Sometimes it takes a while to get right with God. And sometimes it takes even longer to get right with yourself. Looking back on my journey as a professional musician, I see that I’ve been on a road in search of the right place and the right people. I think I may have finally found them. And maybe even a little bit of myself. You heard it right: Your dear old Sabra may be on the verge of getting herself as right as a triangle.
You might have seen me play bass and sing harmonies with New Orleans singer-songwriter Esther Rose. Or maybe while playing bass for the Lafayette Cajun-crazy Daiquiri Queens. Or maybe you saw me out front of my own honky-tonk act, Sabra & the Get Rights. But most of what I've been doing these past years is paying tribute to the music I love. I did the same thing in plenty of other bands, like Old Sledge (with Old Crow Medicine Show’s Chance McCoy), Old Buck (with Riley Baugus, Debra Clifford & Emily Schaad) and Flat Iron String Band (with J.P. Harris). Many good times were had. Many crazy stories followed.
Well, good people, after 20 years of playing other people’s songs, I’m studying on playing a few of my own for y’all. And that’s where this GoFundMe page comes in. Right now I’ve got a dozen or so little gems that just need some polish and a few hours in the studio to make ’em just right and ready to be pressed onto an album. MY FIRST ALBUM OF ALL ORIGINALS!
WHEN WILL THE RECORD COME OUT?
Well, it just so happens that while I was laying plans for this recording, I got one piece of big news: the historic and prestigious New Orleans JazzFest was asking me - out of the blue! no application needed! - to be a part of their 2020 festival line-up. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be a part of JazzFest this year, and we’re going to be making every effort to have these songs recorded and mixed in time to release what we’ve got before Jazz Fest. (I know, crazy!)
WHO'S PLAYING ON THE RECORD? WHO'S RECORDING & PRODUCING?
I'll be recording these new songs with the Get Rights line-up that has been playing with me for the past year-and-a-half. I'm tickled that they've been with me this last bit to see through some of my biggest writing stints! My long-time, right hand man, fiddler and singer David Greely. And also two of the Revelers have joined in, Trey Boudreaux on upright bass and Daniel Coolik on electric guitar. Bill Smith, our fearless drummer, has become a dear friend and a great collaborator. Bill hails from a farm in Ohio, but he’s been known to do stints in Nashville and Los Angeles with his band, Truth & Salvage Co. I love Bill's takes on songs that I've written and where he hears them going.
I’m also amazed and grateful to have Dirk Powell producing and engineering this record. I've been friends with Dirk for the past few years, although we’ve been swimming in the same circles of friends and musicians for what seems like forever. Dirk started dropping in our gigs last year, sometimes taking part (on keys, accordions, guitar, you name it!), sometimes offering insight and enthusiasm about the new songs I’ve been testing out. It's been great to speak with him about the kinds of sounds I enjoy, the setting I see these songs sitting in. I know his passion and deep knowledge of music and recording is going to make this an incredible session. I am REALLY looking forward to working with him on this album!
WHAT SONGS WILL YOU BE RECORDING? WHAT ARE THEY ABOUT?
Just like everybody else, I’ve had my fair share of Titanic romances. Not because they were so huge, although they certainly felt that way at the time. More because they ended in fire, chaos and what felt like the ice-cold water of the North Atlantic. So...heartbreak. That’d be a theme that crops up again and again.
I wrote this one tune, “The Runaround,” as part of a challenge to myself, to write in a voice that’s not just my own. It’s about a person who was giving me and everybody I know the runaround. And I kinda tweaked it to be not just about love, but also politics. Because Lord knows we’ve got some leaders out there giving all of us the runaround. This one’s in a country vein, but it’s also got some rock feel that makes it fun and danceable.
