Monday, September 15, 2014

Twenty Five Great Female Vocalists (Alto, Contre Alto) with Links

I have always particularly liked female vocalists with alto or contra alto voices. I don't know why really. Maybe it is because of the more melancholy nature of the alto voice. Anyway, I've put together a list of 25 favorite of these female vocalists (pop-rock-country - not "classical")) and offered a link to a corresponding You Tube video - preferably live performances when possible. I couldn't find a live performance for Joan Armatrading's The Weakness in Me," so it's just vocals and lyrics there. No doubt studio versions of some of these songs are better and purer, but I wanted live versions.

If you know of a better video of the same song send it my way. I know I've left out some great ones too. Please make some suggestions.

Many of my favorite female vocalists aren't on this list because their voices are higher - remember that.

When I was a kid I had a major crush on Marilyn McCoo, so I had to include her. I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

These are not really in any order of preference except the top five or so. KD Lang will knock your socks off.

25. The Cranberries - Linger

24. Fiona Apple - Criminal

23. Mama Cass - Dream a Little Dream of Me

22. Brandi Carlile - The Story

21. Adele - Rolling in the Deep

20. Marilyn McCoo (5th Dimension) – One Last Bell to Answer

19. Karen Carpenter – We’ve Only Just Begun

18. Odetta – Careless Love

17. Mary Chapin Carpenter – Passionate Kisses -

16. Annie Lennox (Eurythmics) – Sweet Dreams

15. Natalie Mains (The Dixie Chicks) – Top of the World

14. Stevie Nicks – Beautiful Child

13. Connie Francis – Who’s Sorry Now

12. Florence + The Machine - Shake it Out

11. Judy Garland – Over the Rainbow

10. Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) – White Rabbit

9. Carole King – Natural Woman

8. Etta James - At Last

7. Linda Ronstadt – I Will Always Love You

6. Gladys Knight – Midnight Train to Georgia

5. Natalie Merchant – Wonder

4. Tracy Chapman – Baby Can I Hold You

3. Patsy Cline – Walkin’ After Midnight

2. Joan Armatrading – The Weakness in Me

1. KD Lang – Crying - or maybe even better, Hallelujah

Friday, June 06, 2014

Joy in Joy

Yesterday I was able to work for a wonderful kind lady in her upper 70's, frail due to a long recovery from a broken leg which followed a surgery. Her yard/garden is beautiful but obviously has not received attention the last 2-3 years. Rather than give up in despair this lady has decided to do what she enjoys, which is garden, and she does quite a lot herself, despite bad arthritis in her hand, shingles, and need of a cane.

But she needs help. The yard is indeed too much for her as it is.

Her joy in seeing the garden "come back" is palpable. My job is to do all the needed pruning of overgrown plants and then also to go into her deep very sunny back beds (It was hot as hell yesterday) and get rid of the 6-7 species of vines, all the volunteer trees, and generally make safe spaces for her to start over planting what she loves. Yes, start over. She plans to get stronger and to do more than she does now.

We share a common love for four o'clocks. Anyone who loves four o'clocks is a friend of mine.

People say to me that is good that I get to do what I love. I do like plants and I like working outside. But what I really love is making a difference in the lives of my clients, more and more of whom I now consider to be my friends. And if the client is in his or her late years, the possibility of them having peace and joy in their favorite space surrounded by a history of living and planting is deeply rewarding to me.

I'm really not in the gardening business so much as the joy business...

Tuesday, June 03, 2014


Today I walked into the backyard of a house a block down in order to do some pruning. The homeowner said it was a mess. So I walked through the gate and found myself almost speechless. It was beautiful mostly due due to the 4-5 kinds of hydrangeas blooming everywhere, none of which were the standard blue macrophylla.

Here is a picture  of the pink oak leaf hydrangea blossom taken with my iPhone.

There were also snow white mopheads...

And a white lacecap with bees going crazy, seriously, acting hyper crazed...

There was a delicate lavender lacecap just about to bloom. Didn't get a pic of that one. The overall effect was WOW!

Monday, June 02, 2014


Life is being in the present, looking to the future, remembering the past - all of these. We live in some combination of engagement, hope, and remembrance. Sometimes we want to reach back and reclaim pieces of the past, a past often symbolized by common things, like a vine over a door...When we were present in that past, we often wished we could close our eyes and stay in that moment forever. I felt that every single day with my young children...Anyway, here is a song about lives past, symbolized as it were, by a vine...



Test post from iPhone

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Happy Summer

It is June the 1st and I say "Happy Summer" to you, though what "summer" exactly is is about anyone's guess. 

Culturally we tend to think of summer as the time period between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, inclusive. I like that definition. 

Astronomically of course summer starts at the summer equinox, or June 20 or 21. I always thought it was odd to start summer on the day that daylight begins to diminish. 

In the "weather" or meteorological" view that predominates in many parts of the northern hemisphere, summer consists of the months of June, July, and August. This was always how I looked at it growing up, well, until the school year started to eat up more and more of summer.

What makes logical sense in many ways is to go by average length of daylight, which would mean that the very middle of summer would be the summer solstice on June 21 (midsummer's night), with summer starting 6 1/2 weeks before that and ending 6 1/2 weeks after. We would do the same for winter, putting it 6 1/2 weeks on each side of December 21. 

Unfortunately the weather does not cooperate with this approach, since this would have summer starting in early May - barely Spring in some places north of us. We can thank the seasonal weather "lag" for this lack of scheduling cooperation. It takes a while for things to heat up and cool down. This is more or less due to the very high specific heat of water (aren't you glad to know that!). It takes water a longer time to heat up and cool down than about anything else, so, even when air temps are rising due to longer days and more direct sunshine, water absorbs a lot of this heat energy creating the lag in general temperature increases. And since there is a lot more water than land in the world, the "seasonal" association of summer with higher temperatures does not exactly follow the convenient midsummer night's definition. 

I'll go with June, July, and August myself. 

And by any measure I was a summer baby...