involved behind the careful creation of each stanza. Good poetry will trap you within the confines of a moment you never lived, but that comes alive inside you so much so that you can see, feel, smell and even taste it. It will teleport you to another time and place, where the painful anguish, joy, frustration, and ecstasy lifts off the page and becomes your momentary reality, each thoughtfully chosen word a vital breath, a palpable heartbeat. Lizzie Wann’s new collection of
poetry entitled The Hospice Bubble & Other Devastating Affirmations is a perfect example of this. The only difference is that Wann is not merely a “good” poet, she is an exceptional one.
Wann’s book is divided into five segments: The Hospice Bubble, Death, Depression, Writing and Love.
In The Hospice Bubble collection of poems, the reader is guided through a painful journey of the looming loss of a beloved father and the heartache and numbness hurricane that violently/gently swirls you toward the impending doom that awaits. We are flashbacked to the delicate memories of a little girl riding passenger side in her father’s 18-wheeler while Willie Nelson croons through the radio, “chocolate chip waffles for breakfast a noon on Sundays,” and the belly dipping excitement of being tossed in the air by strong endearing arms before the burden of sickness settled in to weaken the body. In tandem with the sadness, these joyful memories make the impending loss even more unbearable. Wann careens us through hospital bedsides, mortuaries, hospice care, the “lift team” and the unavoidable decline with blunt grace.
Tender moments of acceptance arise, such as in “Bequeathments,” where a father, perceptive to a tapered timeline, gathers his daughters to bequeath them his most treasured possessions. This moment, so precisely relatable to anyone who has lost a beloved in a similar long sick way, is mournfully sweet:
one afternoon, as winter sunlight waned
Dad asked me to bring a box from his room
small tv tray in front of him
he slowly began relieving the box of its contents
rings, dog tags, a smaller box with papers
a couple bibles, ID cards
In the Depression segment, the pro-longed discontentment that settles like concrete spreading heavy gloom throughout the body manifests through pensive prose that ruminates like an empty echo through the soul. One example of this is the poem “Bone Song,” which quakes with deep, resonating pain:
there is an ache
bottom of my throat
base of the neck
that is a sad song
there is a tremble
in my chest
that is the difference
In Love, the reader is taken on roller coaster dips of longing, finding/loving, and the sting of unrequited affections. “Sins and Miracles” spirals into the chaotically intoxicating grip of Las Vegas, while at the same time touching upon the lack of something expected that never came to be, the coming together of hearts and bodies:
I am wearing Las Vegas home
white cotton steeped in beer,
sweat, residue of bed sheets,
memories of cigarettes whose
ghostly smoke still found ways
into these fibers
that now surround
my own sins and miracles
it was in Las Vegas
where we finally did not touch,
exchanged no compliments,
did not accept our anger
Above is merely a small sampling of Lizzie Wann’s recent poetic masterpiece. Once you pull back the cover and delve gently into the first poem, you will find it difficult to lay to rest. It entangles you in a web of melancholy beauty warbled through elegiac rhythms and beats, dips and highs, loss and reckoning. It will consume you for a spell, and while captive within these poetic trammels, relish every moment of the high-voltage life it pumps through your veins. Although, as the title suggests, devastating pangs lay in wait throughout her prose, the true,
unrefined beauty of Lizzie Wann’s poetry is anodyne to the human soul.
Find The Hospice Bubble & Other Devastating Affirmations:
This edition of Boss Ladies is brought to you by member Unison Colthurst, who reviews Ren Daversa's debut album Saltwater.
In her debut solo album, Ren Daversa has unleashed a decade of songwriting craft and music studies into a refreshing musical getaway. With catchy melodies and playful guitar riffs, there is an undeniable buoyancy to Saltwater that will lift your mood with every track.
Currently Ren lives in San Diego, but she grew up on a small island on the East Coast. The ocean has always been a big part of her life, and with the first track, “Oceans of You,” Ren combines her love of the ocean with her love for singing and songwriting. This track greets the listener with waves of pop vocal harmonies that gently wash over the melody, achieving automatic earworm status.
