S. J. Tucker
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S. J. Tucker

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we were prepared to sit through the standard amateurish croaking while we drank our beer and ate our meals and waited for the real entertainment to begin. When a beautiful pixie in a particolored fool's hat took the stage, guitar in hand, we barely gave her a glance.

Then she started to sing.

'She' is S.J. "Sooj" Tucker, a singer/songwriter from Memphis with talent for lyrics, a mastery of the guitar, and a big bluesy voice that took all of 3 seconds to take control of the crowd. In a verse she had my full attention; by the end of her first song I was in awe; by the end of her set I was an unashamed fangirl. Tucker has a voice in a million -- powerful, hypnotic, untamed and yet utterly controlled. She sings from the gut, but hers is a trained instrument.

We were enchanted by Ms. Tucker's songwriting ability; her entire performance consisted of originals, all found on her new CD Haphazard. "Mummy Medusa" is a tale of the consequences when Medusa and Rapunzel fall for the same person; "In the House of Mama Dragon" celebrates the life of Trudy Herring of the Summerland Grove [Pagan Church]; "Tattoo Grrl" is her "humble salute to the lesbian tendencies in all straight grrls".

As happy as we were to see Gaia Consort, when they took the stage, my first thought was 'but I want more Sooj!' She's an amazing, powerful performer who I hope to see again and again...and I've no doubt that someday I'll have to pay a small fortune for tickets if I don't want to end up in the nosebleed seats.

...This show was a wonderful treat to start what turned out to be a magickal weekend. Discovering S. J. Tucker was truly serendipitous, and we look forward to seeing all of these wonderful performers again and again. Any time you get the chance to see either Gaia Consort or S.J. Tucker, go. Wear your dancing shoes.
- Maria Nutick, http://www.greenmanreview


The lone guitar troubadour is one of American’s most potent yet underrated
archetypes. From Bob Dylan to Ani Difranco, you can count on this figure to deliver truth in a handful of notes. Well, there’s a newcomer to the six-string pantheon: S.J. “Sooj” Tucker. And if her album Haphazard is any indication, this “skinny white
chick” is gonna be remembered.

I ran across Sooj at the Faerieworlds festival, in the company of Sue and Chris from Gaia Consort. She handed me a mini-CD. We got to talking. Then I heard her sing. Holy shit! This woman has SERIOUS pipes. Amazing skills. Soulful presence. By festival’s end, I’d gotten a copy of Haphazard. I recommend you do the same.

Sooj is the Real Deal. Not since I first heard Dar Williams have I been as taken from the word “go” by an acoustic artist. She’s got Dar’s sardonic sincerity coupled with Difranco's passion, Janis Ian’s vocal chops, and the deft guitar hands
of Emily Saliers. Her lyrics swell up from the underworld where so many artists venture but which few truly understand. So young, and yet so bloody old! She can span Maiden, Mother and Crone in a single song, then spin them all together by the next.

Though rooted in streetwise sensibility, Tucker’s lyrics evoke magic. “I keep
shifting into Dragon at the most improper times,” she sings in “Heart Beat,” and that Dragon skims across her music, breathing fire on what might become clichés for a lesser artist. Tucker is quite Pagan, too; “In the House of Mama Dragon” pays sly
homage to her apparent mentor, while “Heart Beat” portrays a rite that becomes epiphany. Faerie glamour and faerie-tale characters weave throughout this album, casting fabulous light across the usual cast of rotten boyfriends, tattooed
girlfriends and other sundry crises. Yet despite these mystical overtones, Haphazard never gets cheesy. Its magic is folkish without becoming filkish.

Wit and raw emotion keep this gem burning. “Stickit” shreds a crappy partner —beautifully; “Crystal Cave” evokes both Merlin and Inanna; “Mummy Medusa” performs
myth-reinvention in the Angela Carter vein, while “Eulogy Song” both mocks and treasures Darkwave youth. Honestly, this album doesn’t have a weak spot. The production is sparse but clean; the instrumentation (nearly all of it by Tucker) is transcendent. The intro to “Follow Me Down” is one of the most haunting pieces of
guitarwork I have ever heard. Each song stands on its own. There is no filler here. Yes, it’s guitar-folk in the troubadour tradition, but Gods it’s staggering what this woman can do.

