Listen to music from Lisa Otey's album "Hard Workin' Woman"
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Hard work pays off for singer/songwriter
The Tucson Citizen
Dec. 13, 2001
What on Earth could Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and Xena and Gabrielle have in common?
They're all hardworking women, Lisa Otey and Candye Kane cheerfully sing on the title track of Otey's new CD, "Hard Workin' Woman."
"I really liked the idea of putting Xena in there with Susan B. Anthony," says Otey, laughing, escaping a drizzly fall day and sipping an eggnog milkshake at Little Anthony's Diner last week.
You might get the impression that Otey is somewhat of a Xena fanatic, having dropped the TV superhero's name in "Hard Workin' Woman" as well as "Xena for Xmas." And you'd be right.
"When I'm in a particular situation, I think, 'What would Xena do?' " Otey says. "'How would Xena handle this?' It's the best TV show I've ever seen! It's the best in the history of television! It's got the best love story!"
Otey got hooked on the "Xena: Warrior Princess" TV show when Gaslight Theatre, where she is musical director, launched a spoof of the adventure fantasy show. She scheduled her dinners around the show, only to find "Baywatch" in its place when the syndicated "Xena" was canceled. Otey was crushed and poured her emotions into her jazzy novelty tribute, "Xena for Xmas."
"Santa, I want Xena for Christmas/I want to watch her go head over heels over Gabrielle every night./And Santa, would you talk to the network?/We need to know that the battle for good over evil will turn out all right."
Even if "Xena" is never seen on television again, Otey will be all right, rest assured. She's riding a current wave of success with her music. This year, she performed at the Cognac Blues Passions Festival in France; the Roses Blues, Jazz & Gospel Festival in Spain; Rock Bend Folk Festival in Minnesota; and made her Canadian concert debut. In March, she will make her concert debut in Holland.
In addition, she was named to the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame and appears on Kane's new CD, "The Toughest Girl Alive."
Otey's music is played on more than 300 radio stations worldwide, as close as Phoenix and as far away as Australia.
"I've got as much airplay as anyone on Alligator," she says, referring to the world's best-known blues record label.
Yet should someone from Alligator or any other big label come calling, Otey wouldn't hesitate to switch from her own indie label, Owl's Nest Productions.
"Absolutely!" she says, leaning forward.
She sighs with the thought of having someone else handle all the business necessities that come with a busy career.
"Every year gets more incredible than the one before," says Otey, who left the hand-to-mouth existence of a struggling musician behind eight years ago when Gaslight hired her for its year-round productions. "Just when I think it can't possibly get any better, it does."
Otey's circle of contacts has widened each year, exposing her music to more and more people and getting her ever closer to the possibility that she may make the leap to a big music label.
She met Kane about two years ago, when the buxom blues diva needed a local keyboardist for a concert at the Rialto Theatre. When they met, Otey knew that she had to write a duet. A subsequent tour in the Southwest playing with Kane solidified their relationship. Hence, "Hard Workin' Woman."
Otey's new CD contains a who's who of local musicians. Of course, there's Otey's longtime friend/collaborator, fiddler Heather Hardy, on "Hard Workin' Woman," and the wistful "My Funny Valentine."
Hurricane Carla Brownlee, Otey's co-musical director at Gaslight, lends her sax to "Tonight I'll Dream" and "Rockin' With Red." Otey's frequent partner in crime Kathleen Williamson co-wrote two songs, "Don't Make a Scene, Kathleen" and "I Can See the New View," a tribute to the victims of Sept. 11.
Stefan George brought his dobro in on "Song for Eva," which Otey wrote about a homeless woman in Tucson. Sam Taylor plays guitar on "Don't Make a Scene" (in which the Invisible Theatre's Susan Claassen is the voice of St. Peter) and Ada Redd Austin lent her R&B vocals for "You Got a Friend Right Here."
And, as usual, Otey called on her talented brother, David, to add his trombone to several cuts, including "Maybe We'll Be Lucky," "Rockin' With Red" and "Sittin' on the Back Porch."
Otey usually pounds out a CD in short time, she says, but took longer putting this one together because of the chance to collaborate with Kane. Ten songs were in the bag when Otey realized she wanted two more, which became the Williamson collaborations.
"I wanted to do something about Sept. 11," Otey says, "but I didn't want anything that sounded trite. So I said to Kathleen, 'You're from New York, you write something about it.' "
Williamson came up with the hook from a report about a little girl who lives near Ground Zero in New York City, showing her dad the scene outside their window and saying, "I can see the new view."
Otey admits to being a bit intimidated by the thought of putting her music to someone else's words. Otey gave Williamson the opportunity to offer suggestions on the resulting music, but Williamson was more than satisfied with the final song.
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