Alicia Bay Laurel
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Alicia Bay Laurel

El Mirage, Arizona, United States | INDIE | AFM

El Mirage, Arizona, United States | INDIE | AFM
Solo Folk Singer/Songwriter

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Aug
04
Alicia Bay Laurel @ Pokara Art Station

Nasu, None, Japan

Nasu, None, Japan

Aug
03
Alicia Bay Laurel @ Waseda University Chapel

Shinjuku, Tokyo, None, Japan

Shinjuku, Tokyo, None, Japan

Aug
02
Alicia Bay Laurel @ Shonan Club

Kamakura, None, Japan

Kamakura, None, Japan

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Review on www.allmusic.com
by Stanton Swihart
February, 2001
Rating: 4.5 stars out of a possible 5 and selected as an Album Pick

The debut recording from Alicia Bay Laurel comes after a 30-year apprenticeship in everything from folk to jazz, Brazilian, and Hawaiian music (in addition to a career as an acclaimed author and illustrator), and it is a beautiful and rejuvenating catharsis of a record. It is a thankful piece of work, refreshing and pure, full of sweet naivete but also a kind of undiluted wisdom and a strong sense of self-awareness, best exemplified by one song, "Oh Sweet Self." The songs were written in Laurel's commune days, during which she was writing the original version of her bestseller Living on the Earth, chiefly between 1968 and 1975. All but one of the songs, though, were recorded over a two-month period at the beginning of 2000 by Laurel with just her guitar playing as accompaniment. As simple as the pleasures of the music are, however, this is not simple music. This is a quintessentially folk album, but not a standard one. It betrays strong elements of jazz and even hints of gospel, and Laurel displays some fabulously fingerpicked acoustic blues passages throughout, especially on songs like "Chard & Chives," the jazzy autobiography-in-song "Nineteen Sixty-Six," and the instrumental "Sky Blues." In addition, the influence of Indian culture shows up not only in the classical "Vai Raga" but also in the folk-raga hybrid instrumental of "Waterwheel" and some of the leitmotifs of "Mandala." Many of the songs utilize tricky and unconventional open and modal tunings, all expertly managed by Laurel. The songs stand well on their own, but work even better as complements to and invocations of Living on the Earth. Lyrically, there is a concerted slant towards the communal/hippie themes that were so endemic to the period during which all the songs were written: love, nature, freedom, understanding, spirituality, compassion, voluntary simplicity. "Chard & Chives," for instance, is an innocent ode to gardening that soon extends to the larger ideals of living in and with nature, and then to the importance of growing into one's life. The wonderful "Hang Out & Breathe" offers gentle rural charms and serves as a sort of folk meditation on Ram Dass' tenet, "Be here now." And the a cappella "Rain" is a straightforward celebration of the cleansing properties of the title subject. But these ideals also happen to be universal themes, many of them still, unfortunately, lacking in the world, rendering the songs just as relevant as the day on which they were composed. The album appropriately closes with the 40-voice choir version of "In the Morning" recorded live in the 1970s by the Occidental Community Choir from choral arrangements made by friend, mentor, and avant-garde composer Ramon Sender. The solo folk version that opens the album is a gorgeous awakening to our common humanity, and a lovely way to bring the music to commencement. But when the 40 voices join in the end, the song turns into a transcendent prayer. It seems to break from its strictures, wander out into the early light of day, and mingle with the living earth where it can breath, before rising up toward the heavens, a gift. Many of the songs on Music From Living On The Earth, in fact, seem like small, tranquil gifts. - All Music Guide


What Living’s All About—a title that’s appropriate for a woman who has lived her life with such gusto. A Bohemian artist, Alicia Bay Laurel lived on a houseboat off Sausalito and a commune in Sonoma before spending 25 years on Maui. In addition to her music, she’s worked as a cook, collage artist, yoga instructor, wedding planner, underwater photographer and she’s the author of a New York Times bestseller, the whimsical Living on the Earth, first published in 1971.

The rich tapestry of her life translates to her music. In the Billie Holiday-esque “Floozy Tune,” Laurel plays the role of the Sunday School teacher turned barfly. In “America the Blues” she dishes out scathing political commentary to the tune of “America the Beautiful” (“America, America, greed sheds disgrace on thee / You don’t need nukes, you don’t need slaves, you don’t need gasoline”). She has fun with the smart “Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues” (“Seaweed for breakfast is good for you”) and the gospel-imbued “Doctor Sun and Nurse Water.” Laurel’s jazzy Earth-mother sound will seduce and inspire.