Like the archetype she embodies, S. J. Tucker is touring the States in support of her music. Even if you’re not a fan of acoustic folk, I urge you to track her down. Haphazard deserves to be part of your music collection, and Tucker deserves all the attention she can get. - Phil Brucato, newWitch Magazine


S.J. Tucker, Haphazard (Self-release, 2004)

I discovered S.J. "Sooj" Tucker at a show she opened in Portland Oregon.

If I thought I had her pegged after seeing her live, I was doubly impressed by the CD I picked up that night. Haphazard is an exciting piece of work from an exciting singer: pagan/blues/folk rock full of fire.

The CD opens with ['Cross-section'], sung a capella, and if this doesn't grab the listener's attention there's no point in going further; just go buy some Britney Spears and have a nice Diet Coke. This song indeed comes from the gut, snaking out from the speakers to coil around the audience and take control. This is bluesy, whiskey music.

'Face Down' comes next, a song she calls her 'bitching about Memphis song', with Sooj on the guitar and her pretty soprano beginning more gently, more quietly . . . and then there it is again, that power. And the power in her voice is the common theme throughout this album, because there isn't a weak track here.

I really ought to mention the fact that unlike many bluesy singers, Tucker enunciates. You can understand every blessed word, a major benefit considering her lyrics are smart, fun, and sometimes complicated. She writes pagan verses, but there's nothing pink and fluffy here, nor anything needlessly dark -- she's neither New Age nor Goth. In 'Crystal Cave' she writes about the inner journey ('So what if the story takes you to where the river's dressed in black? / The Ferryman will know you by the Reaper on your back. / The way will open for you like the drawbridge of a castle. / Wild times ahead before you find Merlin's Cave of Crystal.') In 'Stickit' she admonishes a lover ('Now, I wish I knew the language of guitar strings about to break. / That way, there'd be no faltering. You could tell it by the noise I'd make. / There are no pretty words to say, 'you are f*cking up real bad!' / So I'm left with the choice of aiming everything I've got right at your head.') 'Follow Me Down', according to her Web site the first true song she felt she had written (and she wrote it at age 15), is haunting and evocative both in lyric and tune:

I've been counting crows again
and no one wants my name
The blue motel goes ghostly as she fades
into the gray of the Saturday rain
I'm a war zone --
If you lose me, you can find me,
I'll be dancing down the shingles.
My rooftop's always free from prying eyes
And the leaves will collect your little white lies my friend
So follow me down the river
with no shame
Follow Me Down.

Musically Haphazard is simple, according to the credits: music, lyrics, vocals, guitars, bass, and percussion by S.J. Tucker; congas and little djembe by Jay "Trainwreck" Timbs. Backup vocals by The Ragged Rabble Chorus. That's it. Reading the liner notes might fool the first time listener into expecting something light and amateurish. That, of course, will be when the Gods of Music start giggling. . . .

Tucker lists Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco among her influences, and has been compared to both. Fans of Amos, DiFranco and their ilk should love Haphazard. I'm not a fan of either, so I'll say this: when I listen to Sooj Tucker, I don't hear Tori or Ani. I hear shades of Bessie, Aretha, Janis, Bette -- strong women with potent personalities and dynamic voices who shaped both the music and the audience at their whim.

It's a pretty safe bet that almost everyone I know will be getting Haphazard for Christmas, Solstice, or Hanukkah this year. Ten years down the road, I expect this will be a collector's item for Tucker fans, and I'll be one of the lucky few with a copy of the original release. You might want to get your copy while you can, too . . . this isn't one you'll want to miss.

