Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Debe Dalton's Birthday, Saturday, March 14, 2009

Is Debe Dalton one of the world's best songwriters? It always seems that way when I go to her shows. Her performance at her birthday show Saturday night had most of us in awe afterward. No matter how many times I hear her songs I'm still impressed at how beautiful and moving they are. I am particularly fond of this one that I think she said is called "Tuesday Wednesday," the one that has the line "the struggle to be a better human being." It captures, I think, the process of being human better than any song I know. I remember as a kid thinking that you reach adulthood and that's it...you're done. But the song shows how in reality life is a constant process of, yes, struggling to become a better human being. I also heard for the first time or at least absorbed for the first time, this song Blue Packpack, which is a personal story about returning to the City at the behest of a lover but then immediately being rejected upon return (evidently the person who inspired the song was in the audience the other night). Debe's songs are really well-constructed and in particular I like that she doesn't compromise on her rhymes. (I don't know if it's just that I'm a stick in the mud or something, but it bothers me when people take wide liberties with rhyming.) Also, although musically her songs seem straightforward at first, they're actually filled with beautiful melodies and very original accompaniment ideas on the banjo. She also played her song Close the Door, which is, I think a masterpiece. And the one about "Little Red Riding Hood too is great. The thing about Debe's songs is that they are very specific and personal, and in other hands they could be cheesy or overly maudlin. God knows we've all heard songs that seem like they're drawn from the pages of someone's diary but have very little craft to them or universal appeal. But Debe's songs are like beautiful pieces of crystal that encompass and preserve heartfelt emotions and the complex results of living in the world.

At Debe's last birthday a group of her friends gave her an amazing gift. I wrote an article about it for Urban Folk, which you can read here if you want (Urban Folk 16). There was nothing quite as dramatic as that this time, but Susan Hwang did bake cupcakes and Debe blew out all the candles before they were passed out to the crowd.

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