Ren is no stranger to the recording studio, and even though she admits finding herself in complete control for the first time was both totally exciting and overwhelming, the finished product is well worth it. This project started out as a four song EP recorded at Grey Brick Recording Studio in Lemon Grove with engineer extraordinaire, Peter Duff, but it kept growing until a full album was born. Take the third track, “Cut and Dried.” Ren wrote this piece for a songwriting challenge. It was originally a simple acoustic song, but every time she played it, she heard it with a full band and strings. Once in the studio, she experimented with sounds and gave the song the breathing room it needed to change and morph. This song is now one that Ren is most proud of, and her best songwriting effort to date.
With the sixth track “Firelight,” Ren is able to transport us to the magical beach bonfire with her picturesque lyrics. She urges the listener to feel that magic through her descending counter melodies and layers of vocal harmonies, then artfully pulls back to just her voice with a beautiful stripped down finale.
Rounding out the album, Ren finishes with a humorous self-portrait entitled “Type A,” featuring her signature peppermint vocals and catchy lyrics that you’ll be singing all day. (Once you get “Oceans of You” out of your head, that is).
Ren shows no signs of slowing down. She is in the throws of promoting this album, playing with her band Wicked Cool, and currently working on a four-song EP set for release after the summer. “I am going for a more stripped down acoustic and vocal sound," she says. “But the one thing I have learned about recording is to stay open-minded and not get too attached to the parts. It is always important to have a game plan when you go into the studio to record, but I really try to just follow where the music leads me.”
Boss Ladies is back! Each article in this series is written by a member about a member. This week, Jules Stewart reviews Baggage Claim, the latest release from Tori Roze and the Hot Mess.
San Diego band Tori Roze and the Hot Mess have been playing and recording music together for over a decade, and it shows. Their latest album, Baggage Claim (July 2018), oozes with the fluidity and cohesiveness only veteran bands can nail down. The attention to detail throughout the album is mind-boggling; instrumentation and sounds change significantly from start to finish and song structure perfectly suits each track as genres bend and melt together. Not once did it feel like an instrument or lyric was out of place. That is a stunning accomplishment for any ensemble to pull off, but for this talented six-piece act, it speaks to their unified, selfless pursuit of serving the music.
With a heavy groove from the jump, “Trust Love” sets the tone for the album. I love that even with a wide array of available sounds, the band chooses restraint and starts with the “good bones” house flippers on those home renovation shows always look for: special guest Tim “Figgster” Newton on drums and Harley Magsino on bass lay down a solid spine that gradually gets built upon as the song progresses. The backing vocals (tracked by both Tori and her mom, Lee Clark) bring layers on layers of depth, effectively setting my expectations sky-high for the rest of the album.
The sultry bossa nova feel of “Show Me” matches the open seduction of the lyrics, but there’s so much more to it. Rather than sticking to a mellow bossa groove, somehow the band gets to lay down fire without distracting from the heart of the song, a feat that is spectacularly hard to do well. Oh there’s a tasteful, jazzy flute solo? You win, officially. As a drummer, I’m taking notes on uncompromising feel from special guest Julien Cantelm.
“Ride The Wave” settles into the most relaxed moment of the album while somehow gaining emotional momentum. The arrangement doesn’t overcomplicate the point; stripped instrumentation lets the listener focus on the message, which I hear as a much-needed call to loosen the heck up and let life move as it will. I was impressed with Tori's voice in the previous two tracks, but this is where I started to fall in love. Gorgeous guitar (from John Alexander) compliments the vocals and provides a lazy river for the listener to float down. Oh tremolo, take me home.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced a moment of indecision that feels like the weight of the world rests on it. “Oh Lord, Please” is a plea for a little wisdom in that moment, and as the band comes in, I get all the guidance I need. The arrangement is particularly intentional and powerful here and the breakdown section makes me want to lean farther into my headphones.
