Darcy was, it had been said before, a bit of a dreamer. Yet, her love for the cracked trembling voices of singers like Ralph Stanley and Hazel Dickens was true and heartfelt. She had recently uncovered what she believed was a significant understanding of the frequencies created by the stringed instruments and high careening vocal harmonies of old American music. They were tremulous, ethereal. But Darcy was not comfortable using the words “musician” or “writer” to describe herself, for she believed to label would be to defile. (from “The Gentle Order…” by DS, 2006, Counterpoint Press)
Dao Strom reports from Portland that she was in the studio with Hershel Yatovitz, from Palo Alto, whose main gig has been as the lead guitarist in the Chris Isaak band. Hershel who at age age 12 jumped on stage to play “Johnny B. Goode” at my Bar Mitzvah at Beth Am, and I have the photos to prove it, beyond my memory.
Dao and Hersh were re-working her Wallace Stegner tribute, “Two Rivers.” That song is based on the 1942 Stegner short story of the same name, that was later incorporated into his novel “The Big Rock Candy Mountain,” but as an original transformative piece of music is uniquely informed by her own experiences as a parent, and also by her experience as a refugee and immigrant and U.S. citizen from Vietnam. The short story is about a boy on a car trip with his parents remembering an earlier trip to a river (or does he sometimes make things up, or see them through a prism, or just “trip”?).
As Marshall McLuhan said, you cannot step into the same river twice. No, that was Myra Melford; McLuhan said you can’t step in the same river period.
I told Dao that I had mentioned her to my neighbor Marjorie Ford, a writing instructor at Stanford (and also the mother of musician Maya Ford, of The Donnas). I saw Marjorie and her class at the recent on-campus reading by Tim O’Brien, the Vietnam vet. I am hoping (and hypotheticalizing, imagining, –I used a word previously here called “mean-wiling” — I do a lot of that, all four actually, but mostly imagining; I am an Aquarius, a Dreamer) that Marjorie Ford would take an interest in Dao’s writing. Dao is a Michener Fellow, an Iowa Writers Workshop MFA grad, and the author of two published fiction books, with a third in the oven, so to speak. I think Marjorie could invite Dao to speak to her class and then Dao could use that opportunity as an anchor. She might also be able to perform, with administrative help from someone like me, at the CoHo or some suitably nearby music venue like Dana Street Roasting in Mountain View or Cafe Zoe in Menlo Park. (Funny and sad that I think of places in these nearby towns but nothing here in Palo Alto proper).
Full disclosure I was Dao’s manager for 18 months. But now we are just friends, or she is a type of muse and inspiration to me. For example, this is the 105th post for this blog. Further I think about sometimes how I would love to get her to write for “Plastic Alto” some day, even anonymously (but not pseudo-guesting, like when I copied Robbie Fulks’ post from his own blog and pasted it onto mine. And not ethically stealing like when I pasted Mollie Tanenbaum’s preview of my 2005 concert with “The Evens” here because I felt it was not archived properly and because I was a source — Aaron Selverston of Patch chided me about this. “Fair Use” and “copyright trolling” perhaps could appear here separately some day soon).
I forgot to mention to Dao that I saw Robbie recently, at his soundcheck at Freight and Salvage. I could not attend his show (it was the same night as Rob Syrett’s opening at Public Works) but made arrangements to visit Steve Baker of Freight and Salvage that afternoon, watch Robbie’s sound check
, and visit with him briefly. I had offered to buy Fulks dinner but politiely he said he generally eats several hours before a show, and not any closer to the show, and preferred to spend the time practicing.
Dao and I met Robbie Fulks (and Robbie Gjersoe, his sideman) when we asked to open for him in 2009 at a public radio show in Springfield, IL. (We were on tour through Chicago).
Dao is revising the text to what she sees as a chapbook (hand-made, small edition) companion piece to a song of hers marketed as a cd or cdr single called “Origin Tale” which is about the history of Vietnam from its mythical beginnings (as opposed to what I called “hypothetical” above) to its recent history, and the Diaspora (the dispersal of millions of Vietnamese to Europe, The Americas, and all over).
I forgot to mention the passing of Hazel Dickens but we did discuss Hershel’s brother Seth.
Here is a video of Dao Strom singing “Caller of Spirit”: