Shining Her Light: Joanne Lurgio’s Latest

Intoned intimacy. A likable lilt. And a powerful pull.

Well-written lyrics speak for themselves. Instrumental flourishes complement one another and ring out. But how do words, reviews, blogs like this do justice to a voice that compels?


There’s a show that purports to find “The Voice.” Well, here is one artist who doesn’t need the hype of a televised self-congratulatory competition to justify her identity.

Just listen to “Young Summer Hues,” on Joanne Lurgio’s latest,

Rise From the Storm

Rise From the Storm. If you haven’t bought the CD yet, here is the link to a tease: the cdbaby site with snippets of the songs. “Young Summer Hues” is the fourth track.

Sultry almost does it justice, but not quite. So click on track No. 10: “Shine Your Light,” and the voice becomes percussive, upbeat, crooning. Rock in your seat listening to this one: the message of a light shining on the singer’s “darkest day” elevates with the tone.

Still need a bigger vocabulary? Yes! Because Joanne Lurgio’s range is not just vocal. It is intellectually rich and deeply empathetic.  All of these lyrics and melodies are her own, enhanced with a roster of performers that includes Vance Gilbert, Duke Robillard and her son, Joe, on mandolin. But it is the slide guitar of Mike “Scatman” Sullivan on Track 12 that best approximates the careening journey of “the slow hard ride down the road to hell” of a drifter who “lost his money, … lost his mind” in “Gun Metal Sky.” And when Joanne sings of other lost souls whose “slivered hearts all have a story to tell,” the cry, a lament, wails like the prayer embedded in these lines — “not too loud” — now a call, now a whisper, for mercy.

Vocals aside, most of the tunes on this CD lift the spirit and mood, buoyed by fiddle, harmonies, mandolin, percussion, upright bass, keyboard and accordian. The themes, nuanced and articulate, are familiar: lost love, beloved family and friends, regret. And the bonus track, an anthem for breast cancer survivors called “Won’t Ever Quit,” includes a rousing chorus from the Friends of the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.

Often, we don’t know who a singer is singing to, and that is the case in the title song, “Rise From the Storm,” but we can tell it’s somebody close, someone who inspires hope and can be a trusted companion in “a place we can go, nobody knows,/ Set down our heavy lodes….” The heart that is kept “in a sacred place,” beyond hurt, is a heart full of feeling. And maybe that’s the best description of this special voice that touches us in ways too unique and special to articulate: it’s a voice full of feeling, that makes us feel cared for and embraced.

For more about Rhode Islander Joanne Lurgio, including two earlier CDs, visit Joanne Lurgio. Or come see her through Rhode Island Songwriters’ Association events, or at her CD release party: April 19, Pub on the Park, Cranston, R.I.

Sophia’s Song

I wrote this song, “Little Girl, Dream,” for my niece, Sophia.

The lyrics just came to me, until the third verse, when I tried to work in details about her recent  experiences in after school sports. But swimming, which she just won an award for as a player with most improved race times, did not fit in with these lyrics.

Knowing I had a critique to go to with the Rhode Island Songwriter’s Association spurred me to write my way through the rest of the song. Here it is:

Little Girl, Dream

Once there was a little girl

Danced through the night

Woke up a happy little girl, bright, happy and bright


And she sang, Oh– Oh — Oh,

Little girl sang, Oh — Oh — Oh

Little girl sang, Oh — Oh — Oh

Little girl bright.

Sang her songs, little girl

On the radio

Knows when to come in little girl and go, come in and go


Wonders about life, little girl

Worries and cries

Grows up fast, this little girl, wise — fast and wise



And if you are listening

And if you are good

I’ll give you this melody

To sing like nobody could

Rain dissolves tears, little girl

Washes hearts clean

Cool water clear, little girl, clear as a dream


Blues, Meet Country

More than one distinct musical style is in force in Hannah Fair’s CD Open Road, but the truth is, blues, folk and country all have a place here, next to a hard-driving guitar and bold, sassy voice, and lyrics at once compassionate and self-aware.

(Listen to her songs online at ReverbNation here, while you read!)

Down-to-earth roots or Americana is how Hannah describes her sound. Her influences include Brandi Carlile, Tegan and Sara (the early stuff), and Jack Johnson.

What you hear, though, is a true original, vocally and lyrically.

In the title track, a lover leaves the singer alone, and when she uses all her dimes “just to hear a dial tone” on an old pay phone, ending up broke doesn’t change her longing for him. It’s a feeling she will revisit in the guise of other characters, like June in “Poor June,” a tightly written tune that evokes the best of country songwriting.

What Hannah Fair gives us in track after track is a mature, personal, distinctive narrative, a plea, or a portrait. And when it suits her, there’s “Do-Si-Do,” a rollicking, dance-y ditty that makes you want to move, even as she “forgets” and “forgives” so she can “love again.” That’s quite a repertoire for one so young.

I asked Hannah, 18, for the stories behind the songs. She gave a sense of their origins instead, and how they make her feel.

“I find that ‘Home’ and ‘Simply Unable’ are really hard for me to play these days, they are really triggering,” she writes in an instant message. “They bring up some hard memories. But ‘Poor June,’ I wrote for a friend in my sophomore year of high school, her name was June and she just asked for a song one day. I wrote ‘Poor June,’ and it ended up really relating to her, it was really cool because we didn’t know each other very well.”

Eager to experiment with electric guitar, Hannah also has no favorite haunt. She just likes to get out and play!

“Every venue I play is a new experience that I look forward to, and I try to play every gig like it is the most important one I’ll ever play,” she writes. “You never know who is going to be there.”

How refreshing: a performer eager to meet her audience. And she’s personable besides!

Check her out when you can.

The Softer Side of Vince Tuckwood

His song, “While Rome Burns,” may not reflect Vince Tuckwood‘s softest side, and its message is anything but assuaging.

But Tuckwood’s lyrics make you think, even as his voice, at times raw, at times, gentle, soothes.

“Have you asked the question/ Of how you’re making the world any better?” he sings.

Vince, a native of Watford, England, just outside the River Thames, joins me at Acoustic Originals Friday night, June 29, from 5-7 p.m. at Captain’s Pizza, 8 Bank St., New London.

I had the pleasure of playing with Vince at The Sinner’s Circle, a songwriter’s performance in the round, last fall. I asked Vince about his influences. Besides listing everyone from Radiohead to Lyle Lovett to Godspeed You Black Emperor, this is what he had to say:

“I’m influenced by any and all music, and have eclectic tastes. One of my main criticisms of music in the US is the categorization of music – largely by sales units/radio play – where’s the melting pot?”

Well, you will find a melting pot when you come hear him Friday. He covers the Rivergod‘s hit, “Signs,” and performs his own material with a mixture of finesse and passion. Whether he’s playing his Martin HD-28 workhorse acoustic, his strat or his Les Paul, he’s got the goods, and I don’t mean just stringed instruments.

Lyrics Masquerading as Autobiography: Who Do You Believe?

I usually write song lyrics about longing and love.

So this is a little out of my comfort zone.

I wrote this song in the first person, although I am not an alcoholic and don’t have problems with addiction (unless it’s to music, or unattainable idols). I do have a relative who struggled with addictions in the past, as I struggled with being in his life without trying to control them, or him.

The persona here is, then, not autobiographical, but a mask I wear, a bit like a dramatist or storyteller.

And it is entirely possible I identify more with the person sung to than the singer of this song.

I’m interested in knowing, consequently, if the lyrics ring true.

I alternately call this song “Getting Sober” or “One for the Road.”

The song is not just about struggling to conquer an addiction to alcohol, but understanding and facing the power of the person wanting to impose sobriety on another. It’s not at all clear to me that the person wielding that power is any healthier or wiser than the alcoholic. Is the influence, however well intended, always constructive?

Would love to get your feedback on this.

