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Since 2008, a group of international female accordion players has been publishing a photo calendar of themselves in pin-up style and touring on the strength of a CD mix included within it. Two of these Accordion Babes, San Francisco-based Renée de la Prade (calendar founder and member of Culann’s Hounds and Whiskey and Women) and Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Amber Lee Baker (of one-woman show Amber Lee & The Anomalies, playing accordion, loop pedal, and glockenspiel) will perform at La Tuna on Saturday as part of a five-week national tour promoting the 2011 calendar and CD.
Baker, who recently released her own CD, Indelible, with a full band, responded to questions from the Current via email.
What are we going to see at La Tuna, exactly? You and Renée playing duets, separate sets, or both?
Renée and I are each solo performers and play our own music. Sometimes we back each other up. So what you will mainly see is: I take the stage for three songs, maybe invite Renée up to play baritone ukulele on one, and then Renée comes up and does three songs, and asks me to come up and sing back-up harmonies. Then, I play another set of three songs, Renée does another set of three songs ... Like that.
Do you do both originals and covers? Each of you cover a wide variety of styles. How are you going to organize the sets?
We’re both songwriters and play a lot of original music. We each have a select repertoire of covers. Renée’s thing is rock ’n’ roll, French music, blues, zydeco, and ’80s pop songs. Her tunes are based on influences from old Elvis Sun Records days, old rock ’n’ roll about gutter punks, and nerd love, with zydeco and punk-rock influences thrown in for good measure. My stuff has bluegrass, a bluesy show-tune, and ’80s covers. Sexy and soulful folk tunes inspired by everything from being Alpha female to dead neighbors and pancakes, with gypsy and polka styles sprinkled about.
I’ll play devil’s advocate: “Oh, you’re perpetuating the exploitation of women as sex objects,” and bla bla bla. Defend yourselves.
Women who are intelligent and empowered are sexy! Britney Spears is a classic example of an exploited sex object, whereas the Accordion Babes are a much more creative and varied type of sexiness. We include women of many ages, shapes, and sizes, all showing that they can be sexy with their accordions. Plus we’re trying to reinvent the image of the accordion.
Why did you two decide to tour together?
’Cause we make a good team. We have toured the West Coast together a few times in the last couple years and realized that we had a good thing going. Also, we’re both highly motivated, bodacious, and ready to go!
Are you at all familiar with the Texas conjunto tradition? Have you performed in San Antonio before?
Yes, one of our Babes, Tara Linda, who is from San Antonio, plays the Tex-Mex style of accordion. She has worked with Flaco Jiménez, and Renée hung out with him backstage at [California’s] Cotati Accordion Festival. This will be our first time in San Antonio, and we’re very excited about that. •
You can hear the Accordion Babes (all of them) at neverendingwonder.com/accordionbabes.htm, a website that links to the self-proclaimed “only radio show to feature women accordion players exclusively.”
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