Singer-songwriter and Mainer Ronda Dale grew up listening to old Willie Nelson records in central Virginia and said she was quite fond of her Sonny & Cher, Carpenters and Mac Davis 8-tracks. Songwriting began for her at the tail end of her Manhattan years when she would frequent Washington Square Park on the weekends playing guitar in what she describes as a “wondrous milieu.” This was about 2000 which was also around the time she made her first visit to Maine, specifically Peaks Island. She moved here in 2002 and started writing songs in earnest. “Somebody Like Me” is her first album of all original music and the party to celebrate its release is on Saturday night in Portland.
Dale does however have a few other recordings kicking around. There’s an EP from her island band Ronda Dale and the Reelers and three songs on a soundtrack to a musical she helped write and produce on Peaks. Dale was also a member of the trio Truth About Daisies for 12 years as bass player and back-up vocalist. TAD released two CDs over that period of time.
Dale’s list of musical inspirations is a long one but a cross-section of it includes Patsy Cline, Jerry Jeff Walker, Bill Withers, Hank Williams and Bonnie Raitt.
The opening track on “Somebody Like Me” is the snappy “Yuppie Passin’ Thru.” “As you pour that see-thru coffee with your name tag ‘Jamie-Sue’/I can tell what you’re thinkin’…another northern yuppie passin’ thru.” Barry Gellert’s guitar has an old-timey rockabilly sound to it that is easy to love.
Justin Maxwell’s accordion is the first sound you’ll hear on “Rhythm Pretend,” a dreamy waltz of a song that actually describes an unhappy truth rearing its ugly head out on the dance floor.
It only took these two songs for me to be totally on board with “Somebody Like Me” and then I heard the third song and became a card carrying member of the Dale fan club. “Easy Passin” is five minutes and 14 seconds of slow-moving perfection. “Long way north from south/live my life/shut my mouth/this new day, an end to a flight/road easy passin’/curves all familiar/I could be there before supper.” Rob Neilson’s lap steel guitar invokes the feeling of swinging on a front porch hammock listening to the crickets chirp without a care in the world beyond wondering if the summer rain will cool things down.” “Somebody Like Me” closes out with “Landing Now,” featuring Peter Donnelly on piano. It’s a jazz-tinged love song that’s both sad and bewitching. “Raised a glass with you/relived the past with you/moved too fast with you/thru thin air,” sings Dale with a voice like a zephyr.
You can pick up a copy of “Somebody Like Me” at the show at One Longfellow Square and after that in Bull Moose locations and on-line at cdbaby.com. Before Dale and her band take the stage you’ll be treated to an unusual set from local act The Intergalactic Yurt Band. They’re a six-piece Americana/roots/bluegrassact and they won’t be on the stage but rather in a loose circle facing each other. They’ll be playing acoustically, with the one exception of a small, battery-powered amp for the electric guitar, as people come in starting at 7:30 p.m.
8 p.m. Saturday. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $15 in advance, $18 day of show. onelongfellowsquare.com