Review: Coast a perfect place for album launch

Cleopatra Degher performs recently at Ducky Waddle’s Emporium in Leucadia. (Publicity photo by Jay Styron)

Cleopatra Degher performs recently at Ducky Waddle’s Emporium in Leucadia. (Publicity photo by Jay Styron)

Layla Marino

n_review_2014_webMany residents of San Diego County, and even perhaps North County folks, may be surprised by the number of album launch parties that take place in the region. In fact, musical artists both local and outside of San Diego County often choose the intimate and fun venues on the coast of North County for such events. Despite Coastal North County being a common spot, folk songstress Cleopatra Degher chose the unlikely venue of Ducky Waddle’s Emporium in Leucadia to launch her second album, “Pacific,” on Sept. 14.

Degher, who grew up largely in Sweden, embarked on her music career in earnest, she says, after seeing Jackson Browne in concert at Copley Symphony Hall. She’d always been quite musical, however, growing up with a father who wrote, played and produced folk music himself, even recording with the likes of Warren Zevon. When Degher decided to release her first album, “Restrung,” both her father and uncle helped with production and mastering.

Although growing up in Sweden, Degher seems to take most of her inspiration from the landscape and people of Southern California, and specifically San Diego County, for which she clearly has a great love. “Restrung” chronicles her feelings about returning to San Diego, which, as she put it, were “like a guitar with brand new strings.” The newest album, “Pacific,” likewise has been inspired by San Diego, as the singer freely admits she took inspiration from the beaches and funky bohemian style of Encinitas.

Degher was recognized instantly by local media as having great potential as a folk artist, and with the release of the new album, she’s also caught the eye of national news. “Pacific” is currently being featured on NPR as a World Café Next artist. She’s also begun to tour up the West Coast in support of her album this fall, so the launch party also kicked off the tour, which will end in Portland.

Cleopatra Degher’s brand of folk is definitely eclectic, with some songs on “Pacific” coming dangerously close to old-style country, and others, such as “Notice Me,” bordering as much as a folk guitar can on rock. What is undeniably consistent is the pitch-perfect timbre of Degher’s voice, which rivals those of Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. Her guitar arrangements are simple, seemingly to highlight her voice, and her lyrics highly personal. “California Forest Fire,” for example, talks about the joys and dangers of the dry SoCal climate, and how life goes on even in the face of the almost yearly firestorms in San Diego County.

Normally classed as an art, book and curio shop, Ducky Waddle’s does host small events such as poetry readings and art openings, but the hosts of the show that afternoon said music events such as this one are few and far between. It was quickly apparent, however, that Cleopatra Degher had chosen the perfect venue for her album release. The funky, eclectic ambience of Ducky Waddle’s matched Degher’s eclectic folk style.

The venue’s being so close to the beach also created the ideal vibe for “Pacific.” As Degher played a few of the tracks from the album with a backing band and signed pictures and the few hard copies of the album for sale, attendees could smell ocean spray wafting into the main room.

Though the production and engineering on “Pacific” is clean and flawlessly executed, it was clear during her performance that no tuning was needed on Degher’s vocals. Her voice was just as bell-clear as if it had been recorded. Her guitar work also clearly wasn’t fudged on the album, and though it was generally basic folk chord progressions, they were executed perfectly by someone who has training and talent.

The event ended at around 6 p.m., and though the sky had been overcast most of the day, those leaving the party were treated to a beautiful Encinitas sunset over the Pacific. It’s no wonder this beach town was such an inspiration to Degher. Though she’s just starting out on her music career — with a combination of talent, skill and the endless subject matter she’s able to find in her coastal North County surroundings — it’s clear Cleopatra Degher has a bright musical career ahead of her. Here’s wishing this adopted San Diegan the best of luck on her tour.

Layla Marino is a San Diego music and arts writer