“Slow Down” is a super-smooth flex of the diversity, instrumentation, and raw groove of this band. The bridge is smoother than Marvin Gaye, each dynamic swell toying with my emotions.
“Irish Coffee” hits hard with a definite and surprising nod to reggae but with a heavy dose of jazz’s more complex melodic structure. Rhythmic stops give breathing room to the vocals, which are impressive and powerful in moments but relaxed and fluid in others. Killer brass from Jordan Morita (trombone) provides an unpredictable and delightful blending of genres.
Watch out, jazz cats. In “My Life,” the repeating theme of sabotaging a boldy self-built life hits home among odd time signatures accented by drummer Charles Weller and non-standard chord progressions. I’m usually not blown away musically and emotionally connected to a song at the same time. How did you do that? Really, how? Listen, I didn’t think I was signing up for a therapy session right now, but “can’t live in my past if this gonna last” gives me a little dose of conviction in “Hiccup.” Hit me with a trombone solo and I’m pretty much crying. I’ve been on a healing journey through this song, and as a note to my exes, “I’ll forgive you when you forgive me.”
When “Just Say No” starts, I can just hear the sound of DJs everywhere hustling to snag the opening groove. This song might have the most infectiously catchy horn line since “Superstition.” When that screaming flute run pulls the song into another key/dimension/universe, I just about lose my mind. In the end, I like a good best friend song...or a good “I’m in love with you but don’t realize it” song, whichever.
Finally, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” made me stop what I was doing. As a native Seattleite who (shhhhh, don’t tell anyone) isn’t crazy about Nirvana, I might be now. This cover does justice to the original while giving a completely new life to the song. I like the original more now because this cover made me appreciate the value of the song by framing it in a groovy, full, refreshing context. Guest drummer Rashaad Graham really drives the bus home. All my friends that hated me because I didn’t like Nirvana are saying thank you.
My head didn’t stop bobbing once while listening to this album. It’s a masterpiece of groove, heart, and stank, start to finish. Featuring a host of guest musicians in addition to the ultra-talented band, these tracks are a collaborative labor of love. To nobody’s surprise, Baggage Claim was nominated for Best Pop Album at the 2019 San Diego Music Awards. You’re going to want to check this out.
Find Baggage Claim:
iTunes - Amazon - Spotify
Welcome to Boss Ladies, a blog series dedicated entirely toward featuring and promoting our talented Lady Brian Members and their creative work. Keeping with our mission of collaboration and service, each article in this series is written by a member about a member. We encourage you to discover and support not only the subject of each review, but also the writer! This week, Carissa Schroeder reviews “Want 2 Be,” a new single from HippiHollywood and Naiomi.
The opening piano chords of “Want 2 Be” are wide and moody, producer HippiHollywood (Sterling Luna) utilizing the low end of the instrument to draw the ear, as he lays the foundation of the track. The beat gains definition as singer Naiomi’s voice layers in. She has a solid pop sensibility in her delivery – clean riffs, just enough vocal fry on the attack, and a hint of that vowel breaking thing that young artists do these days (Google search “Indie Pop Voice” if you’re not sure what I mean). While creating diphthongs where there are none is a hot topic in the vocal community, Naiomi’s approach is consistent with the genre and is a successful stylistic choice.
Lyrically, she makes great use of text painting during the classic EDM, build-up-until-the-beat-drops tableau, stating, “now I’ve got a moment to prepare for the ride.” With the full arrangement of the track underway, Naomi’s words are those of someone manifesting: “I’ll cause second glances” and “Find me, I’ll be dancing, right on time,” – words not of doubt, but of certainty, as though she can see into her future. There is definitely an upbeat and motivational quality about the song, that achieves Naiomi’s goal of inspiring people who are also “fighting for their truth.”