- PERFORMING SONGWRITER MAGAZINE


All would-be writers who have studied how to write know the rule: "show me don’t tell me." Visual artists find this advice easy to do and musicians are, perhaps, the same way. When the creative instrument does not rely solely on words, showing is not too difficult.

Alicia Bay Laurel wrote Living on the Earth, a cult classic and the first paperback on the New York Times Bestseller List (spring 1971), which has sold over 350,000 copies. She has also written five other books. Laurel is a talented, trained musician. She grew up playing classical piano, switched to guitar in her teens and learned open tunings from legendary guitarist John Fahey, a family member. On this latest album, What Living’s All About, she works with some of the best musicians in the field, including avant garde guitar hero Nels Cline.
Alicia Bay Laurel tries to show and tell by weaving feelings, melody and an occasional diatribe word. She celebrates the Earth (nature) and embraces her sensuality. She also loudly laments the destruction of the environment, as in her song “America the Blues,” where the listing of our environmental sins drags a bit. At the same time, the song is strangely effective. The entwining hypnotic music ended with a smashing guitar rift, followed by a spine tingling sound of whale songs and a Native American Chant. This is an excellent protest song. Alicia Bay Laurel and Al Gore should be friends.

“Zero Gravity” is a haunting song about a city at night, reminiscent of Ground Zero in New York City where the Twin Towers used to be. Laurel talks about sex in this CD and does it with class, sometimes with gentle humor, like “Floozy Tune.” However, you won’t know what she’s talking about unless you listen closely. This blend of jazz, blues and gospel is a powerful feminist statement. It’s fantastic!

Review by Patricia Ethelwyn Lang - Feminist Review, June 2007


In 1971, Alicia was in her twenties when she started to live in a hippie commune, and had published a kind of handbook for hippies wanting to live in nature and enjoy a child-like innocence and joy. The book, now in reprint- contains charming drawings and became a successful bestseller. Between 1968 and 1975 she wrote additional songs for it, which were all but one, recorded in 2000.

The music has an underlying similar kind of deliberate naivety to enjoy life with a certain practical minimalism, which is feminine, charming and lovely. The songs are short. The stylistic folk simplicities just here and there (like on "In the Morning") are completely forgivable or still suitable because of its strong inner sweetness, which works like a winking eye to inner wish for love, and which still works as a ode to life. There has been attention to some variety in guitar playing. There are also stylistic surprises, like original bluesy interpretations, or an open tuning track called "Vai raga" with Indian flavour, or a 40 voice choir interpretation of the opening track as a perfect closer.

This is a very nice and lovely album which is suitable for repeated listening experiences and which grows with each listen. (I discovered this album through a Japanese collector's list of psychedelic folk). The album itself is like a resume of one life's experience in a certain world of existence. - Psyche Van Het Folk Radio Show (Belgium) Gerald Van Waes