[Maria Nutick]

- Mia Nutick


The Greeks had it right: a gifted, beautiful lady can enchant or destroy the hardiest souls. The sirens of Classical myth, though, were shortchanged (go figure!). The best singers can open your soul as well as your heart. S. J. Tucker is one such siren, and her new release is the best one yet.
For folks who haven’t yet had the pleasure, S.J. Tucker is a traveling bard of the Difranco/Amos school. Shunning major labels in favor of independence, this Pagan songstress spins rhymes and flames to delightful effect. Woven around strong vocals and plaintive guitars, her songs reach beyond the rubbish called “pop music.” From silliness to sorrow, the emotions in her art are genuine.
Each song on Sirens is a winner. The album’s heavy-rotation tracks include “Go Away, God Boy” (a fierce kiss-off to an evangelical stalker), “Lady Vagabond” (a defiant hymn to freedom), “Alligator in the House” (a playful tango about fear), “Mandolin Holy Man” (a sing-along about raising hell in Washington), and “Storm” (a reflection on friendships, drama and isolation). Each song, though, is worth attention and works on several different levels.
The real standout tracks on Sirens form two epics. The first, the Wendy trilogy, is a romp following the piratical adventures of Wendy Darling from Peter Pan. Diverging from canon, this sea-shanty has Wendy taking Captain Hook up his offer of piracy, much to the dismay of poor Pan. Although “Wendy’s” subject and arrangements veer dangerously close to filk, the saga’s so damned clever that it’s sure to become a sing-along favorite. The second epic, “Valkyrie Daughter,” is far more somber. Following the bereaved father of a fallen child, this 12-minute piece delves into the heart of grief and acceptance. A spare, slow arrangement highlights the lyrics without slipping into maudlinity. In its wake, the final song, “Goddess,” wraps up the album with an up-tempo, off-kilter look at unrequited love. In a way, this song bookends the descent-and-ascension theme within Sirens, in which both artist and audience are drawn down to play and struggle in the depths, then rise again, restored.
Song for song, Sirens displays a maturing artist stretching past her limitations. The arrangements — though sparse — include cellos, drum kits, and more. Still, it’s the emotional range of this album that makes it shine. Tucker is an Artist That Matters, and in an age of shallow music, this Sirens’ pull runs deep indeed.
- Phil Brucato, newWitch Magazine


First off, she can honestly sing like Joni Mitchell, no lie. With a swirl of acoustic strumming to back her, Tucker lets her most important instrument shine, that rich, sophisticated soprano voice of hers, one that would have landed such impressive originals as "Face-down" and "Heart Beat" on Blue back in 1971. Other songs suggest Laura Love crossed with Ani DiFranco, both good influences and atypical of your usual Memphis singer-songwriter. More important, Tucker wrote all the material here, and that's the main reason to talk about this gifted newcomer--not that a song such as "Follow Me Down" recalls Mitchell so much as it impresses by being absolutely gorgeous. Keep an ear to this talent. - The Commercial Appeal


S. J. Tucker is rather potent. Coming across like a fiery hybrid of Kristin Hersh and Fiona Apple and sometimes madly thrashing at her guitar, Tucker delivers a surprisingly energetic set. [She shows] impressive vocal control, sometimes running up the scale or jumping an octave here and there. - Playback (St. Louis)


With such a huge, soulful voice, one would be surprised to see that Skinny White Chick is in fact a skinny white chick. As humble and self-effacing as they come, Skinny White Chick offers to us a variety of sonic emotion not often captured on tape. I can’t say enough good things about the little woman with the big voice. Her lyrics are powerful and her music, ethereal. - Memphis Records


The label 'Pagan singer-songwriter' usually makes me cringe. I happen to be a pagan, but all that love and
light and New Agey crap that usually goes along with the music is enough to induce vomiting.

But S. J. Tucker is a different kind of pagan singer-songwriter. She's folksier and not too heavy on
the artsy-fartsy references to consciousness and spiritual awakening. Instead, she sings about real-life 'sticky situations,' as she refers to them on her second full-length album, Tangles: break-ups, a
friend's attempt at suicide, finding new love, and helping a fellow musician escape a cult-like band.