My only wish is that the track was lengthier, so I could enjoy Naiomi’s confident lyricism atop HippiHollywood’s EDM beat. I am a barre instructor and I openly admit this genre is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the way a few musical minutes can leave me feeling as though I’ve summited a mountain, danced a little victory dance at the top, then piloted a hang glider back down. I'm already looking forward to enjoying the sonic scenery with future collaborations from this duo.
Welcome to Boss Ladies, a blog series dedicated entirely toward featuring and promoting our talented Lady Brian Members and their creative work. Keeping with our mission of collaboration and service, each article in this series is written by a member about a member. We encourage you to discover and support not only the subject of each review, but also the writer! Today's Boss Ladies review features the latest release from CalAmity (featuring Lady Brain podcast host Cathryn Beeks), written by Tori Roze.
CalAmity is a San Diego-based all-female band made up of local folk/Americana all-stars Cathryn Beeks (ukulele, vocals), Nisha Catron (guitar, harmonica, vocals), Marcia Claire (bass, vocals), Kristen Cusato (cajon), and Jules Whelpton (violin). One of the hardest working women in the San Diego music scene for over at least the last fifteen years, Beeks tapped into her finely tuned DIY skills to film, direct, and star alongside bandmates in the newest music video for their song “After All.” With her incredibly diverse skill set in hand and a talented band to boot, this visual homage to a lesser-known historical location is a lovely display of not just Beeks's ideas, but CalAmity’s pure heart and soul.
According to Beeks, “This song is about The Teten Farm House, an exhibit at the San Dieguito Heritage Museum. The home was built in 1892 by Olivenhain colonist, Fred Teten.” The scene opens with a charming black and white photo and the ominous sound of crows cawing, hinting at a rustic time and place that was once the everyday norm. Fast forward to the present day and you’re immediately transported to a gracefully cohesive narrative tying the two time periods together: same place, different time.
The song begins with violin, guitar, bass, cajon and a ukulele. A three-part vocal harmony reminiscent of The Dixie Chicks (but with way more rock-and-roll grit under their fingernails) carries the tune through the choruses, creating a solid wall of sound to tell this unique tale. Catron oscillates between acoustic guitar, harmonica,
and vocals, creating a lullaby-like calmness to the music that sounds as if we have entered into a proper Oh Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack. Now the mood is perfectly set. Welcome to the Teten Farm House at Heritage Ranch in Encinitas, CA.
The lighting is absolutely lovely: warm and cool sentiments signify when one is nostalgically recalling the past versus the present, while candlelight recalls those that are no longer here. It works seamlessly. Visually there is a ritualistic witchy-ness to it all – a discernible Stevie Nicks vibe that mysteriously and immediately draws you in.
After we have met our ranch care-takers, Mary Lou and John Binkinz (who are descendants of the original settlers), CalAmity suddenly appears – five strong women sitting ephemerally with their instruments. They are dream-like pillars of herstory representing the people who once lived in the house where they filmed. The video continually moves throughout the ranch dwelling with all five members of the band floating in and out of the scene. Quiet, secretive, and reverent – the detailed connectivity to feminine energy is honored in abundance.
Astoundingly thoughtful and intentional, Beek’s cinematography is meant to give you a warm hug, emanating the sense of being let into the band’s space of self-reflection. The “nurturers and care-takers” of the world are shown in pink lighting and white vintage lace. White gloves are strewn about the wooden dresser nestled alongside classical monochromatic family photos. There is a delicate continuity sewing together the fabric of this miniature film.
As CalAmity “comes and goes” from shot to shot, it signifies the impermanence of our own being and the prospect of someday no longer being able to tell our own stories. There is a bittersweet tug at the heart strings when one considers no longer physically, but spiritually inhabiting a space. The lyrics reinforce that disposition:
The Museum lights ain’t on tonight / It’s giving me such a fright
After all, after all, after all the folks are gone
Fred built this place in 1893 /I feel him here, same as you and me
After all, after all, after all it's still his home
Everything has memories / Each one tells a tale.
