Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Aug 31st
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

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual