15.02.2015

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A Happy Daycare - May Newsletters   May 5- 9, 2014  It has been an exciting week here at A Happy Daycare. A blistering version of a€?Stagger Leea€? occurs seven tracks deep into Danielle Miragliaa€™s most recent album, Box of Troubles. So it is that Danielle Miraglia puts her own stamp on a€?Stagger Lee.a€? Of course, ita€™s not her own composition, but surely a cornerstone of her repertoire.
An interview with this refreshingly affable, down-to-earth performer reveals how she became the player and writer she is today. While her musical aspirations took a back seat during her college career, there was still some dabbling. When Danielle left Emerson, she felt lost for a while, describing herself as a€?unfocused.a€? She wasna€™t able to translate a degree in writing into meaningful employment. Danielle had a fantasy about moving to Arizona and starting a whole new life out there, getting a fresh start. Her first songs, coming off the dissolution of a relationship were (again) a€?cheesy breakup songs,a€? she said.
At that point, she was a€?writing a ton,a€? and within about six months she enlarged her repertoire to six decent songs and another six months to beginning her first recording.
In addition to the strong, steady thumb beat on the bass strings, Danielle also uses a hollow foot stomp, sometimes amplified. I asked her about the guitars shea€™s favored and she mentioned that the Yamaha her boyfriend got her in high school was a nice beginnera€™s guitar (he took it back when they broke up a€” song opportunity!).
Danielle feels that her first two CDs were of little consequence a€” a part of the learning process a€” and that her recording career started in earnest with the album, Nothing Romantic. In a€?You dona€™t Know Nothin,a€™a€? a reaction to some right-wing radio talk shows, Danielle flashes metaphoric sharpness.
The a€?eight oa€™clock shadowa€? then displays his own ignorance, condemning abortion rights marchers on the bara€™s television. Although I first got cold-cocked by a€?Stagger Leea€? and a€?Loud Talkera€? from Daniellea€™s latest CD, Box of Troubles, there are other standouts.
Wea€™re ecstatic that wea€™ve caught up to this supremely intelligent and talented performer. Danielle has had purists disagree with her about not following original styles note-for-note. Her adopted father worked for a chemical corporation and they moved around a lota€¦ New Jersey, then Rhode Islanda€¦ When Diana was 15, she left her foster family.
Exhibiting her independence early, she joined a Baptist choir when she was 11 because their songs were more interesting. While she was still playing music during her school years, after graduation, she became a serious painter. After college, still in her early 20's, during a post graduation stay in England, Diana got badly hurt in a car accident.
When she was feeling better, she went to the library and got all the American music she could find -- Elvis Presley, the blues, some kind of history of American music and then she taped it. In 1996 she went to Ireland for a month with a friend who was a great musician and who knew many people there. She recorded her first album Imagine Me in 1996 and in 1998, her second The One That Got Away.
The best chance in the NY area to see Diana in the immediate future is when she opens for Alejandro Escovedo at The Outpost in the Burbs on April 13th. Diana's mother had moved to New York when she was 17, then went to airline school in Hartford, Conn. Every time Ia€™ve seen him live over the years, Ia€™ve chided myself for not having remembered to grab him for a feature article. Brooks has been living in England with his wife, Jo, who is British, for four years at this point. Speaking with Brooks from a€?across the pond,a€? I found someone who is so acclimated in his new life that he speaks in a clipped, slightly British, almost Cockney manner, sort of like the way a Northern visitor to the U.S. Brooks appeared a couple of times at The Fast Folk Cafe in the mid-a€™90s, where I was a volunteer manager. In addition to New Everything, which he mailed to me, I remembered owning How the Night Time Sings (1991) and Knife Edge (1996). Red Guitar Plays Blue is a self-issued collection of vintage recordings of songs written during 1986 and 1987.
One instrumental track on How the Night Time Sings, a€?Look What the Cat Dragged In,a€? is itself cat-like, aurally walking the top edge of a fence and nimbly leaping from one tiny surface to another. The opening instrumental track of Live Solo, a€?Chasing The Groove,a€? is typical Brooks a€” a bouncing fret-skipper that easily beguiles the audience who will now hang on every note and syllable of the eveninga€™s performance.
