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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. That roadside shop is impossible to miss, advertised by a cork the size of a bus thata€™s emblazoned with the Verrazzano logo. As it so happens, Ia€™m spending the day researching this very topic: What if you arrive in Chianti without any appointments? Ia€™d imagined taking a day trip from Florence down Route 222a€”the famed Via Chiantigiano, a blissfully scenic road that bisects Chianti Classico as it winds through Greve, Panzano, and Castellina on its way to Siena. Continuing south on 222, I follow a lead provided by Vicchiomaggioa€™s pourer: Villa Calcinaia has a roadside tasting room.
I move on to Greve, where therea€™s one surefire place to visit: Le Cantine di Greve, the largest tasting room in Chianti. South of Greve, I turn off 222 in the direction of Radda, and within a few miles Ia€™m at Molino del Grace, an American-owned winery whose windmill (molino) and modern sculptures call attention from the road.
Taking an inconspicuous lane out of Radda, ita€™s a five-mile climb to the 15th century compound. My tour of Badia a Coltibuono (a‚¬8, $10) near Gaiole is more perfunctory, the wine a minor side note at this Benedictine monastery, built in 1051 and developed under the patronage of Lorenzo di Medici. So, follow this tip: For a day in Chianti thata€™s fantastic rather than frustrating, do some advance legwork.
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.
But a tasting here omits the best part, the reason why one comes to Tuscany in the first place.


A little homework on the Movimento Turismo del Vinoa€™s website revealed a handful of wineries that offer daily tours and a few more that seem to have drop-in tasting rooms. Thata€™s do-able, since it contains a restaurant and posh hotel, in addition to winemaking facilities. Ia€™d been here before on scheduled visits, so Ia€™d seen its beautiful tasting room, all rough-hewn stone and antique chestnut wood, located a few hundred yards behind the winery.
Purchased in 1973 by Zonin, Italya€™s largest family-owned winery, theya€™re listed as having a walk-in tasting room. Sure, ita€™s nice to see the gardens, cloister, and frescoed interior, but as a winery visit, ita€™s disappointing.
Ia€™d heard about it last winter and knew it was supposed to open this spring, but its location was vaguea€”a€?in a church near the soccer field,a€? I was told.
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. Matteo, my eager-to-please guide at Castello di Verrazzano, has just done them a kindness by handing her a free glass of Chianti Classico after informing the couple that no, the winery doesna€™t do drop-in tastings.
They might need to wrangle their export manager or secretary or mamma, who have other jobs to do, especially in smaller places,a€? I reply.
I guess he made the arrangementsa€¦a€? Her voice trails off as she realizes his hidden handiwork.
It too had a roadside shopa€”a practice unique to Chianti, it seems, owing to its unrivaled number of tourists. I go up and wander around the gardens that surround the palazzo, admire the views, peek inside the grand salone that houses the restaurant, peer through an open door into the noisy bottling room. Peeking through the window, it doesna€™t seem Ia€™d missed much: a desk piled with office papers and several open bottles.
We penetrate the compound, descending to a cellar whose barrel-vaulted ceiling dates back to the 1400s, then we climb to an attic where miniature barrels of Vin Santo spend a decade maturing. Following signs to the campo sportivo, I spot some construction machinery and mounds of dirt outside a church. Hit the Greve Enoteca during lunch and Raddaa€™s Chianti Classico Academy as the day winds down.
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. The wife sneaks a puzzled glance in my direction, since two Swiss and I are sitting at a wine bar with stemware and tasting notes.
Wine maps, an acoustiguide, and helpful staff are available if youa€™re eager to learn while power tasting. When I walk through the front door, a clerk jumps up from her desk to offer a pour from two bottles sitting on the counter.
Therea€™s an herb garden overlooked by stone cherubs, and a formal garden that echoes the harmonious symmetry of the villaa€™s faA§ade, a Renaissance structure built for the noble Acciaioli family, who planted these vineyards. The wife sneaks a puzzled glance in my direction, since two Swiss and I are sitting at a wine bar with stemware and tasting notes.A  a€?We have tours at 10 and 3,a€? Matteo offers in explanation. 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.
