As a haven for artists in the central Iowa area, the Space for Ames is known for hosting a wide variety of concerts and special events. And, despite its small size, big audiences frequently turn out to support local musicians, visual artists (there is a collection of local paintings all over the Space’s walls), and various causes. Just last weekend, the Space hosted a benefit concert for victims of the 5th Street apartment complex fire. On Saturday, August 18, the Space will reiterate its dedication to the Ames community by hosting a CD release party for Hear My Voice: Women of Ames, to benefit the Assault Care Center Extending Shelter or Support (ACCESS), a women’s shelter that has served Story County and surrounding areas since 1974. According to musician and producer Bryon Dudley, all the money raised from ticket and CD sales will go to ACCESS.
Dudley, who owns and operates a recording studio, said he came up with the idea for a compilation CD for ACCESS after attending the Women of Ames showcase at Maximum Ames Music Festival 2011.
“It was the most emotional show I’d been to in a long time, from moments of sadness to laughing so hard my guts hurt,” Dudley said. “My friend Leigh Adcock said she wished she could take the concert home on a disc. That planted the seed of the idea, so I talked to festival organizer Nate Logsdon about it, and he loved the idea, too.”
After a few more meetings and brainstorming sessions, Dudley decided to contact ACCESS to see if they would be interested in receiving the proceeds of the album.
“I set up a meeting with them, and they got excited as well,” Dudley said. “[Soon after the meeting] I asked everyone who was part of the showcase [to contribute], and some of them couldn’t do it because of time commitments. I asked others and word of mouth spread so that some people contacted me, wanting to be part of it. It all happened very organically.”
Jazz singer/songwriter and Ames native Elizabeth Zimmerman was one of the musicians who wanted to contribute an original song to the compilation. While many of the musicians re-recorded an older track, Zimmerman said she wanted to write a song specifically for Hear My Voice.
“This winter was a very reflective time for me and I wrote the song ‘How To Cope’ over a few days,” Zimmerman said. “The song was born out of anticipating a new phase of my life and so it has themes of ambivalence and conflict. They say writers write their best work when they are depressed or melancholic. I think my best work comes out of conflicting emotions: excitement and fear or uncertainty. This kind of overall feeling relates to the mission of ACCESS. The song is about coping with stress, change, fear, love, and life itself.”
Zimmerman, like many of the other artists represented on the album, is a longtime advocate of ACCESS and said she is very grateful to see all the proceeds go to the shelter. Blues/Americana musician and current Ohio resident BeJae Fleming performed at a previous benefit concert for ACCESS and said she is “trying to relearn” the song before Saturday’s release show at the Space.
“The other song I’m trying to relearn for the release show is one I wrote a number of years ago for the first ACCESS benefit I played,” Fleming said. “The song is very specific to the subject of violence against women, which means it’s difficult to present and may be uncomfortable to hear.”
Despite the rawness of many of the songs on the album, Fleming said the most exciting aspect of Hear My Voice is far subtler than the tracks themselves.
“I think that the most exciting and significant aspect of this compilation is that, thanks to Bryon Dudley, Leigh Adcock and the Maximum Ames Fest organizers, a group of dissimilar women performers came together to do what we love in the service of something very important: ending violence against women,” Fleming said.
Dudley said he still struggles to pinpoint a favorite track or performer on the album and has learned to appreciate Hear My Voice as a self-standing work of art, with an energy all its own.
“It’s very diverse, but there’s this feminine energy all throughout it,” Dudley said. “I love how everyone in our community of female local musicians has such a unique voice.”
Other than the tracks contributed by Fleming and Zimmerman, Hear My Voice contains pieces by Lydia Marie Johnson, Mary Tiedeman, Jen McClung-Coppoc, Claire Kruesel, Molly McDonald, Megan Blair, and soul/rock group Ladysoal. Singer/songwriter Holly Figueroa, who contributed “His Secret” to the compilation, said she admires many of the other musicians who recorded tracks for the album.
“I know most of the women on the album and there is a sense of unity I get when I play the CD,” Figueroa said. “When I got to Mary Tiedeman’s cover of ‘Moonshiner’ on the album, it went to repeat and I didn’t hear the rest for couple days. The content and vocals of that song blew me away. Also, Elizabeth Zimmerman’s ‘How to Cope’ and Jen McClung’s ‘Let it Go’ are thoughtfully written and great contributions to the album.”
Folk artist and album contributor Kate Kennedy also praised Tiedeman’s “Moonshiner” cover.
“The track I keep repeating is ‘Moonshiner,’” Kennedy said. “I’m excited to play a solo set [on Saturday and] to see Mary Tiedeman, Holly Figueroa, [and] everybody else. It’s nice to directly help the Ames community through music.”
And for Fleming, who has lived outside the Ames scene for the past three years, the act of “helping the Ames community through music” is rather unusual in a national industry focused on individual success.
“There is a developing music scene in Ames that rewards collaboration instead of competition,” Fleming said. “This was a collaboration and I am very proud to be part of it along with the other women of Ames who contributed their performances to the greater good of the community.”
Hear My Voice: Women of Ames CD Release Party
Saturday, August 18 from 4-9 pm @ The Space for Ames, 118 Hayward Avenue
$5 admission, $10 for a copy of the CD
Jaw Harp Potential’s EP release party starts immediately afterwards at the Space