The Music Issue: A new gigness

Out singer Jackie Hall is the best Dallas diva you don’t know about … yet

music-gigness

QUEER HOMECOMING | In recent years, Jackie Hall has performed in venues from biker bars to blues clubs, but the lesbian singer is now turning her attention back toward her fellows in the gay community. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

To label your band an “experience” is gutsy, but if it’s true, why not? When the frontlady for The Jackie Hall Experience belts out a tune, people shut up and listen. Always.

So why are you just now hearing about her?

“The career is slower than I like, but I just see it as part of paying my dues,” Hall sighs. “I welcome it all in God’s time, but I know change is gonna come.”

Making it in the music biz comes with frustration, and Hall has had her share. But breaking onto the Sue Ellen’s stage has reinvigorated her two-fold: She’s got a gig that pays and she’s getting her name back out in the LGBT community, even though the response “Jackie Who?” remains a hurdle.

“I left the community because I couldn’t get paid or pay my musicians,” she says. “I had to branch out in different areas. If I could perform for free, I would, but my boys won’t.”

Hall reminisces about sweet gigs at Illusions and Joe’s. With a 13-piece band (yes, really), she prided herself on big shows and an audience that embraced what she was throwing down. But as clubs closed or moved on, Hall was left to figure out a new plan. So she ventured away.

“I was able to book myself at the old Hollywood Casino in Shreveport and I sang at Tucker’s Blues in Deep Ellum,” she says. “I even performed at a biker bar in Fort Worth. I’m still figuring it all out. I’m working on expanding my gigness.”

An old friend has helped her on just that.  Some years back, Hall would sing karaoke at the Circle Spur in Irving, where she met a shy singer named Anton Shaw. The two became friends and nurtured each other’s talents.

“Back then, we were the shit,” Hall laughs, “singing En Vogue songs in the ‘hottest place in Irving.’ But we really were there for each other and we both wanted to be stars. We lost connection for about 10 years, but she’s the reason I’m in the scene now.”

After taking in a performance of Shaw at Alexandre’s, the two reconnected; a run-in at an audition then led to Sue Ellen’s. Shaw books talent for the club’s live-music Vixin Lounge. Last November, Hall made her debut to a healthy crowd on Thanksgiving weekend.

“She hadn’t seen me perform live since back in the karaoke days,” Hall says. “That means she booked me on faith.”

Along with her band bookings, Hall has released original music teaming up with local musician Taylor Hall. In a strange way, his indie grunge and her soulful lungs were a match made in heaven. Coming together through former Edge DJ Alan Ayo, the two created Robinson Hall, a dirty blues outfit that released three singles online last year.

In addition to original works, Hall isn’t short on delivering her strong renditions of classic rock and soul covers.  She kinda loves it.

“I discovered my purpose in life early on and it’s music. It is the only thing that brings the world closer, brings out emotions, memories. Music has landed me homeless before, but it’s important, man,” she says. “So every time I walk onstage I expect to kill ‘em. When I sing I want people to take that ride with me. I want them to hold hands during love songs, bang their heads during the rockers and cry at the sad songs. That’s why I named it an experience.”

And it is. When Hall takes on any song, she embodies it. Her body is fully engaged on a classic like Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and she turns delicate while singing Etta James, or her big hero, Gladys Knight. As she reflects on the highs and lows and the songs she embraces, Hall has an epiphany.

“Sitting here, this has been a revelation for me. I need to be more out in my own community,” she says. ”The gay community has a lot to offer and I have a gift that I’d like to share. I wish I knew more showtunes, though. The gays love those.”

Good for her. Half the battle is knowing your audience already.

The Jackie Hall Experience performs every second Saturday at Sue Ellen’s.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Plain Jane

Lesbian fiction author Ellen Hart loses her way with latest Jane Lawless mystery, ‘Lost Women’

The Lost Women of Lost Lake, by Ellen Hart. Minotaur Press (2011), $26, 320 pp.

Cordelia Thorn figured she would just lend a quick hand. Tessa Cornell, Cornelia’s old friend in the northern Minnesota ’burg of Lost Lake, had taken a tumble and hurt her leg. Tessa was directing the community play, so somebody needed to finish the job while she was healing; Cornelia volunteered, and invited her best friend, Jane Lawless, along. Jane, a restaurateur and part-time private investigator, was still mourning the death of her long-time partner; a trip would do her good.

Tessa was happy to have help with the play, but she didn’t need any company — definitely not some P.I. wannabe.

Jonah Ivorsen hated moving, so when he decided to hitchhike from St. Louis to Lost Lake, he was sure his aunt Jill and Jill’s wife, Tessa, would let him stay with them. But then a body was discovered and another one followed it fast. The authorities were zeroing in on a mysterious fire, and Tessa was obviously lying to everybody. Can Jane Lawless sort things out before someone else dies?

Oh, how I love books with Jane Lawless in them! Jane is an unlikely heroine and reluctant private eye who doesn’t seem to want her hobby to turn into work, yet there’s a will-she-make-it-permanent thread in this book that’s satisfactorily solved. There’s also a possible romance angle that slyly teases readers.

But as much as I love Ellen Hart’s main character, the supporting cast in The Lost Women of Lost Lake almost all need to take a dive. I had to work to keep my eyes from rolling, not only because of the cliché peripheral characters but also for the cliché things they say. Triteness definitely taints this otherwise fine mystery.

Fans of the Jane Lawless series should be able to overlook these faults, but if you’re not already a fan, start with another book. For you, The Lost Women of Lost Lake will not be looked upon swimmingly.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

PHOTO OF THE DAY: If you thought our weather was bad, check out this scene from Chicago

Our old friend Rex Wockner just sent over a link to the above photo from The Chicago Tribune, which reports that the area has received more than 20 inches of snow and is expected to get more today.

—  John Wright

Oak Lawn Library Friends say budget cuts may lead to wait times of 8 years for some materials

Our old friend P D Sterling sends along word that the Oak Lawn Library Friends will host a town hall meeting this coming Thursday to discuss the potential impact of city budget cuts. According to the OLLF website, which lists Thursday’s meeting as a CALL TO ACTION, these potential impacts include:

• Branch hours will remain the staff but half the staff will lose their jobs
• Due to reduced staffing, programs such as story time, Summer Reading Program, and other planned outreach could be eliminated
• The overall budget vs. two years ago is reduced by 60 percent
• The cuts are so severe that the library will lose accreditation
• Loss of accreditation will make us lose state and federal funding
• The materials budget will be continue to be cut which will mean fewer new materials and longer wait times for materials you want.
• These wait times could be as long as 8 years!

OLLF is urging people to contact council members Pauline Medrano and Angela Hunt and to attend upcoming budget town hall meetings hosted by the city. Sterling summarized the situation as follows:

The proposed budget cuts may severely hamper the ability of our library to function; the staff may be reduced to the point that community programs will have to be withdrawn, just to provide core services of book- and media-lending.

Oak Lawn Library Friends have been a dynamic force in making Oak Lawn Library a vital community center, and we have grave concerns that extreme reductions will be short-sighted. If national accreditations are lost, outside grants will no longer be available.

We submit that the citizens of Dallas must call for basic services to be maintained, and talking points will be made available for further meetings held by the City during the next six weeks.

The town hall meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the library, 4100 Cedar Springs. For more info, go here.

—  John Wright