Here are the words:

One for the Road

Didn’t know what you’d say when you came in

Didn’t know what you’d think when I poured that gin.


Doesn’t matter what I think

Don’t matter what I say

I’m sober and I’ve you to thank — today

Know what this looks like now, a sad sad sight

No I am not OK, been up all night REFRAIN


Alright, close the light when you leave

I got nothing else up my sleeve

Just one last thing before you go

What’s in this glass you’ll never know REFRAIN

Our time together is short, you’re going away

This bottle’s the last I swear, so why don’t you stay?


Confessional lyrics tend to flourish in downbeat moods.

This song is anything but.

I first met my friend Bobbi at a party, where a band was playing, and although she was a stranger, she grabbed me for a quick, dance-y spin. We later connected as friends and danced properly, on dance floors with others, together and alone. She loves to dance. I’ve learned to like it.

This song was written with her in mind, and though it suggests love, it is the love of friendship, the physical connection of a joyous mood.

Readers have asked for something upbeat and I’m glad to say I’ve written something that qualifies. 🙂


Dance with me tonight,

Take my hand and

Our joy will take flight

Just as we planned

Glide around the floor

And hold on tight

Music makes this world

Seem just alright.

Just spin as fast as you can

Take hold and watch me twirl

Yes, spin as fast as you can

Take hold and watch me whirl

Dance with me tonight

The band is playing

We can make it right

That’s what I’m saying

Glide around the floor

And hold on tight

Music makes this world

Seem just alright.

When It Gets Personal

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So I was up til midnight last night, writing what I think is melodically and lyrically one of my best songs ever.

So why haven’t I posted it to this blog?


It’s about someone I care about deeply. It’s about me. And I think she ought to hear it first.

Trouble is she’s an hour away.

Now, I know I could just send her an mp3 but she’s not too keen on technology and anyway, that seems pretty impersonal.

So I’m going to sit on this song,  hoping the tease will keep you coming back until I’m ready to post it.

In the meantime, expect another new song posting this week. They aren’t all destined to be Top 40 (hardly) but they should be worth a discussion and a listen.

* * *

And just so you know I’m not bluffing about the newest song, here’s something I struggle with as a songwriter: How much about myself and those I care about do I reveal?

Because songwriting may be mainly topical… I have written about the Iraq War,  a woman I knew who lived a hard life and died because of it, a fictionalized mother adopting a son… You can imbue those subjects with your own perspective and they become your interpretation.

But the best songwriting is somewhere between fiction and reality and when I can conjure both at once it can become universal and magical … so long as I feel it is something I would want the person it’s about to hear … and to feel comfortable having others hear.

Someone who is a master at this is Tracy Chapman. Go to her website and her song “Sing for You” pops up. The song is meaningful to anyone who listens, but the details are only meaningful to her. We don’t know who she wrote it for and that’s as it should be.

Privacy respected, the personal transcended.

That is what I think I’ve achieved with the new song. As soon as it’s up you can let me know if in fact I’ve accomplished it.

Maybe, Baby

When you write a song about love gone wrong, it tends to strike a nerve.

This song, called “Maybe,” is a lot of postulating about what went wrong in a relationship.

It’s fiction. Based on the least little hints of real angst and dissatisfaction and disappointment. All that.

If you make up your mind about love based on a song though, you’re bound to go wrong.

Poetic license allows fictionalizing of a lot of things. The song still has to ring true, though.

So here are the lyrics: Tell me what you think, about songwriting, love and what makes you crazy tired and distracted (in a good way).

A word about the rendition: it’s just guitar and voice on Audacity. Future recordings with more sophisticated instrumentation are planned.


By Pat Daddona

Maybe I’ve been a liar

Maybe I’ve been afraid

Of what you’d say if you just knew

I wasn’t all I was made

Out to be, out to be, out to be.

My state of mind is wired,

My feelings are on parade.

You’re looking elsewhere for a love

That you could just trade in for

My love, trade in for my love, trade in for me.

So what’s it gonna be now?