His new CD, appropriately named New Everything, is at times a good-time, jump-out-of-your-seat, get-up-and-dance guitar clinic. When he lights into a€?Deep River Blues,a€? the classic made famous by Doc Watson, my body does a giddy flinch of joy.
The title track is a skewed version of the old country song a€?Flowers on the Wall,a€? by The Statler Brothers (a€?countina€™ flowers on the wall, that dona€™t bother me at alla€?). This batch of stories reflects his expressed career goal to continue following the primal urge to express reactions to life events with sung poetry and a guitar riff. Brooks is quick to remark how welcome and appreciative his British audiences have been and continue to be. Brooks appeared a couple of times at The Fast Folk Cafe in the mid-a€™90s, where I was a volunteer manager.A  His first appearance was on a co-bill with Frank Christian.
The opening instrumental track of Live Solo, a€?Chasing The Groove,a€? is typical Brooks a€” a bouncing fret-skipper that easily beguiles theA  audience who will now hang on every note and syllable of the eveninga€™s performance. Tom Bianchi, her husband and producer on this album, uses an electric violin, a blues harp and a sinuous lead electric guitar with a wah-wah pedal to sustain the cloud of doom that hangs over this historic piece.
Her family lived in Everett until she was 8, then moved to nearby Revere, where she grew up. As kids will, she and some friends tried to form a band, even though no one actually played an instrument. She took a couple of lessons from the aforementioned frienda€™s father who was going to teach her friends to play their instruments. Using an acoustic guitar, shea€™d get together with a friend back home to play and write songs. Her first stop was the open mic at The Kendall Cafe in Cambridge (now closed), just to a€?check it out.a€? She saw people who were very advanced and some raw beginners. However, a€?They had grit to them.a€? Although she cringes when she looks back on her early writing, she still feels that the songs werena€™t all that bad considering her level of development. She was a fan of the late Janis Joplin and would belt her songs out, Janis-style,without giving thought to vocal dynamics or microphone control.
Additionally, she studied the Stefan Grossman transcriptions (written and audio) of the guitar of Mississippi John Hurt. Shea€™s been told, a€?If youa€™re not doing it exactly the way they did it, youa€™re not doing it.a€? For Danielle, ita€™s all about enjoying it and getting into the a€?feela€? of it [we agree]. Although shea€™d seen performers like Chris Smither use this sort of device, she never intended to copy it. She later got an Ovation, then a Guild and then found her first love in a Gibson [lots of blues in those Gibsons].
Thata€™s about when we made her acquaintance (as well as taking note of her impact at the 2009 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference). She uses a nimble Mississippi John Hurt-style fingerpicking pattern for this philosophical gem. Tongue-in-cheek, she asks for a drum machine, and, in a reference to Robert Johnson, Tell me where the roads cross, Ia€™m ready to sell my soul. Ita€™s a plus that finding out how good a writer she is now reinforces our first impression of a highly energetic blues artist.
Although she listened to James Taylor and such on the radio and liked it, she felt more drawn to the more rootsy sounds of performers like Cash and Harris.


At 16-17 years old, she attended support groups for adopted persons and other people who were searching and met some birth mothers and found it to be an amazing experience.
She came back after four weeks of being steeped in Celtic music She says that over the years, at times she's had to paint a portrait or paint a room in somebody's house, but other than that it's been all music. That tour has ended, but hopefully, they'll reprise this partnership so we can see more of this masterful pairing.
Although sheA  listened to James Taylor and such on the radio and liked it, she felt more drawn to the more rootsy sounds of performers like Cash and Harris. Youa€™d need to know a lot of those ways if you were to count the places Brooks Williams has been referred to in that manner. If you watch a YouTube video like his version of a€?Weeping Willow Blues,a€? recorded at Uncle Calvina€™s in Dallas, the guitar seems like ita€™s been grafted onto him. With the release of his new CD, appropriately named New Everything, wea€™re finally getting that corrected. Southern states might return northward, dragging the expression a€?ya€™alla€? across the Mason-Dixon Line. Whenever they got to a new town, the first thing shea€™d do was call a music school or store and ask who taught violin.
