Singer-songwriter Laura Dare releases a long-awaited CD.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
"You’ve reached the law firm of Godspell, Pippin and Fiddler.” That’s how Laura Dare liked to answer the phone as a child. These musical soundtracks, she says, were what inspired her to sing. As she stood near the stereo for hours, memorizing the lyrics and vocal styles, no one in her family paid much attention. It wasn’t until much later that she tried to arouse their interest: “Hey people, I think I can sing.”
Laura, whom I’ve known for six years, said that when she joined the school choir the teacher promptly discouraged her. She wouldn’t be able to sing certain parts due to her unfortunate raspy voice. Laura limped along with her handicap until she got a guitar and started taking lessons. To her guitar teacher, Laura’s raspy voice was cool. She set up a microphone, backed Dare on drums, and away they went.
Laura studied theater in college because she felt more comfortable acting than singing. In 1986, she met her husband-to-be, local photographer Randy Tunnell, in Las Vegas when he was assigned to shoot her performance in a theater production. Impressed by her singing, Tunnell hoped to inspire Laura and bought her a new Takamine guitar. “I’m not that good,” she insisted, intimidated by its sleek perfection and high price tag. “That’s the point, he said. “You’ll get better.”
Randy and Laura moved to Chicago, and spent 10 years there. Dare got a master’s degree in interdisciplinary arts, and began to write songs, often infusing them with storytelling and character sketches. She played in clubs and one day got the nerve to ask blues violinist and Chicago legend Ruby Harris to accompany her on her first recording. “Sure,” he said, to Dare’s surprise. Dare recorded five songs just before moving to Monterey in 1998, to live in Tunnell’s home town.
Fast forward past gigs at Ocean Thunder, Carmel Performing Arts Festival, and assorted venues, and a demo record with the late DeLane Mellinger on harmonica. Laura matured as a songwriter, and even grew beyond the Takamine. In 2003, Laura had a new muse—or rather, two new muses—when she became pregnant with twins. Continuing to expand on all fronts, she indulged in a 12-string Taylor 954CE guitar.
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When her son and daughter were six months old, Laura had enough new songs to make another record. This time she wanted to invest in a professional producer who could elevate her sound with strong arrangements, a drummer and perhaps a lead guitarist. Not wanting to travel to the Bay Area, Laura felt certain there must be a someone in Monterey County and began to ask around. A fellow musician suggested Roger Eddy.
Eddy said he’d listen to some songs. A three-time winner of the Weekly’s Best Local Artist award, Eddy has 30 years of professional credits on sax and guitar, including a gig in 2005 playing sax on the main stage at the Monterey Jazz Festival in Carla Bley’s commissioned piece. “I don’t really like most lyrics,” he told Laura, who, incidentally, named her daughter Lyric.
Eddy listened to Laura bare her soul at his studio. Later, he called her to say, “I’d like to produce your record.”
Eddy brought in friends from near and far—some of the best musicians Laura could ever hope to record with. Local rock legend Tom Ayres played lead guitar. Bruce Forman, one of the jazz guitar greats, accompanied Laura on a jazz track. Skylark, who tours with the Doobie Brothers, played bass, as did local phenom Dan Robbins. Rounding out the all-star studio band were Mario Flores on congas and bongos, Ron E. Beck on drums, Mike Lent on rhythm guitar, and David “Dash” Kempton on keyboards and Hammond B3 organ. Eddy played sax, guitar and flute.
After an 18-month recording project, the result is Wherever You Go, a fresh, diverse 15-track CD of original compositions mastered in Los Angeles by Chet McCracken, an original Doobie Brother.
While Laura’s style is grounded in blues, the songs on Wherever You Go contain elements of country, rock, folk and jazz. The record is no postmodern pastiche, but is smoothed and bent by Laura’s vocal integrity and lyrical reach into what she calls “bluesy pop.” The vocals soar, and the first track immediately proclaims what that high school teacher missed. The woman can sing.
I admit to feeling a little proud, and, OK, a little teary-eyed too, hearing my friend hold her own with the other female vocalists on my iTunes.
The most important ingredient of music is the songwriting, and this is what drives Wherever You Go. It passes the sing-along test, the goose bump test, and most importantly, the slow driving test. That’s the one where I drive slowly because I’d rather listen to the songs than arrive at my destination.
When asked what she would most like to see happen with Wherever You Go, Laura brightens, “Let’s reorganize the culture. Let’s say 40-something is still sexy and has something to say.”
LAURA DARE will perform at the Songwriters Showcase at Monterey Live, May 25 at 7:30pm and at her CD release party at Lattitudes in Pacific Grove, June 7, from 5 to 8pm. Listen to sample tracks at lauradaremusic.com.