Songwriter by Kristie Stremel (Album of the Week)

 

kristieAlbum: Song Writer

Artist: Kristie Stremel

Year: 2014

Details: 10 songs; 38 minutes

Who’s Choice: Gone Mild

Dan chose this week’s album after we were introduced to Kristie Stremel’s music via a live performance a couple weeks ago. On stage, Kristie completely rules the stage as she plays guitar and fronts her band. Kristie is jeans, tshirt, guitars, shaggy haircut, great voice. Along with the image, a love of making music, being with musicians, and performing popped from the stage that night. We took from that show the discovery of a fun, female rock performer. There are too few of those.

The album we listened to this week is her most recent, and, looking at her website, this looks like it is her eighth album or EP.  This one has a number of those rock-laced numbers like she performed when we heard her, but there are several quieter songs too. The title of the album, Songwriter sets the listener up for that. In this compilation, she has written songs about the life of a musician, seeker, lover, mother. The whole album seemed to offer a view into her life, that compelled me to pay attention even when the song may not have been a favorite.

During a week that I finally got to put my convertible to appropriate use a couple times, the playlist of this album often made for a good fit. You can’t really go wrong on a beautiful day, cruising down the road and enjoying the electric guitar twanging, cymbal heavy, “Hard Left Turns.” That song makes me want to go into my Itunes library and find some Pat Benatar. 

Because Kristie is based in Lawrence, Kansas and performs regionally for the most part,it might be useful to give some additional reference points. I hear lots of Lucinda Williams when I listen to this album. My favorite Lucinda Williams song is Righteously. There is a song on Stremel’s album called “Well Alright.” In it, Kristie uses a riff (note at :33 in the video) that makes me think of Righteously every single time. Anyone else hear that? Probably not as well known as Lucinda, this album also makes me think of Amy Rigby, who writes similar story songs and can also rock. 

That is a fun thing about listening to new and lots of different kinds of music. There isn’t much that is original, and aside from completely ripping someone off, when musicians give a nod to other musicians, it makes listening more interactive. I don’t know if Kristie thought of Righteously at all when she wrote Well Alright, but for me it built a good reference point. That is the Spotify in my head working – if you like this; you may like this.

On Gone Mild, Dan praises Kristie for her artistic determination that produced a career that includes live performances that leave listeners wanting more. I completely agree! While this album may not be the slickly produced package that we have tended to listen to these weeks, there is enough good material to recommend it to others and hope that they are available to drag out of their house and to her show next time she is in town.

Next Up: St. Vincent by St. Vincent

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Last Week’s Good Things

last weekI don’t get “stressed-out” very often. In general, I am a low-key person who operates on an even keel. The downside of this is that I can be kind of boring, but it is how I like to be. It is how I am most comfortable. This week, there was one day that I came home from work feeling definitely stressed. The next day felt better, but I am definitely in a high intensity period where there are many things going on and I have lots of responsibilities. But I am working it through; I am counting on my team mates who are wonderful; I am reminding myself of work/life balance; and I am remembering all of the good things. I already have this week’s list going, but here are five things from last week.

First hummingbirdsDan researched the issue and found out that it is the male hummingbird that shows up first. Well, Mr. Hummingbird with a flaming red throat showed up at our feeder last week. I walked out the back door and saw the familiar frantic flight zip by me. I hoped that it was a hummingbird, but figured that it was only a crazy bug trying to fool me. But, it was real. Sitting on the patio reading, I heard the noise and there it was at one of the feeders. They are so pretty and fun to watch. I can’t wait for their wives and girlfriends get here!

orderDishwashing and Tidying Up – When I do get stressed, tidying up my surroundings is one way that settles me down. Even finishing up and looking at the colorful plates in the dish drying rack holds so much goodness – the order, the color, the memory of the food that filled those plates.

Finding new tidbits in my book researchYes, I am still working on that book. Last week I worked on the chapter focused on Marcia’s family and friends starting a fundraising group only months after leukemia took her life. This is really incredible. This was 1949! This was during a time that moving on was the most common way of dealing with grief. This family, along with their wonderful friends, coalesced and used Marcia’s story to begin to raise money for research to help find a cure for the disease that takes children’s lives. I found evidence of a contact that the family made only month’s after Marcia died. The contact was Sidney Wallach. In the 1930s and 40s, Mr. Wallach worked with Jewish causes in NYC. He led the American Jewish Committee and founded The Current Jewish Record Journal (which later became Commentary). In 1933 he published a pamphlet called “Hitler, Menace to Mankind,” which is pretty chilling. In the 1940s, it appears that he switched career paths and started focussing more on public relations for philanthropic causes. Using the items that I have been entrusted with as well as the amazing Internet, I filled in some more blanks of this great story. There is more to learn, but this was progress.

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Whitman Illuminated – In December, I forwarded a blogpost to Dan about a new book being put out by fabulous Tin House. That was enough to make him pre-order the book. We had pretty much forgotten about it, so when it arrived last week, it was an incredible treat. It is one of the coolest books I have ever seen. Artist Allen Crawford has taken the words of Whitman’s Song of Myself and illustrated them so incredibly! Every page is stunning. 

KristieKristie Stremel and Joe’s Pet Project at The Record Bar – Thanks to friends, we went to The Record Bar on Saturday night to hear music. Joe’s Pet Project was playing when we got there, followed by Kristie Stremel who was backed by a great band. Both of these groups filled the room with fantastic rock and roll. Joe’s Pet Project had a kind of Dave Matthews’ vibe; Kristie is a true blue, girl rock and roller, of the best kind. She leads her band with energy and musical chops. Every musician seemed to be having such a good time making music. More music to add to my list.

Keep seeing good things.