He noticed that not many other boys his age were inside on sunny summer days playing violin. Rather than accept an offer from Berkelee School of Music, he attended a liberal arts school for a couple of years. A check of our CD shelves uncovered a forgotten treasure trove: Red Guitar Plays Blue (1994), Nectar (2003) and Live Solo (2004). It carried me back in time to when Brooksa€™ jackhammer-steady rhythm and pristine clear picking were a new revelation. Knife Edge illustrates Brooksa€™ love for Ireland in the rollicking instrumental track a€?Belfast Bluesa€? and the stomping slide romp a€?Rotterdam Bar,a€? which recounts the time he played Belfasta€™s legendary Rotterdam Bar alone on stage to an empty room after it had been closed down (a favorite playera€™s venue during the a€™90s, an Internet search as to whether it was saved from demolition is inconclusive). He plays fingerstyle on a resonator guitar while Martin Simpson, British guitar monster, adds background slide licks on a second resonator.
Maverick is an Americana festival held every year in eastern England during the 4th of July weekend. Danielle had a Casio keyboard; a frienda€™s father played guitar, so it was assumed that hea€™d show others in the group how to play their instruments.
There were writing courses of every kind, including journalism, childrena€™s writing and poetry.
She figured, a€?OK, I can fit into this mixa€¦ I can pull this off.a€? She signed up to play the following week and found that others were very polite, offering encouragement. It wasna€™t until she got to the open mic of blues master Geoff Bartley at the Cantab Lounge that her mistakes were pointed out. The practice really evolved from using a foot stomp on stage to keep rhythm and provide percussion.
It actually took another year for her to digest and learn what Geoff had taught her.A  a€?It was like I got all the food and then I processed it,a€? she told me. When she was 6, a nun in her Catholic school came into her class and picked her out to sing in the 12-year-old chorus. She found later, when she discovered her birth family, that her grandfather had been a picker and singer. A place called Cades Cove, a settlement that got bought out by the government in the 30's during the whole WPA thing.
During the festival, they'd drive out after the mainstage acts had played, get there at midnight, play at the campfires until 4am, then drive home.
They recently went in to the studio and will self release that special project later this month both online and at shows.
If further proof of his prowess is needed, in another video, apparently from the same set, he laughingly tosses off a guitar medley of the most famous rock and folk riffs. They hit it off immediately, but didna€™t see each other for another year, so their relationship developed a€?at a slow burn,a€? he said. He would get tired of one line of work or things would get slow and hea€™d switch back and forth.
Bored with playing classical pieces and with the instrument itself, he wandered off and came across an older boy, a teenager, playing guitar.
It kept him away from the drinking and racial conflicts that pervaded the lives of many Southern teenagers. He also bought a book of the greatest hits of the a€™70s a€” Beatles, Carly Simon, CSNY, Arlo Guthrie a€” and it showed him how to play chords. He left for another couple of years, but went back and re-enrolled, this time at Salem State College in Massachusetts and graduated with a B.A in English.
I played anywhere that would have me a€” cafes, bars, open mics a€” and lots of restaurants. The title track invites the female listener to walk with him on the insecure a€?knife edgea€? of a relationship. If further proof of his prowess is needed, in another video, apparently from the same set, he laughinglyA  tosses off a guitar medley of the most famous rock and folk riffs.
Brooks said he was a€?in awe.a€? Frank was a damn fine picker himself, so the evening was a thrill. The children decorated a special sombrero hat with pipe cleaners, pom-poms and the number of the day, five, to wear for our Music and Movement Class.
She credits two older boys, her upstairs neighbors, in helping to add to her musical knowledge. She went back again and again and found a€?a whole new crew of friends.a€? They were a€?on the same wavelength,a€? she said.