On the trail of eye-gobbling line illustrations, there’s some rather attractive ones to be found on the ‘Music for Living on Earth’ CD by Alicia Bay Laurel (on EM Records) – in fact, they remind me for some strange reason of the work of Tim Hunkin, whose drawings in colour supplements described, in easy to follow steps, the workings of everyday objects such as the photocopier, the fax machine, etc. The front cover of Alicia’s debut though favours more symbolic and mystical images as centre stage is occupied by a naiad / dryad figure with a sun rising behind her. Born into an artistic, freethinking household to a surgeon father and a sculptor mother, Alicia’s teen rites of musical passage included numerous coffee house gigs in the Bay Area (that’s San Francisco, not Cardiff – ed.) bolstered by guitar lessons from her cousin Janet’s husband – a certain Mr John Fahey. What better guitar tutor could a girl want? However, Alicia’s first real entry into the counter-culture world came in 1970 with her ‘Living in the Earth’, a guidebook for the ‘Back to the Land’ movement which sold a total of 350,000 copies. Nearly 30 years later the ‘Music…’ LP was released to roughly tie in with the book’s updated reprint. By then she’d moved to Maui (I wonder if she ever met any of the members of Mu?) and it’s really no big surprise that Hawaii’s unhurried and relaxed way of life permeates the album’s very essence. Given that the material was recorded in the winter of 2000, I’d guess that these numbers were written back in the day, as the lyrical concerns – achieving illumination through nature (‘Thanksgiving Hymn’. ‘Chard & Chives’) and investigations into eastern mysticism (‘Mandala’, the Magic Carpet-like ‘Vai Raga’ and ‘Rimpoche’) certainly seem to point in that direction. If only the budget could’ve been stretched to major label style expenditure on the latter cut – it’s tailor-made for a big old penguin-suited orchestra sawing away. I’ll just have to imagine that. Nevertheless, it’s still the strongest piece and has a melodic waft that is both beguiling and melancholic in ways travelled by Ruth Ann Friedman and Britain’s great lost Jaki Whitren. Equally ear-pleasing bouquets come in the form of the ‘Waterwheel’ instrumental, its casual elegance no doubt making her former guitar teacher’s chest fill with pride, and ‘Rain’ which captures a wistful solo voice caught in a torrential downpour of H20. One last point of interest concerns ‘In the Morning’, a madrigal replete with handy skincare tips, such as “it’s years of cold washing that prevents old age”, which has a second and more unusual version sung by The Occidental Community Choir, the original vocal score being devised by Ramon Sender of the San Francisco Tape Machine Center (home to Terry Riley, Morton Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros et al), whose reactivated ‘Worldfood’ CD (on Locust) remains a must-have for all fans of (super)looped out experimentation. Back to Alicia Bay Laurel for a tick: there are two other CDs released under her name, ‘Living in Hawaii Style’ and ‘What Living’s all About’ – see her website at www.aliciabaylaurel.com for further information.
- Rumbles at Terrascope.co.uk


It took Alicia Bay Laurel nearly half of a lifetime and years of concerted study in a variety of styles before completing her debut album, but, oh, was it worth the wait. A gorgeous amalgam of John Fahey-style fingerpicking, modal passages, and lovingly sacred sentiments, Music from Living on the Earth was a sparkling stream of music pure from the heart. It took but mere months for Laurel to back up those sentiments with a second album that is every bit as compelling and beautifully realized, although it isconsiderably different in both tone and purpose. Living in Hawai'i Style is instead a collection of Hawaiian songs - some traditional, some native and, indeed, some from the pen of Laurel herself, a longtime resident of the 50th state. Although a few have (most notably jazz guitarist George Benson), ha'oles (or "gringos") have not traditionally been accepted with ease into the wider Hawaiian musical community. But Laurel proves herself acutely in-tuned to the nuances, subtleties, and details of traditional island styles, and the gorgeous open-key melodies or her original tunes are tailor-made to Hawaii's deep legacy of slack-key guitar. Without debating the notion of authenticity, it can be said, at the very least, that Living is a supremely humble and giving album, both towards the listener and towards the Hawaiian musical history that it upholds and extends. That it goes well beyond is the album's most endearing grace. Far from playing shallow and dilettantish, Living is, in fact, a paradisiacal love letter to Hawaii's musical lore and to the place the artist calls home, and it could not honor the tradition any more than it does. Laurel studied Hawaiian musical culture for more than two decades before even attempting to put her learning on tape (although some of the original songs date to the mid 1970s), and the album benefits greatly from that level of sensitivity and deference, as it incorporates nearly every style endemic to the islands, from ancient chant and drinking songs to a birthday tune, wedding songs, wonderfully breezy hulas, environmental anthems and songs of welcome. With ample help from the widely respected Hawaiian jazz-guitar great Sam Ahia and ravishing vocal support from spiritualist, composer, and educator Lei'ohu Ryder, Living in Hawai'i Style is every bit the blissful oasis that Hawaii often seems itself.
Stanton Swihart, All Music Guide - All Music Guide


