Over the telephone, local blues light Nina Storey has a teeny-tiny voice. It's the soft-spoken, polite kind of voice one might expect of a florist, or a librarian, or a person who spends large amounts of time soothing animals or small children. So when she expounds on the latest wave of her career -- one that finds her gracing the pages of national music trade mags like Billboard, riding the airwaves of radio stations on both sides of the Continental Divide and releasing her album, Shades, through a national distributor -- she sounds excited, yes, but not as animated as one might expect of a performer whose from-the-gut blues chanteusing has been her local trademark. That's because the 26-year-old Storey -- who's been playing and recording music since the age of fifteen -- isn't one to boast or harbor illusions about the realities of the music business.
"We've been working on this album for so long," she says, "and music has been my life since I was a teenager. In addition to my academics, pursuing music has been a passion. So I don't really feel like things have changed that much. I'm still just plugging away, writing music, cleaning my house. I feel grateful for every day I can do this, and really, the new album and promoting it and all that is just another step in a life's work."
Humble as she may be about it, Storey's most recent step is a big one. Shades was originally released in 1997 on her label Red Lady Records, which is run by her mother, Jan Storey, a longtime local singer and producer. The album sold well in Colorado, and Storey continued to build her local and national following by touring, touring, touring. Opening gigs for acts like Jonny Lang and a spot on the Denver stop of 1998's Lilith Fair helped to expose her to more and more industry folks. The national distributor Navarre Inc. picked up Shades last year, and on February 15 it will be released nationwide as a joint venture between Red Lady and Monster Entertainment, an Omaha-based promotion company that is the album's primary backer. Among the various agencies working on aspects of pushing Shades is Shore Fire Media, and a look at the firm's roster reveals that the individual handling Storey's campaign is the same man who returns phone calls for Bruce Springsteen. The Boss and the Boulder blues girl, born in the U.S.A.
For Storey, the real excitement -- and the real work -- started when the album's first single, "Let Us Walk" was released to radio on January 6. The song is already leaping onto the playlists of triple-A college stations around the country, and Storey taped a video for the single at the Fox Theatre on January 21. Future efforts to promote the song and the album have caused Storey's dance card to be more than a little bit full.
"We're chasing the single feverishly," she says. "Wherever it shows up, I'll be there. We plan to be on a radio tour soon; we're supposed to do some big radio convention in Puerto Vallarta. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure of the enormity or the scope of the master plan. With this Red Lady/Monster collaboration, it allows us to do things that we wouldn't be able to do otherwise."
Whether Shades -- which includes twelve tracks of Storey's soulful singing and lyrics, as well as guest vocals by Coco and Yvonne Brown and longtime bandmate Randy Hall -- hits or misses with national audiences, Storey recognizes the irony of promoting as new a recording that is more than three years old. Though the world may view her as the next young woman to navigate the territory most recently traveled by Susan Tedeschi and Joan Osborne, Storey is quick to point out that she's not exactly green.
"We'll see how the record does nationally," she says. "From the time when you record to when it's released to when it's promoted, that can be such a lag of time. It's funny because people will hear this record and say, 'That's the new you,' when, actually, that was me over a year ago. A record is like a photograph. It just captures a moment of that artist's creative thought. Like everything, music evolves. So when people see me live now, I hope they'll know that I'm evolving. I'm playing piano now, though not very well. I'm writing, realizing how much I don't know, trying to refine my art."
Storey may display some shades of modesty in conversation, but she isn't known to hold back on stage. Fans can check out the old and the new when Nina and her band perform Saturday, February 26, at the Soiled Dove.
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Jay Bianchi of Quixote's True Blue has announced that he's opening a second venue, at 741 East Colfax Avenue. The centrality of the building may be good news for those grateful folks who prefer to avoid late-night treks to East Colfax, but it's bittersweet for Backwash. While we're happy for Bianchi and his staff, Sancho's Broken Arrow (which will open on Thursday, February 17, and really kick off after the String Cheese Incident performs next door at the Fillmore on Friday, February 18, and Saturday, February 19) will take over Backwash's favorite place to watch drunk construction workers live la vida loca: the Gold Nugget Country Disco. The thoroughly odd establishment -- which has been serving up cheap draft beer since 1969 and perhaps unknowingly boasts one of the weirdest jukeboxes in town -- is really neither country nor disco. On a good night, though, a little bit of both does go on between the bar's wood-paneled walls. The Nugget is as notable for its waitresses (required to don low-cut tops and short, short skirts regardless of age or, um, appropriateness) as it is for its regular karaoke nights. And while Bianchi plans to bring in his own staff (folks more likely to sport jeans and tie-dye than spandex), he's considering letting the karaoke nights remain at least once a week. Sancho's will not be a live music venue like Quixote's; it'll be more of a traditional bar for the area and a before-and-after refuge for Fillmore-goers. "It's going to be more of a process than a launch," Bianchi says of getting Sancho's up and running. "We just want to change the vibe in there. We're going to revamp the jukebox, work on the inside and outside. We feel that Quixote's is a neighborhood bar, even though we're not attracting people from the neighborhood. We want this to be low-maintenance, a local place."
Surely, in time, the interior of Sancho's Broken Arrow will develop a character as unique as that of the Nugget. Bianchi's got a challenge on his hands, however, if he hopes to improve on the establishment's current bright-yellow neon sign. That, ladies and gentlemen, is disco.
Coming soon to the Soiled Dove is Zeut, a band very much alive despite its recent inclusion in a Backwash listing of defunct Denver bands. The group will open for Manatee Junction on Friday, February 18, and headline a February 26 gig at Herman's Hideaway. Check out www.zeut.com to see what else the absolutely existent band is up to...The 29th Annual CHUN Capitol Hill People's Fair is accepting applications from musical groups and soloists who want to participate in the yearly populist fete. Forms can be obtained by calling 303-830-1651, and auditions will follow for those who present well on paper. The deadline is Saturday, February 25, and the fair is slated for Saturday, March 26.