Karen Savoca happily brings her folk-funk back to Victoria

By Ron Forbes-Roberts

If Karen Savoca tires of her musical career, she should consider becoming a PR rep for Victoria's Board Of Tourism. During our long distance phone conversation, the Oneida, NY based musician repeatedly extols the beauties and charms of our city which she first experienced this summer while performing at Rootsfest.

"It's so gorgeous there. I've actually got two postcards of Victoria on my fridge. We found a fantastic restaurant and went to some really beautiful parks. I'm just looking forward to getting back there," she says. But her affinity for the Garden City goes beyond the topographical and gastronomical. " People here allow themselves to be moved both emotionally and physically in a way some other audiences don't. I mean, when the music is danceable, they dance."

It's encouraging to learn that we're less sedate than is sometimes thought. Then again, it's difficult to imagine any audience sitting still during a Karen Savoca performance. While her ecclectic music falls more or less under that overworked, catchall label "contemporary folk", it has a groove quotient that's anomalous in the genre. This isn't surprising considering that Savoca's childhood dream was to be a drummer, while she plays guitar and piano in performance and on CD, her main axe in the duo she fronts with guitarist Pete Heitzman is percussion. Funk, R&;B, Latin and Irish rhythms all make their way into her music.

But the most elemental feature of Savoca's songs are her thoughtful, evocative lyrics and the natural, emotionally charged voice with which she sings them. Many of her tunes deal with vagaries of love and romance, and the puzzling nature of people's motives. As she sings on her sultry folk-funk tune "Same All Over", from the most recent of her four CDs, Here We Go:

You go north when you oughta go south
It tastes delicious so you spit it out
You hold your secrets deep inside your mouth
and it's the same all over the world

But even the most grittily realistic of her narratives are long on grounded optimism, even playfulness, and give affected despair a wide berth. "I had a hapy childhood and and have had a great life really," she admits. "I know those things are not in style - the angst and the being pissed off is. I do get pissed off about things but it would be very, very shallow of me to think I've had a rough life. I really feel very lucky."

Fans of Savoca's should also feel blessed that her upcoming show is the second in a mere three months, and that her fondness for our city and its happy citizens may well make Victoria a regular stop on her future tours.

-- Ron Forbes-Roberts

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