On a gig where she needed to use a box for added height, she found herself rhythmically tapping on the box and liking the sound.
Although she told me that her husband Tom hosts it now, shea€™s still listed as the host on The Burren website. Danielle developed a a€?roguea€? mixture of what Geoff taught her and the Grossman transcriptions. After the near death experience, she wanted to do something, that if she died tomorrow, she would've wanted to have accomplished in her lifetime. The material, with its old-timey feel, was so honest and authentic, it put one in mind of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings or Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer. The violin practice and concerts brought him in contact with other youngsters, so early on, it was fun. He thought, a€?I want to do that.a€? Brooks returned the next day and asked the boy to show him how to play. During this time, in the late a€™80s, stalwarts such as Vance Gilbert, Ellis Paul, Jonatha Brooke and Catie Curtis were beginning to make their mark.
In addition to all the guitar pyrotechnics, I came away with the indelible image of Brooks cleverly easing forward and using the mic stand as a slide at the finish of one song. Hats on and Mexican Mariachi Music playing the children were ready to pick out a maraca to practice their rhythm skills. Danielle and another friend, Brenda, who Danielle said, a€?has a twisted sense of humor,a€? would write songs with ridiculous lyrics. For Danielle, they included John Irving (for his humor as well as his dramatic flair), Tim Oa€™Brien (Vietnam War novelist, not the bluegrass performer), satirist David Sedaris and Lorrie Moore (a€?humorous and poignant short storiesa€? a€” Wikipedia). There was an epiphany of sorts in that they both realized life is too short to waste on doing things you have no love for. Later, she asked a friend to follow her design to make a hollow device like a footrest that she could attach to her stool. Also, she mentioned that it seemed less desperate than standing when playing in a noisy bar.
For Danielle, they includedA  John Irving (for his humor as well as his dramatic flair), Tim Oa€™Brien (Vietnam War novelist, not the bluegrass performer), satirist David Sedaris and Lorrie Moore (a€?humorous and poignant short storiesa€? a€” Wikipedia). She finds it fundamentally impossible to repeat someone elsea€™s stylings note-for-note a€” shea€™ll develop her own version instead.


She spent weeks alone in a cabin in the woods writing the material, something she had never done before. Brooksa€™ first time playing guitar in front of an audience was in a concert on his last day of high school. When I finally got it together enough to make a little money from playing a€” and I decided thata€™s what I wanted to do a€” I was playing five to six nights a week in the little clubs, bars and coffeehouse of New York and New England. Red Guitar Plays Blue is out of print and I dona€™t see it in the iTunes store, so I feel pretty lucky to have it.
On the drive home, a full moon hung in the sky and awoke reminiscences of people who werena€™t there that day, specifically Michael, who had passed away. When I finally got it together enough to make a little money from playing a€” and I decided thata€™s what I wanted to do a€” I was playing five to sixA  nights a week in the little clubs, bars and coffeehouse of New York and New England. Feeding a habit I started at the Cafe, I bought CDs from Brooks and had him autograph them. Clapping their hands and shaking the maracas to the beat it was time to learn the new moves for the Mexican Hat Dance.  We placed a hat in the middle of the room and everyone gathered around in a big circle.
However the world views her as a blues singer, shea€™s well-prepared for original songwriting. Danielle also studied from an instructional DVD of Mississippi John Hurta€™s guitar style by Happy Traum and John Sebastian that combined video and tablature transcription. Others who got early exposure that way included Dolly Parton, The Everly Brothers and Jim Nabors (TV's Gomer Pyle).
Betty Jean Lifton, a well-known adoption counselor and author, helped lead Diana to her family.
He was really nervous, a€?shaking in my boots,a€? he said, but he loved the experience and was determined to do more of it.
The midweek gigs were in loud bars where I could barely even hear myself and I played for four hours without stopping. Looking at the a€?Listeners Also Boughta€? thumbnails in the iTunes store below Brooksa€™ albums, one sees Kelly Joe Phelps, Taj Mahal, Susan Tedeschi and Muddy Waters. It took us awhile to get everyone moving in the same direction around the hat but soon they learned how to kick their feet, clap their hands and most importantly not step on the hat. When she returned home, Danielle began attending open mics, kick-starting what would become her career. I would be putting together help desk manuals, and then Ia€™d write a song about how miserable I was.