I’m probably most looking forward to recording “Don’t Hold Me Back,” which is a real Get Rights crowd-pleaser. It always gets people up and dancing, so we’ve been using it as our closing number lately. I wrote it when I was at a crossroads with a fella I was dating. And there’s no question I woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. I think of it as my “rock and roll” song, since it takes me back to the days when I first learned electric bass and was mostly listening to punk and rock music. We’ve got some power chords in the chorus, and there’s some elements of surf rock and R&B that really let’s the groove build up. I always think we should have fireworks going off at the end.
I’m still debating about whether I want to re-record “Forever More,” a song that appeared on an EP I released a few years ago on Valcour Records. I call it my “don’t do drugs” song because it was a totally weird relationship that I got in for just a few months while living in Charlottesville VA. I wound up having to put all his stuff out on the porch, and then call him and tell him, “Come get your things!” It’s a straight-ahead honky-tonk tune, influenced by country music from the ’50s or ’60s. A lot of people don’t realize that I wrote it, which I take as the highest compliment. They just thought it was an old country chestnut.
I’m also going to include a few cover songs that reflect my growing interest in learning Cuban bolero singers like Armando Garzón and María Teresa Vera. I’ve also been learning Mexican and Mexican-American conjunto music, songs from Lydia Mendoza, Trio Los Panchos, Flaco Jimenez and Esteban Jordan. I’ve also been thinking about doing my own version of the Los Lobos tune “Estoy Sentado Aquí.” My band has been playing this latin material as Sabra & Her Latin Playboys this last year, so it might be fun and representative to include these songs, as well. All a part of the timestamp, if you will.
SO, WHERE WILL YOUR MONEY BE GOING?
It'll all go towards making this endeavor come to life. So that's why any dollar amount is greatly appreciated! And here's what I’ll be putting your generous dollars towards:
- Hiring my guys for the 3-5 days that we’ll be in the studio at the end of February.
- Studio time, recording time, editing time, production work from Dirk.
- Mastering and finalizing the music before it’s put on the record.
- Album design work & time.
- Illustration work from Burt Durand here in Lafayette!
- Photography work from James Billeaudeau here in Lafayette!
- Making of the merchandise. (CDs, bandanas, stickers, & maybe even vinyl!)
- Publicity for the album to press & radio.
WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?
Glad you asked! Please head on back to the GoFundMe page to see the list of premium packages for this project!
YOU MAY BE WONDERING... WHO AM I, AND HOW DID I GET HERE?
Some 15 years ago, I moved from my home state of California to Charlottesville, Virginia. On my radio show at Cal Berkeley’s KALX, I had been playing artists like Mother Maybelle Carter, Lefty Frizzell and the Louvin Brothers, and I wanted to get closer to the roots of the old-time and country music I loved and had been teaching myself how to play. In California, I joined bands like the Mercury Dimes, but I wanted to be surrounded by players who had been steeped in this great American musical legacy. In Charlottesville, I got my wish, playing with dozens and dozens of great musicians before meeting up with Chance McCoy (now of Old Crow Medicine Show). In 2009, we started Old Sledge and won a blue ribbon for Traditional Band at the Clifftop Appalachian Stringband Festival. We toured nationally and internationally for the next few years, putting all them miles on my little Silverado truck!
After Old Sledge, I started to expand my repertoire from old-time folk to jazzy torch numbers and honky-tonk dance music. Then five years ago, I moved to Lafayette and felt like I’d really found a place I could call home. I found a lot of parallels between the Cajun and Catholic traditions of the bayou with the Mexican-American upbringing I had in Southern California. Everybody’s eating rice and beans, and everywhere you look you’re gonna see the Virgin Mary. I met so many great players in Louisiana, forming the Get Rights and expanding my musical horizons to include the influences that are around me... swamp pop, R&B, and country.
You can describe the culture down in Lafayette and New Orleans the same way you talk about the food. It’s a little fattier, a little spicier, maybe a little richer. That’s inspired me to bust out and let myself live a little louder, be a bit more brash and take more risks. So yeah, I feel like I’ve finally started to get it right — and now I want to put that feeling down on record and share it with y’all. Anything you can do to help me get there would be a boost and a blessing.