“Sure, it's mighty fine to have that warm, tingly feeling rippling up and down your spine as you discover your newest favorite song by an artist to whom you would hand over the keys to your heart, but let's fess up: nothing comes close to being frozen in place by a song that pricks up your ears and leaves you begging, 'Who was that?!'”
-Todd Lavoie, San Francisco Bay Guardian
She’s a country-folk singer-songwriter with strong ties to traditional Americana, but she’s not afraid of torchy rock and pop. She’s got the hair and the acoustic guitar of Joni Mitchell and the pathos of Cat Power, but she also has an impeccable songwriting sense and a clear, expressive voice a bit like Dolly Parton’s, if you listen just right. Switching effortlessly from biting blues to sweet love songs, Anna Laube (pronounced "Lau" like "how" and "be" like "to be or not to be") had a great job at Google but chose to give it up, sell her belongings, and start touring the country accompanied by her CD collection (heavy on Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams, and Aretha Franklin) and her guitar, Angelina. She admits to missing Google’s little luxuries, especially their gourmet salads, but it’s not always about the green.
Laube’s newest release, Pool All the Love * Pool All the Knowledge picks up where her first release, Outta My Head, left off, with eleven songs documenting a life on the road, written in living rooms from Austin, TX to Volcano, HI. It features a cast of musicians from around the country, including Chicagoan Brendan O’Connell on guitar (The Right Now); Madisonians Nick Moran on bass (El Clan Destino, Dumate), Aaron Konkol on keyboards (Natty Nation), and Scott Beardsley on drums (Lorenzo’s Music); St. Paul resident Sarah Morris on harmony vocals; San Franciscan Rob Reich on accordion (Gaucho, Sean Hayes). Laube contributes vocals, harmonica, guitar, keyboards, a touch of saxophone and banjo, and of course, the songs: “Om Namah Shivaya (Ulysses)” is a thoughtful ballad in a beautifully sparse arrangement of acoustic guitar and harmony vocals, written in Minnesota (some loons even grace track) and inspired by yoga meditations and Mason Jennings' song, "Ulysses." There’s a swampy feel in the laid back “Kihei Blues,” an ode to the magical and blissful island of Maui (and yeah, that’s Anna wailing away on harmonica). She switches gears in “Hippie Boyfriend” (recorded with more Madisonians: Ben Ferris on bass and electric guitar and Riley Sattler on drums and boards) and says it straight: she’s gonna find herself a hippie boyfriend and kiss him on his hippie mouth. On “Blue Angel” she relates a winding tale that starts in a Laundromat and ends on 18th St. at Castro in San Francisco. Likewise, her song, “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” which shares nothing with the Tony Bennet tune except the title, is sweetened by some haunting banjo by Matt Bruer and pays homage to the beautiful city which she now calls home.
Born in Iowa City, IA, Laube began studying the piano at the tender age of three and later took up saxophone, oboe, violin, and guitar. She was a leading member in a number orchestras during high school in Madison, WI, and the year after she graduated, studied oboe at the Académie de Musique Grétry in Liège, Belgium. She gave only four guitar/voice performances in her 9 years of high school-Belgium-college (even doing a short opening set for the then up-and-coming singer-songwriter, Kris Delmhorst), each time singing “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” by the aforementioned Mr. Dylan. Until recently, however, she didn't really think she could sing. "I didn't take voice lessons or wear scarves all the time like the girls in choir. I thought maybe I'd be a professional oboist." On another a trip abroad, this time to study painting and printmaking, she borrowed a guitar and started writing songs. It wasn't until she finished college and took that cubicle job in California that she started singing seriously. "I didn't know a soul. I figured, nobody here knows that I'm not a singer." She’s definitely a singer now—but does she still play the oboe? "No," she laughs. "I'm dabbling in banjo and getting more serious with the guitar.”
Performing about a hundred gigs a year since 2007, Laube has appeared at clubs, coffeehouses, and as a street performer with a cart full of speakers and a tip bucket, busking at farmers' markets and open air malls, courtyards, and piers on the west coast and in the Midwest. She's sold out the legendary blues club Biscuits and Blues in downtown San Francisco and has performed on the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour in Lexington, KY, for over a million listeners around the world. Her music is receiving airplay all over the US and Canada as well as Europe and Australia and in 2009 she’ll be touring the country in support of her new disc, starting with album release concerts in Madison and San Francisco and a couple of performances during SXSW in Austin, TX.
Traveling around the country wielding a guitar has its challenges, but for Laube, it feels right. Talent like hers shouldn’t be wasted in a cubicle anyway, no matter how good the salads are.
Her two albums are available directly from her record label, Gingko Records, and on iTunes.
-Jamie Anderson w/ Anna Laube