She also met two women there who, as she found out later, were from the same town that her family had settled in. He gave Brooks a fresh push back in the early 2000s, lining up gigs in numerous venues, when Brooks was struggling. The male of the species got off easy this time, but that doesna€™t mean she hasna€™t been watching.
Then Ia€™d tell someone to re-boot their computer, which is usually the solution to every problem. And when I met him, he made such sense to me, because he had been the person I had been missing in some way.
We welcomed Catalina back from a family vacation to Mexico and she brought us back Mexican toys called baleros that are made out of a wooden cup with a string and ball attached. She tinkered around with some acoustic fingerstyle guitar while in high school, copying selected songs by Randy Rhodes and the band, Heart. Down to her last options, she says that she had a dream on a Monday night that she was in a post office and that a woman in the dream told her that her mother was from Tennessee. She followed that up and by the following Thursday, she was talking to her birth mother on the phone. He always said, 'This family has never met a stranger.' People just lit up around him, because he made them feel so good about themselves. I was born in June and my birthstone is pearl, so my grandmother had a pearl necklace for me and a rose.
While he immediately felt at home with the guitar, he kept that promise for four more years. His mother approvingly noticed that he was enthusiastic about guitar a€” the violin, not so much. At Geography Time the children have been learning where the different states and countries are on our two maps. This was in February, but Thanksgiving was their biggest holiday of the year, my grandfather's favorite, so they threw Thanksgiving for me and invited the entire extended family. Catalina was very proud to show her friends where she visited on the world map at Geography Time. She made some demos, little records that weren't big releases, but it was great experience. If you get the chance take the time to show your child on a map where different friends or family live. If you haven’t heard already we had a special visit from a green and white dump truck filled with a load of dirt to use in the garden. Everyone got to watch the truck dump out the dirt and the best part was when the children got to get their own hands dirty filling up the new raised garden beds.
Because you can’t be a good gardener if you don’t know what plants need to grow.  So we hopped on the “Magic School Bus” and watched the episode The Magic School Bus Gets Planted. They dressed up like bean plants sticking big leaves all over each other with the help of Stage Moms Catalina and Victoria. Activities like this makes it possible to teach a complex subject like photosynthesis to the very young child in a way that they can grasp and then apply what they have learned through active play.
And every little genius needs to know how to use scientific tools like magnifiers and microscopes to make things that are small appear bigger.
The children used the tools to investigate mold on a strawberry, a wiggly roly-poly bug, and the Venus Fly Trap plant. Chompy had a nice lunch of two juicy flies this week and you should have seen the children’s faces when his little mouths snapped right closed. They have already come up with some creative ideas of building with the new wheeled blocks. These are the things we are learning during our days or you could just ask Asher who summed it up best when he woke up after nap screaming to his friends, “I love my school!”Letters and Phonics: Alphabet train letters V, W, and X.
Water Table and Sensory Play: The children have been busy exploring the concepts of volume and measurement while scooping up and transferring  water and garden soil between different containers.
The children decorated big letter W cutouts with crayons and streamers to get ready for a Wiggle Worm Music and Movement class. Then the children all formed a line, tried to hold on tight to each other, and giggled as Ralphie led the group in a wiggle worm parade. Congratulations to Catalina and Victoria for being able to write their long names all by themselves.
Each day the children are excited to run into the garden to watch the progress of their growing garden. At Science time we are reading about the life cycle of a bean plant and the best part is the children get to march right into their garden, bend down close, investigate the seeds popping out of the soil, and watch the story come to life right before their eyes.  Jonathan loves spinach whether it is fresh or cooked and he is slowly turning all his friends on to one of his favorite vegetables. Geography Time: We are Using our maps and songs to point out and identify the different continents and states. Water Play: We are learning about the volume and capacity of different containers through water play.



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