Her sound is original, but if you had to pin it down and compare, I'd say it's a little like Joni Mitchell
meets Ani DiFranco (but it may just be Tucker's stellar acoustic strumming that brings the latter to mind). Her lyrics are poetic and occasionally a bit obscure, like a good Tori Amos song sans the random orgasmic screams.
I suspect that Tucker may just be a fairy trapped in a human body, but not a frilly flower fairy. More of a dark angel with ruffled wings. - Bianca Phillips, Memphis Flyer


Read a few words (ok, a lot of words) from a strong, empowered woman who has big plans…and is well on her way to reaching her goals, and a bunch of people in the process.
SK: Skinny White Chick? Why the focus on WHAT you are as opposed to WHO you are? Or are they synonymous?
SJ: It's a choice in the name of defiance, honesty, and the games we all play with appearances, the judgments all people make as far as what really IS in a name, and whether or not someone really has the guts to give that book a chance with its cover ripped away. The first Skinny White Chick bumper-sticker I put out, a year ago, had the band name on it (Skinny White Chick) followed by a lyric of mine: Don't judge somebody until you've heard her speak. We all judge each other, whether or not we intend to. It's how we work. People think I'm a punk band, quite often, because of the name, until I walk in with my guitar and rip their heads open in completely unexpected ways. Other people say to me, 'wow, you really ARE a skinny white chick.' Did they think I would lie, that four middle-aged male jazz musicians would walk into the room? It's a very honest band name, and it's so easy for fans to remember.

SK: Do you think overweight women are offended by this choice? What about women of color? Do you think that by coming straight out with what you are, that you run the risk of alienating, or ignoring, a possible fan-base?
SJ: No woman who's ever confronted me about any issue she had with my music, etc, has brought up the band name, itself. It's funny; many colleagues of mine start out being a little apprehensive about calling me Skinny White Chick. They're worried that I'll be offended! I explain to them gently that it's the band name, that I chose it, and it's perfectly all right.
Every human being runs the risk of alienating someone, somewhere, no matter what the situation. It is my fervent hope that anyone who runs across me will let the music help him/her decide whether or not to dismiss me from his/her world, and nothing less. That's the most important thing; it's why I'm here. I'm certainly not afraid to take risks. You can't be, if you're going to follow your dreams or your bliss.
My home fan base is in a very racially diverse area of the country--a very racially diverse, and often divided, city (Memphis). Being a white girl is rarely the coolest thing going, anywhere I've lived. But I'm not going to pretend to be someone other than myself. Most everyone I encounter, regardless of skin color, sees the humor in the name I've chosen and can appreciate it. Those who cannot will hopefully learn and grow.

SK: Chick?
SJ: Ok, here we go.
Once upon a time way back in the summer of 2000, there was a little three-piece rock band called (Her with a) Headcase. This was myself and a rhythm section made up of two college friends. One night at a poetry slam in Hot Springs, Arkansas (yes, we have poetry slams in Arkansas), a friend of mine gave me a choice of two stickers to take home and put on my guitar case:
1. God is a Rock Star
2. If you are not a skinny white girl, you are nothing.
Irony prevailed, and #2 went home with me. That little slogan has never been part of my personal creed or anything, but it was an act of empowerment to put that sticker on my guitar case during a time in my life when men on the street burst into laughter when they saw me carrying a guitar case around and actually ask if there was a guitar in it and if I could play it...you get the idea. Onto the case it went. That weekend, the three of us played an outdoor festival in the sweltering summer heat. We had a blast, and we were paid in store credit by the main sponsor of the festival: Banjo Dan's Vintage Guitars (now closed...Dan ran into a great deal of health trouble and is sorely missed). It was a fateful afternoon: I could've SWORN I had told the guys at the store what our band name was. Apparently, I had not, because they guessed. They billed us as Skinny White Chick. We loved the new name and we kept it.

SK: Your parents were musicians – did they encourage you to follow this path?
SJ: With their whole hearts. I was blessed to be raised by people who understand that doing what you love is often more important than anything, let alone the size of your bank account.

SK: How long have you been a musician yourself?
SJ: At the latest, since the age of six (piano lessons). At the earliest, age two (children's choir). I've been at this full-time, as a writer and a performer, since spring of 2004.