Our friend Alicia Bay Laurel (author and illustrator of the 1971 bestselling book Living On The Earth) has put together an album of original and historic Hawai'ian songs, sung with slack key guitar. After more than twenty-five years living in Hawai'i, Alicia has obviously absorbed much of the spirit of her adopted home--a spirit she conveys with great respect and also an effervescent joy. Most of this is lovely music about what's good in life on an island where native culture and nature are still respected and honored by such "adopted natives" as Alicia. Just as important, several songs point to the threats and damage to Hawai'i's people and land done by less-respectful outsiders, and a call, gently and beautifully, for a return to balance and sovereignty.
Chris Roth, Editor, Talking Leaves - Talking Leaves Magazine


Like one of my favourite heartfelt singer-songwriter singers (Heather McLeod with 'Funny Thing',1997), also Alicia went to more towards (slightly standard) jazz territories, but as a former hippie, it is clear this is not done as a compromise to please/tease a public. Her interpretations (most songs are self penned) are with great feelings, and a certain light happiness beyond each other idea or emotion. She describes the style mix well on the cover as "jazz, blues and other moist situations". With additionally a a bit of New Orleans influence on "Floozy Tune", and a bit of gospel on "Doctor Sun and Nurse Water" (about what the environment of Hawaii did to her), she wrote inspired something between jazz and jazz-blues and something else soulful. I like the idea on "America the blues" saying "America, don't wave that flag to con us with your jive...".."we're all family on this planet".. (Just imagine how America is built upon so many nationalities and bought talents from everywhere, -unfortunately mostly still chosen from what are seen as the trustworthy countries and areas (so practically still excluding preferably the French, Spanish, and several Arab-speaking countries and native Indians for economic concurrence, racist, nowadays partly religious, and a few other reasons).. Potentionally I realize America still has all opportunities and a certain openness to experiment for those who succeed to start to participate in the system. This track, like a few tunes elsewhere has some, for me, rather amusing freaky electric avant-garde guitar by Nels Cline (Wilco). Alicia, for having experienced a certain earthbound process, matured, she still has the happiest aspects of the hippie; this sum must having benefited the soul and music of the singer, who on her recent photograph on the back cover still looks 25 or so, so I guess the message of this lies somewhere as a benefit hidden in the music. Rather brilliant as an interpretation I think is "Nature Boy" (originally by Nat King Cole, but also covered by Grace Slick), in an emotionally calm contrapoint-driven moody jazz style, with the help of John B. Williams on upright bass and Enzo Tedesco on other instruments. A really fine and enjoyable album. - Psyche Van Het Folk Radio Show (Belgium) Gerald Van Waes


It took Alicia Bay Laurel nearly half of a lifetime and years of concerted study in a variety of styles before completing her debut album, but, oh, was it worth the wait. A gorgeous amalgam of John Fahey-style fingerpicking, modal passages, and lovingly sacred sentiments, Music from Living on the Earth was a sparkling stream of music pure from the heart. It took but mere months for Laurel to back up those sentiments with a second album that is every bit as compelling and beautifully realized, although it isconsiderably different in both tone and purpose. Living in Hawai'i Style is instead a collection of Hawaiian songs - some traditional, some native and, indeed, some from the pen of Laurel herself, a longtime resident of the 50th state. Although a few have (most notably jazz guitarist George Benson), ha'oles (or "gringos") have not traditionally been accepted with ease into the wider Hawaiian musical community. But Laurel proves herself acutely in-tuned to the nuances, subtleties, and details of traditional island styles, and the gorgeous open-key melodies or her original tunes are tailor-made to Hawaii's deep legacy of slack-key guitar. Without debating the notion of authenticity, it can be said, at the very least, that Living is a supremely humble and giving album, both towards the listener and towards the Hawaiian musical history that it upholds and extends. That it goes well beyond is the album's most endearing grace. Far from playing shallow and dilettantish, Living is, in fact, a paradisiacal love letter to Hawaii's musical lore and to the place the artist calls home, and it could not honor the tradition any more than it does. Laurel studied Hawaiian musical culture for more than two decades before even attempting to put her learning on tape (although some of the original songs date to the mid 1970s), and the album benefits greatly from that level of sensitivity and deference, as it incorporates nearly every style endemic to the islands, from ancient chant and drinking songs to a birthday tune, wedding songs, wonderfully breezy hulas, environmental anthems and songs of welcome. With ample help from the widely respected Hawaiian jazz-guitar great Sam Ahia and ravishing vocal support from spiritualist, composer, and educator Lei'ohu Ryder, Living in Hawai'i Style is every bit the blissful oasis that Hawaii often seems itself.
Stanton Swihart, All Music Guide - All Music Guide