If you listen you will hear / If they want to tell
Walking ‘round this place at night / Singing ‘spirits go to the light
After all, after all, there's sanctuary in these walls
This song and video stand as CalAmity’s personal museum time capsule. And now it serves as a historical time-marker for both the band and Teten Farm House. Their vision is clear: everything has a story that should be
excavated, acknowledged, and celebrated. It inspires you to want to go and take a tour of the
Teten Farm House for yourself just to soak up its roots.
Since the video’s January release, CalAmity has been on a “studio tour," trading promo videos of San Diego studios/producers in exchange for a song – a system of creative exchange helping to truly build a solid local music community. “After All" was recorded by Marti Amadao of AmadoMusic, while other tunes were recorded with Jeff Berkley, Maria Connors, Josquin Despres, and Sven Erik Seaholm. The band plans on releasing a new song/video every six to eight weeks, so be on the lookout via YouTube and Soundcloud.
Don't miss the opportunity to see them live (in the space where the video was filmed!) on July 7 for the first annual Lady Brain Fest at Heritage Ranch - details coming soon!
Welcome to Boss Ladies, a blog series dedicated entirely toward featuring and promoting our talented Lady Brian Members and their creative work. Keeping with our mission of collaboration and service, each article in this series is written by a member about a member. We encourage you to discover and support not only the subject of each review, but also the writer! Without further ado, check out our first Boss Ladies review featuring Corina Rose, written by Jules Stewart.
Corina Rose’s unique upbringing as the child of two political activists is inherently apparent while listening to her album, Our Love Is Freedom. Her uncommon attention to the beauty in her surroundings and strong sense of spirituality inform each track while she encourages listeners to follow her as she explores the many facets of love. Our Love Is Freedom is an ambitious, confident evolution from her sophomore album, Love Is Everywhere, though the transparent and heartfelt optimism of Corina Rose’s music has stayed fiercely put. The album was released on January 4th, 2019 and was nominated for a San Diego Music Award in the category of Best Pop Album.
Pop seems too small a label, though, as Our Love is Freedom blends genres with unexpected fluidity. Reggae influences are peppered throughout the album and are especially prominent in “I Prayed for You” and “It Takes Love.” Latin rhythms carry “Sweet Potato,” and jazz influences become apparent in “Magick” as well as the album’s title track, “Our Love Is Freedom.” The instrumentation transcends genre, too, from the saxophone woven throughout “I Prayed For You” to the surprisingly fitting synths on “All the Love in the World.”
From the start, “I Prayed for You” sets both the conceptual and rhythmic tone of the album with stirring hand percussion and a hopeful declaration of fulfilled longing. “Magick” eases the listener into a picture of comfortable intimacy despite the fear that comes with trusting another, a message that’s carried by the tentative feel of jazz guitar juxtaposed against a relentless, relaxed groove. The transformative power of that intimacy is explored in the title track and celebrated in “Sweet Potato.”
The album’s most laid-back moment, “Under the Stars,” uses melodic leads to tell a tender love story celebrating the small nuances that pull us toward each other. In what is perhaps the album’s most dramatic tonal shift, “All the Love in the World” makes use of a vast landscape of instrumentation to underscore the fullness love brings. Attention then shifts outward toward community, connection, and compassion as “It Takes Love” cleverly slows time to allow the listener to reflect on the importance of self-care and compassion.
The album closes with the bare-boned, emotional “Love Is Everywhere,” a picture of hard-won self-love that urges listeners to open their hearts to the beauty around them. Taken as a whole, Our Love is Freedom presents a complex vision of love beyond the physical realm and gives a relatable, first-person account of the transformative power of self-compassion and love.
Find Our Love Is Freedom:
Spotify - iTunes - Amazon Music
Meet the Writer: Jules Stewart
Our Lady Brain blog writers work on a volunteer basis in support of their fellow members. If you enjoyed this article, please consider making a small donation to Jules via Venmo, which will help support her creative endeavors.
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