Dottie’s Charms – A New Record! City Winery on April 24th!

Jill Sobule Album Cover
I have a new record coming out! And it’s a…concept record. All the kids, I hear, love the “concept record”  –  I have always felt like I could have been a trendsetter in, say…1966.
“Dottie’s Charms” is based on an old charm bracelet that was given to me as a birthday gift almost a decade ago. I never wore it. I’m generally fine with wearing dead people’s things: vintage clothes, shoes, but there is something odd and slightly ghoulish about having a stranger’s life story dangling from one’s wrist. And that’s what a charm bracelet is – an archive of places, things, people, and events in another human being’s life. It’s kind of personal.
The bracelet, however, did live in the “drawer of forgotten and misfit gifts”, which I open every once in a while to see what I can toss. I am reluctant to throw anything away, as it seems rude or plain bad karma to dispose of these gifts of good intention.

Last year on a visit to said drawer, I saw a cowboy hat charm peeking out from the refuse. I fished the bracelet out and gave it, for the first time, some real attention.

The bracelet, with its tiny pewter charms, was different from the 14th-karat gold-plated one my grandmother once had. Hers had a charm for each grandchild’s birthdate, a gaudy mesh heart with an embedded pearl, and a pushcart carrying glass gems with wheels that actually turned. All you could gather from it, if you didn’t know her, was that she was a proud grandmother who had bad taste in costume jewelry.

However, this one seems to tell more of a story. There are more charms. More clues.

Her name was Dorothy. There is a round charm with the name etched in front, and a birthdate in back. She must have been Jewish, as between a Statue of Liberty and ballet slippers hangs a small mezuzah. She went on a bunch of vacations. The jet plane charm seems like an artifact of the days when air travel was really glamorous, however she didn’t go anywhere too fancy – Florida, Kentucky and Mackinac Island. She was not a child when she collected these charms, but a working woman, indicated by the swiveling office chair and union badge. A few other clues we have: she played piano ( a piano charm) had or wanted a standard poodle, and liked either horses, cowboys, or both.

The rest we can only imagine.

I mentioned “Dottie” to my friend David Hajdu. He reminded me that I had once told him that I would love to one day collaborate with some of my favorite authors, him included. Well, he took home a picture of the Mackinac Island charm, and within a week, sent me a wonderfully heartbreaking and funny lyric – Dottie should not have drunk so much that  night on the Island.

With David’s help, I sent a different charm to 11 of my favorite fancy-pants writers, including Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem, Mary Jo Salter, Luc Sante, and Sam Lipsyte. Most of these writers had never written a 3-minute song before. Although Sam was in a noise punk band called Dungbettle.

What’s amazing so far is that each of the writers have conjured a different part of something all of us would recognize as the same life. The pieces seem to fit. Her search for love and adventure may not have always turned out as planned, but we all wish her well.

On that note, I really do want to know what became of the real Dorothy. Is she still alive? She would be pretty darn old by now. Did she have any children? Did some needy or shitty grandkid sell all her personal belongings on eBay? Or was it Dorothy herself who wasn’t the sentimental one?

Whatever the case, she’s immortal now…on a “concept record”

I’m putting up a picture of the bracelet here on this blog. I know I’m crazy for thinking this, but maybe there is someone out there in the Internets who will recognize it and tell us what we got right or wrong.

Oh, so, after I received a lyric, I wrote and recorded the music. I also got help from some of my friends like: Dan Wilson of (Adele fame), Dave Palmer, Adam Levy, Fred Hersch (one of our best living jazz pianist)  and the so talented Mike Viola. Mike was with me on five of the songs.
I convinced the amazing artist, Molly Crabapple, to do the artwork. As I am typing, there are five film makers who are contributing videos to some of the songs.
I hope you all give Dottie a spin. She will debut on Record Store Day (April 18th) – only vinyl will be available. Then on March 6th, she will launch on Harper’s Magazine website, and be available digitally and on CD.
I will have a NYC record release party/concert at the City Winery on April 24th. More dates are still in the works. I am also thinking of booking some house concerts around those dates. Who wants to put one on? They are kind of more fun than going to a venue. I take request.
I am in the midst of working on a regular non-concept record. Will keep you abreast.
As always, I welcome your response, thoughts, and ideas. Talk to me!
Xo, jill

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