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
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.