Wednesday, Dec. 4th, 7PM (doors at 6:30)
Ara Lee James with Jamie Stillway
ARA LEE, when pressed, calls herself a singer-songwriter. But the image of a wispy, soft-voiced, guitar strummer that might come to mind couldn’t be farther from what she does. Call it soul, call it folk, call it gospel, Ara sings like a woman with something to say, in a voice that makes you stop and listen, with lyrics that make you remember why you decided to be human once upon a time. Known for her commanding stage presence, Ara Lee’s shows, often called “musical church,” cut straight to the gut.
Raised in the deep South, in a church where instruments were not allowed, Ara grew up shape-note singing, learning to make music only with the voice. “Harmonies were a part of daily life. Music wasn’t music without three parts. We would sing songs from our old blue church hymnal – it was the one place where everyone could meet without agreeing on dogma.”
A move to New York City as a teenager gave her the chance to use her vocal chops beyond her front porch and she began a ten year incarnation working as a backup singer and studio vocalist. Now based in Portland, Oregon, Ara’s roots in Appalachia color the songs she writes. “People say I sing gospel, and maybe that’s true, but I prefer to call it secular gospel. To me, live music is the place where you taste something truly sacred. It’s why I sing, it’s why I write, it’s why I do what I do.”
“From Ara Lee’s self-professed “heathen gospel” to smokey blues to the most rhythmic R&B to the most deeply touching ballads—Ara Lee is a vocal treasure. She belts…she wails…she testifies..she rocks…she does it all with a depth and range like no other.” — Morry Feldman, WQED Multimedia
JAMIE STILLWAY has been quietly establishing herself as one of the top acoustic fingerstyle guitarists of her generation. Since 2005, she has self-released 3 full length albums of original compositions, garnering accolades from the likes of Fretboard Journal (“one of the best fingerstyle guitarists around today”) and Jazz Times.
“Mixing up genres without pretension, the nimble Stillway moves freely with wit and creative restlessness.” – Jazz Times
With her first electric guitar recordings, the City Static EP, Jamie demonstrates the broadening of her compositional palette and her versatility as a musician, seamlessly incorporating ambient, jazz, classical, and pop elements. As she created space for silence in her life, the constant background noise of the city became more and more noticeable—a droning static hum that inspired Stillway’s most experimental and compelling work to date.
Concerts benefit the Long Beach Peninsula Acoustic Music Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization.