Summer is ending and fall is in the air, as the expression goes. While summer is always full of fun and excitement, the autumn season seems to encourage a bit more personal reflection and soul-searching as the year winds down. Accordingly, Fiddlers Crossing’s concert schedule for the end of September and October will reflect the mood of the season with a series of singer-songwriters, each having their own unique approach. The first concert, on Friday, Sept. 27, features Lisa Sanders and Karen “Brown Sugar” Hayes, with their blend of soulful country-blues, folk, gospel and Americana.
Sanders spent some of her childhood in Philadelphia before the family moved to California. She has appeared in Tehachapi once before, in a special BeeKay concert, “Night of The Lisas,” produced by Gary Mazzola in 2009.
She knew she wanted to be a songwriter at the age of 14, though it wouldn’t become a reality for 10 more years.
“I thought I might like to be a dental assistant,” she said, laughing. “I hated it!”
She tried a number of other jobs — fast food, grocery store, windshield repair, bartender, door-to-door sales, landscaping and woodworking — but finally decided to pursue her dream of songwriting. She began to write and perform in the San Diego area, where she now lives.
“I started listening to music from a very early age,” Sanders said. “We had Motown records and always had music on. Music has always been something that stops me, wherever I am.”
Still, for Sanders, the urge to perform her songs for an audience was slow in coming.
“I loved to write, but I didn’t think I was a good singer, and I was extremely shy. But I found that when I opened my mouth to sing, people felt what I was singing about. It was about what I was saying and how I was saying it. I took that lesson from Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. They aren’t exceptional singers, but they have voices that people listen to.”
She started performing at Java Joe’s in San Diego, where singer-songwriters Jewel, Jason Mraz and Steve Poltz all started. Her first CD, “Isn’t Life Fine,” was released in 1997, with seven more in the years since. A new one, “Daughters of the Rising Tide,” is expected in 2020.
Sanders first met Karen “Brown Sugar” Hayes in high school. Later in life, they met again when their children were in the same class in school. They became best friends. Neither one of them realized then that one day they would be a “couple of moms writing together and performing all across the country.” They have since become a musical powerhouse, opening for Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, BB King, Al Green and many others.
Lisa Sanders and “Brown Sugar” are a compelling duo on stage. The songs are honest, direct and aimed straight for the heart. Sanders’s textured vocals are full of life experience. Hayes’s well-chosen and soulful harmonies add further depth and intensity. Her on-stage relationship with Sanders adds humor and some spice to the show. As one reviewer put it, Hayes “has large, mischievous eyes that suggest she knows something she’s not telling.”
On performing together, Sanders said, “She is my muse. Having Karen sing with me is like heaven.”
For video samples, visit fiddlerscrossing.com.
Fiddlers Crossing is at 206 E. F St. at Robinson Street, in downtown Tehachapi. Tickets may be purchased at Mountain Music, Tehachapi Treasure Trove, Tehachapi Furniture in Old Town, and Lucky’s Barbershop, or online at fiddlerscrossing.com. They can be reserved by calling 823-9994. Tickets to the concert are $20, and as always, coffee and goodies are included. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
On the horizon: Jackie Bristow, Lisa Richards, Kevin Burke.
Peter Cutler is an audio engineer-producer, singer and guitarist. A native of Los Angeles, he has lived in Tehachapi since 2006.