Is it gonna be her or me?

Hey just so we’re both clear,

I’m not yours for free.

Maybe I’ve been distracted,

Maybe I’ve been confused

By all the things you promised me

Or was it just a ruse

To get my attention, get my attention, get into my head.

You know, you can make me crazy,

Yeah, you can make me mad.

If I let you into my heart,

Just think of what we had,

With you in my bed, you in my bed, you in my bed.

Oh, baby I’ve been so tired,

Baby I’ve been so blue.

If you would just come back to me,

I’d stay right by you,

And we’d be happy, really happy, me and you.

Final: Launching a songwriting blog for real


Say it in song,

Say it loud, proud and strong.

Blog through the kinks,

Blog with tags, tweets, and Facebook links.

“Baby, you were born this way.”


This blog, this course, this class, these posts, have fallen into my lap as an unexpected journey, one I have looked forward to since the day I decided to switch off an academic topic and write in my own voice.

You, #506iv, have been my captive audience as I honed in on efforts to make this more than “just another songwriting blog.”

I appreciate your attention, respect your critiques, and have enjoyed your blogs.

As for this blog, it’s not there yet.

In fact, that reality is one I was not sure I could live up to. Putting it out there. Being “more than.”

What’s changed is, I want to find out if I can.


Since starting this blog, I have discovered that fellow songwriters who live where I live are blogging where we all live — in the blogosphere.

I had assumed, ignorantly, that these songwriters and I just shared the same concentric circles cutting through the atmosphere of this seaside city, the same stages at open mics and songwriting circles, the same mental landscape that is the home of any good songwriter, a place in the head, a hole in the heart where you find your truth, fingerpick your way through chord progressions, free-associate random lyrics and then sing about it.

But no. We share the quest to become known, and to know ourselves.

Two of my favorite local singer/songwriters beat me to the punch and are blogging under their own names and power.


I will be consulting with Bob about how to change the name of this blog and my twitter account to my real name, which I would love to share with any of you who still might like to follow this blog.

I will be owning this space.


As this blog evolved in its infancy, I did not risk adding songs. But now I have, and it is, along with other people’s YouTube videos and perhaps music sent from peers that I can share, part of the essence of any good songwriting blog.

I was a closet guitarist for too many years. The fact that I allowed CDBaby to put my second CD on free sites so I could get more exposure is part of the change in my outlook. You’ve got to put it all out there.

Sunmonroe’s tweet, that she enjoyed hearing me sing, meant the world to me. Had I not put it out there, she would not have heard me, and I would not have heard her response.


Still, there’s doubt. There is always that. But doubt is the foundation of an artist’s soul. You can’t revise and grow and improvise and create without doubt.

So I wonder, still: What do I know, what can I offer that other singer/songwriters aren’t doing already, better than I?

Well, I can offer my voice, my songs, my experiences, my passion, my support, my ideas, my connections.

I can offer consistency and reliability, the commitment to maintaining a blog.

I had a blog for my web programming class under my own name. I couldn’t keep it going. I couldn’t find my voice.

Now I have.

Blogging is like peeling away the skin of an onion. Scratching at the surface and finding new layers underneath. Blogging is discovery. It is improv. It is connection. It is a way of reaching beyond yourself, attracting attention while paying attention.

I feel we as a class and I personally have been given an important gift.


Regrets? Not really.

I do wish I had conveyed some passion in the audio that accompanied my Prezi presentation.

But I’ve learned how to keep up with a regular blog, how to share audio, how to focus while letting my more poetic side express itself.

I’ve learned to make sentences leaner. Paragraphs more sparse. Let declarative sentences do some of the heavy lifting.

I’ve learned how to use tweets to draw attention to key posts, and how to check out new followers who flatter me with their attention as well as ignore or if necessary block the followers who disrupt civil tweeting discourse.

I’ve learned that the blogging universe is full of real and would-be stars sharing the spotlight, and that I do not need to compete so much as be a contender. Be out and engaged.

Cherish the gift.

Give back.