With a provocative title like this one, Ms. Laurel will certainly catch the attention of any reviewer! This is most certainly one of the most audacious, heartfelt and honest discs I’ve put in my CD player for the year. Alicia (who sounds like the artistic love child of Joan Baez and Tom Waits) brings a folk-singer’s sensibility to bear on jazz and pulls no punches: On America The Blues, she declaims: America, the beautiful/you’re thorny as a rose:/Radiation, global warming/Poisoned food from GMOs./ She also sings a delightful version of Eden Ahbez’s Nature Boy. The accompaniment from guitarist Nels Cline, bass player John B. Williams and pianist Rick Olson is divine.

Review by John Stevenson - eJazz News, London


With a provocative title like this one, Ms. Laurel will certainly catch the attention of any reviewer! This is most certainly one of the most audacious, heartfelt and honest discs I’ve put in my CD player for the year. Alicia (who sounds like the artistic love child of Joan Baez and Tom Waits) brings a folk-singer’s sensibility to bear on jazz and pulls no punches: On America The Blues, she declaims: America, the beautiful/you’re thorny as a rose:/Radiation, global warming/Poisoned food from GMOs./ She also sings a delightful version of Eden Ahbez’s Nature Boy. The accompaniment from guitarist Nels Cline, bass player John B. Williams and pianist Rick Olson is divine.

Review by John Stevenson - eJazz News, London


Alicia Bay Laurel conveys life's sudden shifts and jarring juxtapositions on What Living's All About (Indigo With Stars 003). Sandwiched between the opener, "Floozy Tune," and "Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues," two formally classic blues that could have come from Ma Rainey if not for the namechecks (belly dancing, astral projection, The I. Ching, bee pollen candy and natty dread), comes "America the Blues," with strident references to economic inequality, environmental rapine, corporate greed, and political corruption. Laurel moves from girlish singing on the Twenties-style songs to this doomy incantation, the arrangement taking full advantage of the jaw-dropping talent of avant-guitarist Nels Cline (best known as Wilco's secret weapon). With cuts such as "Doctor Sun and Nurse Water" (a gospel-drenched number with oddly matched lyrics), and the "Fever" tribute of the title track, "Living" will strike some as too California in its outlook. But lovely touches abound, such as the stately, quietly anthemic "Love, Understanding and Peace," and Doug Webb's beautiful alto work on "Zero Gravity."

Tom Hyslop
Blues Bites: Reviews in Brief - Blues Revue Magazine January 2008


Alicia Bay Laurel conveys life's sudden shifts and jarring juxtapositions on What Living's All About (Indigo With Stars 003). Sandwiched between the opener, "Floozy Tune," and "Aquarian Age Liberated Woman Blues," two formally classic blues that could have come from Ma Rainey if not for the namechecks (belly dancing, astral projection, The I. Ching, bee pollen candy and natty dread), comes "America the Blues," with strident references to economic inequality, environmental rapine, corporate greed, and political corruption. Laurel moves from girlish singing on the Twenties-style songs to this doomy incantation, the arrangement taking full advantage of the jaw-dropping talent of avant-guitarist Nels Cline (best known as Wilco's secret weapon). With cuts such as "Doctor Sun and Nurse Water" (a gospel-drenched number with oddly matched lyrics), and the "Fever" tribute of the title track, "Living" will strike some as too California in its outlook. But lovely touches abound, such as the stately, quietly anthemic "Love, Understanding and Peace," and Doug Webb's beautiful alto work on "Zero Gravity."

Tom Hyslop
Blues Bites: Reviews in Brief - Blues Revue Magazine January 2008


Discography

Music From Living on the Earth
Listen at http://cdbaby.com/cd/ablaurel

Living in Hawaii Style
Listen at http://cdbaby.com/cd/ablaurel2

What Living's All About
Listen at http://cdbaby.com/cd/ablaurel3

Beyond Living
Listen at http://cdbaby.com/cd/AliciaBayLaurel

Living Through Young Eyes
Listen at http://cdbaby.com/cd/AliciaBayLaurel2

Songs From Being of the Sun
Listen at http://cdbaby.com/cd/AliciaBayLaurelandRamonS

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