Here 10th century watchtowers guard a Renaissance palazzo where the navigator Giovanni di Verrazzano was born in 1485. Ita€™s essentially a wine shop with tasting bar and tables in the back that can accommodate large groups (read: bus tours). She pours five wines, offering brief comments; tech sheets in a loose-leaf binder flesh out the details. 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. Ita€™s all fine and dandy, but again, I feel shut out from everything that would make this place special.
None of this would have been accessible to a casual visitor, but ita€™s precisely these sights that will come to mind years hence, whenever one encounters a bottle of Castello da€™Albola. 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.
Salumi hang from rafters, and wine sleeps in massive oak casks under groin-vaulted arches, as it has since 1170. Even in its raw state, ita€™s clear this little hideaway will be a wonderful destination for Chianti Classico lovers. 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. Even if pseudo versions of this place exist in California, therea€™s no faking the Chianti countryside, with its hillside vineyards, tidy olive groves, dense forests, and feudal castles. She tinkered around with some acoustic fingerstyle guitar while in high school, copying selected songs by Randy Rhodes and the band, Heart. Intimate moments shared between a husband and wife occur in the bedroom.A Although the husband and wife love their children in nearly every other sphere of their lives, this isA one sphere that isna€™t available to anyone else. This does not literally mean you must pray in the bedroom any more than it means you must pray in a closet.
The concept of a bedroom is only used to convey the idea of an isolated and solitary place where you can be alone with the Lord.A When we enter into a time of prayer, it should be done at a place and time when we are not interrupted so the Holy Spirit can speak to our hearts and we can bare our hearts to Him.
Each of us should make it a daily priority to have this special time of communion with the Father through the Holy Spirit.
It doesna€™t matter where you and I spend this private time with God; it just matters that we actually do it.
He often prayed on a mountaintop or out in the wilderness, far fromA the hustle and bustle of the city. There is nothing in the Bible that says the early morning hours areA more holy than other hours of the day, and nowhere does the Bible teach that praying on a mountaintopA is somehow better than other places. Jesus chose those early morning hours because it was aA moment when He could find solitude and quietness with God. So if you really want to be with the Lord, you will find time for that as well.A Think about it.
But with all the distractions of modern life we often find ourselves living on spiritual snack food instead of a healthy diet of God's Word. Here are seven suggestions that may help you have a better quiet time in a noisy world.A 1. If you want to have a more meaningful quiet time, view Bible reading and prayer as a daily dialog with God, a daily meeting.A 3. DON'T FEEL GUILTYHave you ever heard someone confess, "I'm having trouble keeping a regular quiet time. FIND A PLAN THAT FITS YOUMany people say, "I love to cook but I hate to decide what's for dinner." The same principle is true when it comes to a daily quiet time.
There are manyA good Bible reading guides available from other publishers or your church denomination.
Then you won't have to spend your quiet time in "menu planning" and you can experience "the joy of cooking."A 5.
Put into practice some of these ideas and soon you'll discover that those few quiet time minutes may become the most meaningful part of your day.A A So select a quiet place where you wona€™t be disturbed. Once you go to that place, shut the doorA to outside interference and to the voices that are constantly calling out for your attention.
Focus onA only one thing: this very intimate and private time with the Father.A This is so important that you shouldna€™t delay in acting on it! The truth is, IA havena€™t made my prayer time a priority in my life; therefore, I havena€™t been consistent inA prayer. So I am asking You to help me locate a time and place where I can be alone and uninterrupted with You. I am faithful to pray, to fellowshipA with the Father, to bare my heart before Him, and to listen to what His Spirit has toA say to me. What time of the day have you found to be best for you to really pray without being interrupted by other people or business?A 2.
When you do spend time in prayer, what is the average amount of time you stay in the Presence of God? Can you honestly say you linger in His Presence, or do you have a a€?rush-in, rush-outa€? experience with the Lord?A 3. If you examine your prayer time, what do you find that you pray about more than anything else? But with all the distractions of modern life we often find ourselves living on spiritual snack food instead of a healthy diet of God's Word.
IT'S A MEETING, NOT A HABITPeople refer to the habit of daily Bible reading and prayer. Don't focus so much on the mechanics of the process that you miss the Person behind it.



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