Feb 6, 2018
by Robert Feuer
Santa Rosa native, Allyson Paige, underage at the time, had to wait outside before her first-ever performance, at Cotati’s Inn of the Beginning. Her mom hung out with her in the car. “I have an amazing mom,” Paige says in a recent interview at her home. Years before, at age ten, her mother took her to see Neil Diamond, Paige’s first attendance at a concert. She decided, then and there, she wanted to be a singer.
Fast forward to Feb. 24, 2018, when Paige will lead her band, Foni Mitchell, at the Sebastopol Community Center Annex, playing Joni Mitchell songs exclusively, sometimes staying close to the originals, sometimes re-imagining the arrangements, she says. The band originated in 2009-10 but was sidetracked by illness. “We just climbed back on the horse this last year.”
Paige and Mitchell share Norwegian ancestry and long blonde hair. To look like Mitchell for the show, Paige will have bangs and go for a bohemian look in her attire. “She’s a challenge to sing. She didn’t play by the rules. I try to sing like her, nail her phrasing,” Paige says.
Her admiration for Mitchell is boundless. She sees Mitchell’s music as “melodic, spiritual and intuitive. She just lays her soul bare.” At the same time, “Anything I sing is me singing it. It’s not just like the records.”
Paige’s musical background is different. “I was raised on rock n’roll,” she says, also influenced by her mother. Paige took to classic rock and blues, while performing in San Francisco at Slim’s, the Great American Music Hall, and the Last Day Saloon. During the period of 1988-2002, she became lead singer for the Chris Cobb Band. At times, she’s joined Top 40 bands – “to pay the bills.” She moved into singer/songwriter material after deciding “I wanted to take a road less traveled.” Helping her down that road, “Bill Bowker (of KRSH) and Doug Jayne (of KRCB) have been two of my staunch allies and promoters.”
Her last release, the 2016 EP “Little Girl Lost,” is a mix of folk and country, Paige calls “more rootsy, lyric-driven. I love story songs ” She wrote these with her “wing-man” and guitarist, the excellent Jesse Brewster.
It wasn’t until she was in her thirties that she discovered Mitchell, via the song “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio.” “She wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable or outspoken. She was fearless, and showed women (and men) there’s a market for authenticity,” Paige says.
Like Mitchell, Paige writes about her insecurities. “It’s liberating. I can sing what I can’t say. Music is my therapy,” adding “Lyrics have to resonate with me.” Band members Chris Stafford, Edo Castro, John Christensen, and Brad McKeague on guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums respectively, also were involved in song selection.
Paige says she plays Mitchell’s songs, not only because she loves them. “We want to bring her music to ‘the now generation’ or future generations. We want to preserve the legacy of her music.”
More at allysonpaige.com.Photo by Tom Dellinger
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