Carla Ulbrich Re-Defines “Average”

& WFDU-FM’s TRADITIONS Playlist for March 20, 2016

To label Carla Ulbrich as “average” would be like describing the Grand Canyon as just a hole in the ground. Never the less, Carla has chosen to call her new CD Totally Average Woman. Although I personally take exception to the title, knowing that Carla tips the scale at highly above average, this CD is a wonderful collection of parodies and original songs about every day life that will brighten up your day! Carla’s keen observational sense provides her with material from slices of daily life to create songs that we can all relate to – and laugh about. We need laughter.

Carla Ulbrich in the studios of WFDU-FM

Carla Ulbrich in the studios of WFDU-FM

I asked Carla about the title when she visited my radio show this past Sunday to share selections from the new recording. She explained that the title track is meant to give praise to the qualities of “average” woman, who are often neglected in song. Carla noted that women are often portrayed by other songwriters for negative characteristics – think of the Eagles “Witchy Woman,” ELO’s “Evil Woman,” and nearly every blues song that you can think of either deal with lying, cheating or mean spirited women – or alternately they sing about how extraordinary their women are above all others. Leave it to Carla Ulbrich to give the “average” woman some long overdue attention in song. In the end, she proves that there is really no such thing as “average.”

Her song “Dr. Pepper” is about choosing soft drinks and is certainly is not a commercial for the brand! Likewise, Carla probably won’t be getting any calls from the China Tourism Board to license her song “If You’re Going to China.” This gem was created after her husband, singer-songwriter Joe Giacoio, was given an 80 page treatise on how to behave in the country for a business trip. Carla condensed it into a song that tells you everything you need to know, sort of.

Pop culture has always been a favorite target … I mean “subject” of Carla’s songs. The 60s classic “Wild Thing” becomes an anthem for an overlooked comic book hero, “Swamp Thing.” The Dungeons and Dragons and the role-playing gaming crowd have also been honored in the song “Ragnarok”and what comes after the final spin of the dice.

Thinking about getting some trendy liposuction, Botox or lip injections? You owe it to yourself to listen to her parody “Cheek to Cheek” where the old standard about close dancing takes on new significance about which cheek you are snuggling up to. This song was recently awarded the 2016 Logan Award for Outstanding Parody Song, part of the annual awards presented by The Funny Music Project for excellence in comedy music.

As a non-smoker who watches co-workers take seemingly endless cigarette breaks, I applaud Carla for standing up for those of us stuck in the office with her song “Gotta Start Smokin’.”

While Carla normally looks at seemingly routine or non-controversial subjects for her songs, she created a parody on this new CD that will make you laugh, but also get you to thinking. Using the 1970s “Rainbow Connection” as a starting point, Carla strikes out at a classroom project that has been causing anxiety in schoolchildren for ages –animal dissection. Carla’s “Needless Dissection” reminds us that frog populations around the world are in decline and perhaps we should take a look at this practice.

Other topics include a tribute to her husbands ex-girlfriends, fashion statements such as men wearing baggy pants and a song called “Aunt Flow Rag” which needs no further description, other than it is very funny!

Carla Ulbrich's CD cover "Totally Average Woman"

Carla Ulbrich’s CD cover
“Totally Average Woman”

All in all, “Totally Average Woman” is a totally amazing listening experience. When I tell people I play “folk songs” on the radio, those who are unaware will often remark that folk music is too serious and soul searching. Carla Ulbrich’s songs and performances are not the stereotypical naval gazing material. (I can only imagine what she might come up with in a song about “naval gazing”!)

I love playing Carla’s music on my radio show, as well as for my own enjoyment, because she makes me realize that a little laughter goes a long way to curing the malaise that can be instilled in each of us in these difficult times. Carla has had her share of dealing with catastrophic illnesses that presented numerous challenges. Her gift for finding humor has helped her recover and deal with these health issues, and she is living proof that laughter IS the best medicine. Her new CD should be kept in close proximity and given a spin whenever you find yourself in need of a smile!

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Ron Olesko

About Ron Olesko

For over 40 years, Ron has been a radio programmer with WFDU-FM in Teaneck, New Jersey. He created WFDU-FM's TRADITIONS in 1980, a show that he continues to host and produce every Sunday afternoon from 3 to 6pm Eastern Time. He's the president of and booker for the Hurdy Gurdy Folk Music Club in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and is a regular contributor to Sing Out! as well as the host of the Folk Music Notebook blog on this site. Ron can also be found emceeing concerts and festivals around the NYC/NJ area. A lifelong Mets fan and a rabid soccer geek, Ron is a Red Bull season ticket holder since their inception and will most likely be in his seat when not in the studio.

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