Something about Hannah May Allison

Hannah May Allison, the Palo Alto and Nashville singer-songwriter, plays Tuesday in Los Gatos, at the historic The Cats. It is a happy hour show, 6 to 9. If memory serves, there will be victuals.

Speaking of memory, I am working on explicating — the English major word for decoding — my notes from Hannah’s performance Sunday at the California Avenue farmer’s market, in Palo Alto:

What little girls made of shotgun Hard to think about something about summer might time pass us by We drove pass no trespass sign not going to jail cop car Kurban No one to send this letter to soldiers coming home Troubles of my own Packing it in baggage claim That girl in the red dress sweet sin Luke bryan news today Cant believe your really gone Southern sky there are stars in seven bridges Trailer for rent Cheaters only care until their bored Stay fm (that one’s easy — Fleetwood Mac, she played “Landslide” although one of her originals also reminded me very much of “Dreams”) rumors Sometimes people stay BEST THING (no reason for the all caps, I am just not very good with my Stupid Cell Phone — my handwriting is much worse) Talk in this small town I did was leave Cover we sang bob mage on hood my car (Bobby McGee) Landslide I getting older too

This might be a clue, or set of clues: Hannah May, and her parents Craig and Reena Allison, of Barron Park (Palo Alto, the country part of Palo Alto, you might say) were handing out free copies of her demo or EP, which included these four originals: “The Best Thing,” “Summer Nights,” “Empty Hearted” and “Stay”.

I watched the show from load-in (dad lugging most of the gear) past the part where she started repeating songs, the “Cop Car” cover, which I thought she played at two different tempos, the second time to my ear sounding deliberately like the strumming pattern and the chords from “Franklin’s Tower” — the Grateful Dead song (“roll away, the dew”) and I thought she would medley into it or at least allude to it. Cop car…roll away.. it kinda works for me, especially here in Billy Kreutzman’s hometown, and where Jerry met Bobby (and actually where Graham Lesh met Brody Jenkins…and by the way, I am the guy who if I didn’t introduce Papa Mali to Kreutzman, backstage at La Tortuga, did tell Malcolm in 2003 that he would remind Deadheads of Jerry AND hired him to play Art 21 on Alma at

Lamentable that there are no good 650 venues for Hannah May Allison

Lamentable that there are no good 650 venues for Hannah May Allison

Lytton for a belated Jerry Garcia Tribute, and I apologize to Hannah for the egregious “plastic” digression).

Ok, I will go on record that even based in Nashville a Palo Alto-bred singer-songwriter could milk that Jerry Garcia-Robert Hunter-Bobby Weir mojo for some 650 cred: do learn a couple GD covers and maybe, if the math pencils out, a Luke Bryan>Robert Hunter medley. And if you don’t know you should that if you like Fleetwood Mac then maybe Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Menlo-Atherton class of 1968 did indeed leave something hiding in the bushes for future artists to find, or y’all at least breathed the same air, more or less, give or take a couple decades. (Maybe we are all channeling some sacred Ohlone vibe…)

I did meet Hannah and her parents at this event, unlike last month at World Music Day where I got close enough to read the small print of her EP but did not stick around long enough to realize that they were giving them away. I had met Hannah during her senior year at Gunn, at the 2012 version of the street music event. Terry, my GF, Terry Acebo Davis the former Palo Alto Arts Commissioner eventually came along and met Rina and took a photo of Hannah that I will post here later, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

The Allisons — Team Hannah May — recognized my name from my previous post. Surely this rising talent deserves better treatment from the music bards. It’s a mixed blessing, I admit, to be run thru the Plastic Alto filter.

I started to say this below: I’d be curious to hear Hannah’s reaction to three titles, that our precedent in certain ways, that happen to be in  my glove-box that I was tempted to pass on, as a type of homework: Marcia Ball, Michelle Shocked, and Sasha Dobson.

I’m not sure how much of this to keep in confidence and how much is either fair game or “Fair Play”, but if you are wondering how a young lady from Palo Alto would go country and stake her claim in Nashville, at Belmont University, in a program apparently funded by Mike Curb, rather than Austin or Santa Barbera or something, Mom is from Oklahoma, and sang back-up with Garth Brooks, and also had or has a relative in country music by the name of Patsy Bale Cox.

