Karen Joy Brown sings above the clamor at grand opening of Nord Starbucks
Yes, there is yet another new Starbucks in town. Located on Nord Avenue, across the street from Safeway, the new building seems to have appeared out of thin air. At the grand opening last Friday, beaming baristas served free—yes, free—coffee drinks in celebration, and passed out slices of cake and samples of green tea lemonade and mocha mint Frappacinos to crowded tables of delighted families and coffee connoisseurs.
Amid all the chaos of blender noise and shrieking children, local singer/songwriter Karen Joy Brown searched for someone in the crowded space to sing to. Perched on a chair pushed back into the corner window of the store, she began to share her deeply soulful voice with those willing to turn an ear in her direction. Brown confidently smiled toward customers as they walked by, toe-tappin’ in her black strappy sandals as she crooned her original love songs, and a couple of well-chosen covers.
Brown strummed the familiar chords of The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” and really began to wail, making the tune her own with her hearty vocals as she repeated the well-known chorus with ferocity. Her voice filled the room as lines formed for the free Venti-sized iced coffees. There was also her folksy take on The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” played with a softness that made for an endearing version of the song.
Brown learned how to play guitar at 18 and has been actively trying to pursue her music career for the past two years, recently adding lead guitarist Amos Clifford to her performances (though he was not in attendance at Friday’s show) and releasing an EP featuring her simple, Dido-like songs. She used to lead a contemporary gospel music group and performed for the church congregation before deciding to step out on her own. Her songwriting reflects her life experiences and observations and you do get a sense of conviction from her every time she cocks her head back, crinkles the corners of her eyes and belts out a note into the microphone.
The elegant songstress told a story about a journey, “a journey through heaven and hell, a fabulous journey with stories to tell,” in one of her original compositions. The presence of her guitarist was sorely missed, though, as it might have given Brown the extra “oomph” she needed to capture the customers’ attention. It was a shame the acoustics were drowned out by the constant coffee shop bustle.