Category Archives: songs

Toni Brown’s Rabbit Hole Soul

Caterpillar: “Who are you?”

Alice: “I-I hardly know, sir, just at present –at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

“What you achieve through the journey of life is not as important as who you become.” – Anon

Toni Brown

Some time back I took a break from rock journalism and public relations to pursue other interests; classes in animal care, private investigation, paralegal, and happily ending up in library school. Occasionally I felt like Alice plunging through the rabbit hole and watching things become curious and curiouser. I wouldn’t commit to saying what a long strange trip it’s been, but I would say the journey, so far, has been an intriguing one. Ultimately, all points converged in proper order and I ended up, well, as a grad student in library school. I’m precisely where I want to/should be. When the urge to journal returned, I sent off emails to several handfuls of those who once possessed some influence over my writing life. Surprisingly, all responded with updates; some had remained on the same track; others, like me, made leaps to new destinations.

Once upon a time, Toni Brown published a few of my rock interviews in her Relix Magazine. Relix focused on The Grateful Dead and extended music scene. It became a great outlet for writers who offered interviews with the likes of Pat Benatar, U2, and Flo and Eddie, along with anything related to the Dead. Relix also provided coverage for many new bands. Relix Records was launched to gain exposure for the artist covered in the magazine. As the owner, Publisher, and Editorial Director of Relix, Brown was a major supporter of the “improvisational jamband scene.” After 15 years of putting her heart and soul into all things Relix, Brown took a break from the empire to record and perform with many of the artists covered in the magazine and/or signed to the record label. She shared the stage with Blues Traveler, Hot Tuna, Vassar Clements, Merl Saunders, Bela Fleck, New Riders, Commander Cody, and scores of other notables. Brown sold Relix in 2000 and concentrated on other projects: publicity, songwriting, performing, and producing. She’s covered a lot of ground on the tour circuit: U.S. France, Japan, and Barbados. She mentions in her email that she’s co-writing a book, working on a new CD, and launching a “Classic Rock Enthusiasts” club for people of a certain age. Her journey continues.

While I was first waiting for Brown’s response to my where are you now email, I got a hold of Rabbit Hole Soul, her third, and most recent, solo project (and I also listened to a few tracks from her first two). It’s a great collection of acoustic folk songs, marking a different direction than her first two solo projects (Blue Morning and Dare to Dream). There’s a cover of Donovan’s Catch The Wind; the other 11 tunes are written or co-written by Brown. She’s had years to master time management, so it comes as no surprise that these wonderful compositions were written in the studio. If you didn’t know that bit of info or didn’t actually know Toni Brown, you’d swear that these songs were among a collection that was crafted during a much longer time period.

The title track leads the way. Piano, fiddle, and Brown’s clear vocals join together and set the pace. “Fell right down the rabbit hole; time to settle down rest my soul; life was moving a bit too fast; I found myself at home at last.” Brown’s songs are intimate. She sings about a silver tongued devil in Way You Talk; the spark of romance in Night; a love derailed in Sounds So Clear; hope that love still exists in Lights On; missing love in Blue Morning; love’s pain in Come To Me. Her anguish is apparent in Stolen Kisses, “The rains came and you left me alone; one day I woke up and away you had flown; left me with more pain than I’d ever known; you’re free, though you’ve imprisoned me.”

By the way, this isn’t a piano and fiddle project. Brown sings, plays rhythm guitar and percussion; Paul Harlyn’s on bass, keyboards, piano, organ, percussion and on guitar on Night, Sounds So Clear, and Bad News; Corey Dwyer plays mandolin, fiddle, lap steel, dobro, lead acoustic and lead electric guitars.

Brown writes that “I’ve found a creative niche in the singer/songwriter tradition.” I strongly agree and look forward to her next project.

Another Day

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s all sit down at the table, raise a glass, and toast the music. Many of us listen to a lot of it. A zillion songs, more or less, floating around our collective consciousness. Some songs are dismissed right off, others burrow into our brain, and a few delve deep into our soul. Blame it on the melody, the lyrics, a particular time and place connected with the song, or something else. Everybody has a story connected with their favorites. One such tune, for me, is none other than Roy Harper’s Another Day.

Roy Harper, the bloke immortalized by Led Zeppelin in Hats Off to (Roy) Harper is a British singer-songwriter. Well, he’s more than that, better known in the UK than stateside. Another Day is from Harper’s fourth studio album, 1970s Flat Baroque and Beserk. He said “Another Day is one of the greatest love song I ever wrote.” The record, unhappily, escaped my notice then. I did catch on to the next one, though, Harper’s scathingly brilliant When An Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease (titled HQ in his native UK).

It took the better part of the decade for another chance with Another Day. A video of the song surfaced on Kate Bush’s 1979 Christmas Special tv show (shown in the UK). The video, a collaboration between Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, offers a poignant illustration. The clip opens with Bush and Gabriel sitting at a kitchen table. They look straight ahead Behind them, a video backdrop of Gabriel and Bush, acting as their own inner thoughts. Gabriel begins “The kettles on, the sun has gone, another day. She offers me, Tibetan tea, on a flower tray. She’s at the door, she wants to score, she really needs to say.” Bush picks up “I once loved you a long time ago, you know. Where the winds own forget-me-nots blow, you know. But I couldn’t let myself go. Not knowing what on earth there was to know. But I wish that I had cause I’m feeling so sad that I never had one of your children.” Their anguish is absolute.

This is the version I knew first. I’m a KB fan since her Wuthering Heights debut and a Gabriel fan since he sang about Carpet Crawlers. The musical collaborations between the two have always been special. Perfect for this song and video. Later, I sought out Harper’s recording so I could make the comparison. Both versions were haunting and both were different. Both are superb. However, Elizabeth Frasier (This Mortal Coil/Cocteau Twins) presents the one I prefer. She coos, soars, and envelops her voice around the lyrics, “Across the room, inside a tomb, a chance is waxed and wained. The night is young, why are we so hung-up, in each others chains-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh. I must take her, I must make her, while the dove domains- heh-heh-heh-heh-heh- heh-heh.” Frasier’s delivery slightly holds back the affectivity, but it’s the most ethereal. I’ve always liked ethereal.

Copyright © October 06, 2007

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