She was born in Van Nuys, California (Like omiGOsh, the VALLey!). She was a Girl Scout too and before you think “big nerd” the answer would be, well, kinda, if that means intelligent folk with lovely earth-based imagery. Her songwriting career began in college when she heard someone else’s attempt at a tune about babies and death – don’t ask – and thought, I could do better than that. And better she is. Ask singer-songwriter Christine Kane who says, "Marianne Barlow's music speaks of beauty and depth. She weaves haunting emotional and personal lyrics with strong melodies and rhythms to create some real gems.” She’ll remind you of established folk artists like Judy Collins, with a timeless interweaving of melody and lyrics but with a sound more suited for an MP3 age.
With music shaped by folk-rock stalwarts like the Indigo Girls and Natalie Merchant, her songs come through her from another place -- the universe, God, her right breast (more on that later), whatever you want to call it. She offers a sweet take on a relationship in “Dreamin,’” with harmonies as rich and full as the emotion. There’s a more ancient sound in “Dzunakwa,” a compelling story which ends with:
I walked along the shore and gathered up those shells and bones
I saw the faces of the women carved into the stone
I walked into the woods and saw the lakes and mountains high
I heard the whispers of your story drifting to the sky
In “Even the Blue” she uses color as a metaphor for finding our place in the world, adeptly touching on universal themes, like a good Dar Williams song. “California February” leaves you wishing for a day like this:
Gorgeous morning, kiss the sunshine, gorgeous glowing afternoon
Freedom speaks a flowing language, play with me in nature’s room
There now, doesn’t that make you feel better about OmiGOSH California? Oh and the breast thing? It’s a song about taking care of yourselves, especially for women. It’s a light hearted look at a serious issue, partly centered around a friend who had breast cancer but there’s also this:
You know the Amazons, they didn’t need ‘em
Didn’t have babies or just didn’t feed ‘em
Her dad is a jazz musician who’s shared the stage with everyone from Engelbert Humperdinck to Lindsay Buckingham. The musical genes don’t stop there, her sister is also a singer and it’s not unusual to hear all three of them doing a gig together. Marianne performs around the bay area in California (Rose Street House of Music, San Francisco Free Folk Festival, live on KWMR) but it wasn’t long ago that she made a detour to London – yep, the one in England. With a new album out (Magic Words) expect to see her beyond her usual circle of San Francisco and Oakland, whether it’s at a KOA campground (she’s a Kampertainer) or in a cozy café in your hometown.
When she’s not doing her singer-songwriter thing she performs with the Merry Ukuladies, a group that performs at hospitals and nursing homes. She’s a preschool teacher too, so many of her fans are under five, but it’s a guarantee that adults will enjoy her too. Just don’t hold the Valley thing against her, ‘k?
Marianne Barlow plays guitar and sings. Sometimes she throws in a little ukulele or kazoo.
Louis Vega plays bass.
Dreamin' EP, 2005, available for download on www.myspace.com/mariannebarlow and www.mariannebarlow.
Magic Words, 2008, available on www.cdbaby.com and iTunes.
My Right Breast
Looking Back in Time
If Not for Love
Time Again (Live)
Even the Blue
Light of the Crescent Moon
Typical set is between 35 minutes to an hour, or 6 to 10 or 11 songs. Fast, fun songs include "California February," "Dzunakwa (The Wild Woman of the Woods)," "My Right Breast," and "The Good Old Days." Mellower songs include the whimsical "Dreamin'," reflective "Another Kind of Home," and haunting "Even the Blue." Covers are rare, but Marianne's favorites are Suzanne Vega's "Gypsy," Tracy Chapman's "Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution," and Dar Williams' "The Christians and the Pagans."
There are no upcoming dates at this time.