by Philip Scott Wikel
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
– Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke, 1676
I asked Rachel: What did you want to be when you grew up? To which she answers, without hesitation, and with a cool confidence. “I wanted to be an actress.” And I could see her as a young girl dressing up in mommy’s clothes and sporting a feather boa smiling and dancing in front of a mirror. “I went to Humboldt State,” she continues, “and graduated with an art degree…” Her eyes are flashing and she moves seamlessly through to “I was a ceramicist at one point and even had my own kiln until it fell out of the back of my truck.” With this divine intervention the logical next step was music.
She picked up a guitar in 1994 and started playing backup with a band called Full Sun. She’s since come to Ojai where she began playing locally with Calliope about five years ago which included Topher Blunt and Charlie Benton. In her five years here she’s found the hidden angel within and began singing and writing songs. The folksy blues-ish, countrified levity offered by her first album “Lucky Like Me” is a testament to the emergence of a new and unique voice in music. “Recorded at Ventura’s own Table Top Recording, co-produced by Rachel and Jonathan Raffetto, it features the talent of some of the best musicians of Ventura’s music scene.”*
As I sat captively in the open space of the Ojai Brew Pub, I felt the rush of nostalgia channeling through her…Patsy Cline… Petula Clark… and then closer to now with sparks of Nancy Griffiths and Margo Timmons. She has that timeless and sweet, laughing quality to her voice that comforts the soul and takes the mind on a soft and syrupy vicarious journey into stories that are wholly hers; her family, her loves, her hopes, offering them in such a way that they become ours to share. Her spirit moves about the room and lights on the faces of her listeners.
This said, neither Petula nor Patsy would have ever sported a “Narcotics Officer” hat nor donned the groovy hoop earrings she wore on Saturday night. Rachel’s that 21st century brand of female with a confidence that drives all men to make room for the fullness of woman. As she covers one of her favorite songs by Roly Salley, she makes it her own and poignantly declares, that she’s “swinging the world by its tail.”
Defining herself further, she proclaims, In “Monday Night Girlfriend,” “Everybody’s got an opinion/not me. Everybody wants dominion/not me. Stories and philosophies, tangents and convictions/not me. Write it on a bumper sticker/then go sell it for a dollar.” She’s not going to let us out of this one easily. She is who she is and that’s that. Rachel’s got more than “three chords” and a whole lot more of the truth.
Citing her influences as being Bonnie Raitt, Shawn Colvin, Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, if you add the few I’ve mentioned, you’ll begin to see she’s quite a metamorphosis. And when you hear “You should want to write about me, I’ve got a school bus named ‘Louise’ and I’m going on tour,” you can’t deny her confidence and that, while Rachel’s part of a great tradition, she’s a powerful force in her own right.
On the B-side, or perhaps, the A-side of this is a sweet invitation in the title song of her album “Lucky Like Me.” In it she sings “And things don’t come easy darling/They don’t come free. But you could be lucky like me/Lucky like me/You can be lucky like me.”One of my personal favorites of the evenings, not available on the CD is Zachary’s Dream. While I’m a sucker for any use of the mandolin, its employment in this song brought me back and forward at the same time. Its brightness brought me back to the Renaissance and then forward with the hope of bringing that brightness into my own dreams. Rachel’s music does that to you and that’s the power of good music.