As someone who ran a new bands / new artist showcase in the 1990s here, at Cubberley Community Center and has managed about a dozen small nationally-distributed recording artists, of course I am rooting for the girl next door gone to Music City. She’s already in the Country wing of the Palo Alto Rock and Roll Archive (which almost exists, in Steve Staiger’s office) along side: Steve Jenkins of Third Eye Blind (Gunn 1983), Tommy Jordan of Geggy Tah (Paly 1981), the drummer from Maroon 5 (Gunn), Alex Wong who writes and performs with Vienna Teng, The Donnas (Tory, Alison, Maya, Brett — all Paly ’97s, and their debut was at a Jordan talent show), Gregg Rolie a founding member of two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bands, Santana Band and Journey, who attended Cubberley for two years, some guy whose name I never remember from Pablo Cruise, Kreutzman, Jenny Scheinman (although she is more jazz than singer-songwriter), Chris Appelgren the former owner of Lookout Records and the bands PeeChees and TK, who attended Palo Alto schools one year, Ian MacKaye of Fugazi, Minor Threat and The Evens who attended Terman one year when his dad was a fellow at Stanford. (I think I also inducted Remi Wolf and Chloe of Remi and Chloe into the Jazz wing, see below).

Part of my motivation for Earthwise Productions is a sinking feeling that there is an imbalance and over-emphasis on computers such that there are missing creatives of Palo Alto, who get sucked into the hunt for the next big $19 Billion App. For the record: I would rather PAUSD has mandatory songwriting curriculum than computer coding.

My understanding is that Hannah May Allison, the Trisha Yearwood of Barron Park, is hereabouts for about a month before heading back to Nashville (for example, a Monday at Commodore Grille, and also, her junior year at Belmont) so keep your eyes and ears peeled for her, y’all.

And check back here to see how I explicate and unfold my notes above: It’s mainly the titles of five or six originals and four or five covers. Who knows, maybe in ten years some of her three word phrases will be part of the Americana lexicon.

edit to add: Have not made much progress separating my Luke Bryan references from Hannah’s actual lyrics, but I wanted to add, as sort of a preview for tomorrow’s pre-firecracker of a little show at The Cats, something about my history of that venue (and I will flat out declare that a feature of Plastic Alto is that when I am talking about Hannah May Allison I am also talking about myself, natch): 1) is that I recall, upon moving to California from South Side of Chicago, with my parents and sibs, back in 1968 that my parents told the story of getting lost and pulling over when they saw the mysterious Cats landmark – I presume it is the same mysterious stone markers where the current restaurant perseveres, on life number 5 or 6 of its proverbial nine lives; when you approach the venue, you have to veer off when you spot the cats lest you continue on towards Santa Cruz on Hwy 17; 2) in recent times, relatively speaking, I recall that the last time I was there was to scout Dean Markley, the famous string entrepreneur who does or did also have a duo project of acoustic music and would play The Cats; I recall getting invited to a big birthday party for him, maybe a surprise, his 50th or 60th — this is about 10 years ago, but could not attend; Markley started his music store in Santa Clara in 1971 although if you call his 408 number it now rings thru to Glendale, Arizona the new corporate headquarters. But — and here we are back to an actual Hannah May Allison detail –whilst fact-checking that part of my story, I learn-did (that’s the past tense of learn, with a voice suffix, like in Shakespeare’s iambic, plus a pseudo-Twain-like faux-country patois, I am really saying “learn-nid”, for “learned”) that the electric guitar side-person performance on her demo is by Larry Chung, who is — and I might have known this, if I were a better guitar student, and I am barely in the school at all — a Gryphon regular and even has product named for him. Thuslike:

Gryphon Larry Chung custom banjo set

Inspired by super duper musician (and Gryphon teacher) Larry Chung, we had our pals at GHS put together this custom set, as per Larry’s preferred gauges in stainless steel (9.5-10-13-20W-9.5)

I had noted, on first inspection, David Phillips name, as pedal steel, and recall him backing Steve Yerkey at the Cub in 1995, although that is probably the least of his credits. Craig Allison, besides lugging his daughter’s gear and tables and all, plays keys on the demo; he told me he was in a jazz combo as an undergrad, at Rice University and admires more trad style jazz like by the late George Shearing — although in my head, as a Austin-wanna-be, I was flashing to father-daughter combo of the Gimbles, who I spied partly and heard about in MoMo’s of, same-like what I heard of Warren Heard. (It’s not the worst ideas, when evaluating emerging talent to ask politely something about the bloodlines). Champ Heard?  Will have to check back and edit that: I recall standing under a shrine, perhaps at The Continental on South Congress, someone telling me what I could not observe that the young buck on stage was kin to the dearly departed, on the wall. That’s actually Warren Hood, like the car Hannah and her song set on, above, not “Heard”, a fiddler son of legend by name of Champ Hood.

