Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Sep 20th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Hear Her Roar

music AliSinger/songwriter/guitarist Ali Handal can rock out with the best of the boys

Look through any list of famous lead guitarists, and you’ll notice something that almost all of them have in common: a Y chromosome. If you’re a true music aficionado, you might be able to name four or five well-known female lead players, but beyond that, the names take a sharp turn for the obscure.

As an accomplished lead guitarist, L.A.-based singer/songwriter Ali Handal is well aware that she’s a bit of an anomaly. She came face-to-face with that fact when she first moved from the Bay Area to Los Angeles in 1987. The musician recalls telling a Guitar Center employee she was unsure what gauge of guitar string she wanted. “The guy was like, ‘So, what kind of guitar does your boyfriend play?’” she recounts with a laugh.

One thing Handal’s music isn’t lacking, however, is balls. (Well, OK, maybe that’s two things.) Along with a generous helping of distortion-heavy, Joan Jett-esque rock, her latest album, Make Your Move, boasts some funkier material, a little bit of slinky, sexy stuff and even an emotional ballad or two. All throughout, Handal displays a smooth singing voice, attention-grabbing lyrics, memorable melodies and a tight, percussive guitar attack.

This fall, the music publishing company Hal Leonard will release a book that Handal has written for female guitarists. The musician explains that she sees many singer-songwriters who “just barely play enough to get the song across. I’m not even talking about lead guitars; I’m talking about rhythm. There’s a difference between really digging in and just being a strummer.” In the interest of encouraging players to explore the possibilities of the guitar more deeply, Handal’s book offers an education not only in basic guitar chords, but also in more interesting harmonic ideas, such as chords that contain open strings. Also included are inspiring quotes from female musicians, songs by women, plus information, advice and encouragement that Handal wishes she’d been exposed to as a beginner. For instance, she recalls that as a young girl, she wondered why she couldn’t play while letting her guitar hang down to her knees like Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. “My arms aren’t long enough!” she explains. “That didn’t even occur to me for the first 10 years I was playing; I just thought I was so uncool. Well, that’s not uncool. It’s just different.”

music AlistudioEven more anomalous than Handal’s status as a female lead guitarist is that she’s a rock musician who hasn’t had much experience with drugs. “Maybe I would have been more successful if I’d smoked more pot, just kind of hung out and been more of a rebel, but I was really a good girl growing up,” she offers, adding that she got straight A’s in high school and college. “Coming from the family I came from, it was just assumed that we were all going to college, so that wasn’t even something I questioned.” Settling on UCLA “because Guns N’ Roses was here,” she worked her way through the honors program as a psychology major. “My last year, I was so miserable,” she notes. “Every time I would go out and hear music, I’m like, ‘Why am I not doing this?’”

Handal came to a crossroads while writing her thesis. “In the middle of writing it, I was like, ‘I hate this!’” she explains. “In the meantime, I saw other people around me following their dreams. It all circled back to my fear of death: ‘If this is it, is this something you want to be doing? You’ve got one life—go for it.’” Thus, she graduated magnum summa cum laude with a psychology degree, “and then I basically threw it away!”

Handal has gone on to put out three albums, sing on a Neil Young record, perform at Neverland Ranch, dance with Janet Jackson, and appear on The Price Is Right as a guitar demonstrator. This Tuesday, she appears at Don Quixote’s in a Songwriter Showcase featuring Elisabeth Carlisle, Kenny Schick and Sabine Heusler. Requests for No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” are not recommended.

Ali Handal plays at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $8/adv, $10/door. Call 603-2294.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past

 

The Peace Equation

Sunday is the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, a global peace-building day when nations, leaders, governments, communities and individuals are invited to end conflict, cease hostilities, creat 24 hours of non-violence and promote goodwill. Monday is Autumn equinox as the Sun enters Libra (right relations with all of life). The Soul Year now begins. We work in the dark part of the year (Persephone underground) preparing for the new light of winter solstice. Tuesday to Wednesday is the Virgo new moon festival. We know two things about peace. “The absence of war does not signify peace.” And “Peace is an ongoing process.” In its peace-building emphasis, the UNIDP, through education, attempts to create a “culture of peace, understanding and tolerance”. Esoterically we are reminded of the peace equation: “Intentions for goodwill (and acting upon this intention) create right relations with all earth’s kingdoms which create (the ongoing process of) peace on earth.” At noon on Sunday, in all time zones, millions of participating groups will observe a moment of silence for peace on earth. Bells will ring, candles will be lit, and doves released as the New Group of World Servers recite the Great Invocation (humanity’s mantram of direction). To connect with others around the world see www.cultureofpeace.org    Let us join together with the mother (Virgo). Goodwill to all, let peace prevail on earth. The dove is the symbol for the day.
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.