SK: Do you think that being involved with the Pagan Community, in the South has any effect on how you and your music are perceived?
SJ: Definitely. I hope so. It gave a couple of my relatives a shock. And yet, some people completely breeze over it, never notice it at all. An ability to calmly explain that I am committed to going where my audience is has served me well. I can tell someone this without even having to get into my faith or other perso - Sex-kitten.net


Discography

The Nathan Session - EP, 2001 Sound samples available at http://www.skinnywhitechick.com/music.php
Skinny & the Semi-Pros - EP, 2003 Sound samples available at http://www.skinnywhitechick.com/music.php
Haphazard - full-length, 2004 Sound samples available at http://www.skinnywhitechick.com/music.php
and http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sjtucker
also available on the iTunes Music Store.
Tales of I-10 Volume One - full-length, 2004 live 'bootleg' disc available only at shows
Tangles - full-length, 2005 Sound samples available at http://www.skinnywhitechick.com/music.php and http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sjtucker2
also available on the iTunes music store
Tales from the Road - full-length 2005 live Sound samples available at http://www.skinnywhitechick.com/music.php and http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tuckersj
also available on the iTunes music store
SIRENS - full-length, released October 31 2006. Sound samples available at:
http://www.skinnywhitechick.com/music.php
For the Girl in the Garden - full-length, released October 31 2006. Sound samples available at:
http://www.skinnywhitechick.com/music.php
Blessings - full-length, released June 27, 2007.
Sound samples available at:
http://www.skinnywhitechick.com/music.php
Tricky Pixie Live - full-length, live, released July 22, 2007. Sound samples available at:
http://www.myspace.com/trickypixieband
Solace & Sorrow - full-length, released October 30, 2007. Sound samples available at: http://www.skinnywhitechick.com/music.php

Photos

Bio

What would've happened if Peter Pan's Wendy stayed in Neverland and became the pirate ship's captain? What sort of tango would you dance with an alligator in your house? What befalls those brave enough to follow Inanna into the underground? S. J. TUCKER, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and fire dancer, addresses these questions and more as she walks the lines of stories both ancient and modern, following where her music leads. Named Queen of the Bards by colleagues and recognized as the musical avatar of the lyrical and literary Mythpunk genre, S. J. tours the USA solo and as leader of two separate bands: Skinny White Chick and Tricky Pixie. Since she began her journey as a full-time performer in 2004, S. J. has released six full-length albums containing all-original material, as well as two live discs, on nothing but her own steam, and has run rings around her own US touring circuit many times. Her sound stretches from comedy to lullabyes to full-on punk, even including electronica from time to time, and she shows no signs of slowing down! S. J. is currently bouncing from state to state, conquering 2009 with a glad heart and a wild gypsy grin. On top of everything else, S. J.'s children's book, Rabbit's Song, will celebrate its release in 2009, making her an internationally published author as well as a wandering minstrel!

"A Seattle basement, mid-winter. The room swarms with eager fans. Each person, it seems, knows the words to every song belted out by a slender pixie in a jester’s cap.
FaerieWorlds, 2007. A blue-braided powerhouse wails on a bodhran, sending hundreds of bright-clad neo-tribals leaping happily through the air.
Sunday morning barefoot boogie. Dozens of dancers gyrate to a song they’ve never heard before. Grabbing the chorus, they sing: The circle is here/ It lives in each of us/ In perfect love/ And perfect trust. This is the magic of S.J. Tucker. And if you haven’t heard of her yet, you will.

S.J. Tucker is a self-made performing artist. Although she seems at first glance like a simple “guitar chick,” in truth she’s a glittering badass of fire-spinning verve. Musically, “Sooj” ranges from Gospel to World Fusion technobeats. Combining theatrics and mysticism with info-tech savvy and a spirited attitude, Tucker defies expectations. Despite her elfin appearance, this “skinny white chick” has a roaring voice and a thousand-yard stare. Like Ani Difranco and Jonathan Coulton, she’s a product of timeless artistry and postmodern opportunity. Though bardic in tradition, S.J. Tucker is fully an artist of Now.

As digital DIY demolishes the music biz, artists like Tucker define themselves on their own terms. Such artists tour heavily, press their own discs, distribute through the Internet and produce their albums on portable computers. S. J. Tucker is one of them: an activist, an inspiration, and to many fans a friend.

The word “magic” is essential to understanding S.J. Tucker. For her, music is a magical act. Like fellow mystics such as Kan’Nal, Tool and Michael Franti, she packs intent behind each song, especially during live performances, and her audiences welcome it. Folks don’t just enjoy Tucker’s concerts. They often come away transformed."
--Phil Brucato
New Witch Magazine, issue 17