The other point about the demo – Free EP — is that Remy Felsch, who plays on it and appears with Hannah at shows, as a side-man, is a fellow Gunn grad and a current music student at the prestigious Berklee School of Music back east (alma mater of among other Bruce Cockburn, John Mayer and my friend and former client the jazz trumpeter Jack Walrath).

I found this amusing review of the Steve Yerkey cd, “confidence, man” on Sf’s Heyday Records, produced by Lee Townsend, the cd, (who is also Bill Frisell’s long-time manager and producer), by Parry Gettelman, formerly of the Orlando Sentinel and now apparently some kind of civil servant in Austin, that confirms my recollection of David Phillips, who plays on Hannah’s demo. Although he is plenty busy, I would think Lee Townsend might be an interesting producer for a future Hannah May Allison session. Lee Townsend who lives and works in Berkeley, but told me he comes to Palo Alto sometimes for his son’s soccer matches (or those of his daughter??), and I ran into him not so long ago at the memorial for Nathan Oliveira. And it’s also worth noting that Wayne Horvitz, of Seattle, who grew up in Los Altos, produced a Nashville-session for Bill Frisell called “Nashville”.

Regarding The Cats per se, it is a pulled pork and ribs place, for full meals if not for bar food — I would think, if the show is free, you should prepare to do as the locals do and eat something. They have a named oak fire tender, if that tells you something. They re-opening after wrestling with local government and grand-father clauses (as distinct from Santa Clauses, if you excuse the Marxism), in 2008 and their website has a menu form December 2011 which may be current. I would lump it in their with potentially fun little music dives like Rancho Nicasio of West Marin (owned by Huey Lewis’s manager, Bob Brown, whose son went to culinary school and runs the kitchen –we saw Jerry Hannan there recently), or Blue Rock Shoot of Saratoga, or Applejacks of La Honda, where Hershel Yatovitz was rumored to be sitting in recently — he of Chris Isaak and Paly 1982 notability.  And all this, and nearly everything I do, begs the question: where is a good live music play in Palo Alto?

edita, frthur: for instance, and I looked this up, while we Palo Altans have a 20 minute drive to see Hannah May Allison in Los Gatos, ribbed or not, South Austinites have, among numerous choices, at The Continental Club, on South Congress, Toni Price and James McMurtry shows, I’m just sayin’. And if you notice a subtle comparison or tug of war or cutting contest between Austin Texas and Nashville, you are correct sir. I think of Nashville as beyond a genre a corporate culture distinct from New York and Los Angeles but if a lot of Earthwise Productions has been a comment on the industrialization of the spirit, in the form of creation, rehearsal and performance of music, my observation, from between 500 and 3,00 miles away, is that Nashville adds in many ways an extra layer of non-music, non-artist infrastructure. Be aware! Bakersfield, California is also, like Nashville, on my list of places to visit and check out the talent.

“Don’t Happen Twice” is a Kenny Chesney song Allison covers, the lyric is “we sang Bobby McGee on the hood of my car”. The song is by Curtis Lance and Thom McHugh, whereas “Me and Bobby McGee”, sung most famously by Janis Joplin, is by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster. The Keith Urban song, “Cop Car” meanwhile is by a trio of Nashville writers, Zach Crowell, Sam Hunt and Matt Jenkins, while my red herring suggestion “Franklin’s Tower” (which is actually F C A D and not C G) is by Robert Hunter, Jerry Garcia and Billy Kreutzmann. Reading all this is not a very fitting preview of the Hannah May Allison show Tuesday in Los Gatos, nor, frankly, is writing it.

She performs an appropriate mix of things she has written and things she has heard. I looked it up to learn that Stevie Nicks was 27 when she wrote and recorded “Landslide” and the lyric “I’m getting older too” while Hannah is about 20. But she has grown considerably since her senior year at Gunn, it seems obvious. It will be fun to see where all this takes her, and us.

Danny Goldberg, manager, on Stevie Nicks his client, quoted in Times review of his book, “Bumping into Geniuses”, in 2008:  “magnetic … compelling … an autodidactic mystic.”

Miranda Lambert song, “Gunpowder and Led”, song about what little girls made of and shotgun.

“Seven Bridges Road” is by Steve Young and I did not recall that it is probably most famously an Eagles song –with a five-part harmony — but is also done by Tracy Nelson and Joan Baez so I would wonder exactly where Hannah May picked it up from. I’m kinda giving up on my little game of sussing my notes to current songs on the country charts I don’t actually know and will have to just ask for the set list next time, excepting having to admit here that I think there is a lyric I heard “something about” that I highlighted here to make a strained allusion to the movie that stars Cameron Diaz and features Jonathan Richman.

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About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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