Drive All Night
Bella Books 978-1-59493-399-8
Inordinately talented, lesbian folk comic musician and occasional belly dancer, Jamie Anderson has been a traveling performer for the past twenty-plus years (as well as an insightful reviewer for Sing Out!), and here, in seventy-four frequently brief, episodic chapters collects a slew of strictly autobiographical “on the road stories” culled from her memory bank of experiences spent crisscrossing the continent. These are not tales about the “carefully packed lunches, tirelessly promoted shows and comfortable beds that were appreciated more than you know” but mostly rather those “that should probably remain private” and where “minor details like names and locations have been changed to protect the near-innocent.” As boldly brazen lesbian comic Suzanne Westenhoefer puts it: “This is a great ‘you are there’ memoir of the Women’s Music Era. Jamie puts you on the ground, in the air and backstage so vividly you’ll believe you toured with her.”
Leading with her Jonathan Winters-like sense of heartfelt humor, accompanied by hearty dollops of “road warrior” wit and colorful details about the many ongoing musical friendships she has made over the years, the Tempe, Arizona-raised Anderson’s recollections also get down to the nitty-gritty with numerous tales of shady, self-serving promoters, bum lodgings, not-a-clue sound engineers, unexpected weather conditions (think near-electrocution), pre-internet booking and recording time-consuming conundrums, various sub-standard bars, clubs, basements and living room performance spaces, terrible hours, worse pay and miles after miles of highway loneliness. Unfailingly, Anderson’s chapter titles broadly hint at what’s to come – from the Southern church basement-set “Just Don’t Say Uterus” and “One Of The Family” (after introducing Holly Near and Chris Williamson at Carrboro, North Carolina’s Arts Center in 2002, she is unexpectedly called onstage) to “She Leads Too Well To Be Straight” – that draws the bead on her bellydancing career – and the self-explanatory “Mama Said Don’t Talk To Strangers.” Further favorite revelatory glimpses are entitled “The Moon, God And Good Luck,” “I Could Be Bonnie Raitt And No One Would Know It,” “Old Gigs And Twilight Jesus” and the lengthy saga of Plinky – “Plink And Skippy-Skip: The Recording Of Dare.”
As groundbreaking musician Alix Dobkin succinctly puts it with her endorsement: “Are you curious about life on the folk road? Then these stories, told by a fearless, good-natured minstrel in the tradition of the second oldest profession, are for you.” ‘Nuff said!
— Gary Von Tersch