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'Snow Joke : Phoebe Snow is back on tour.

Blue Skies

Back on the circuit after three stormy decades, Phoebe Snow heads for the Rio in Santa Cruz.

By Andrew Gilbert

Phoebe Snow always put her daughter first, even after her death. Click on Snow's website (, and the first thing you see is her heart-rending eulogy to her daughter Valerie Rose, who passed away last year at the age of 31. The incandescent singer, who catapulted to fame in 1974 with the release of her celebrated self-named album and the hit single "Poetry Man," spent much of the last three decades caring for her severely disabled daughter. "She was my tireless protector and guardian," Snow writes, "my most loyal fan, my favorite star, my teacher, my spiritual advisor, my role model, my biggest hero, and my best friend."

Not surprisingly, as an escape from grief Snow has thrown herself back into music. Last week she released Phoebe Snow Live, her first concert album ever (though Donald Fagen featured her extensively on his popular New York Rock and Soul Review tour and the 1991 album Live at the Beacon). Suffused with simmering soul, the new album is the latest chapter in a long, tumultuous and ultimately triumphant creative journey for Snow, who performs Monday at the Rio Theatre.

"Music is what is going to save me," she recently told Ronald Sklar on "On the bad days, when I have to look at the cold, hard facts of life, I see that this is not the music business I came up in, and I have to be very, very objective and detached and say, 'What's good about it and what's bad about it?' Mostly, I'm finding it good that it's not the same old music business, because the music business I came up in really didn't advance anything I was doing, and I don't think it was particularly kind to a lot of artists."

The business may not have been kind, but Snow has taken a remarkable ride. She arrived on the Greenwich Village scene in the early 1970s as a singer/songwriter and guitarist and immediately attracted attention with her multi-octave, blues-drenched contralto. At the age of 22 she delivered one of the decade's most enduring debut albums, joined by a gloriously eclectic cast, including the Persuasions, David Bromberg and jazz legends Zoot Sims and Teddy Wilson. But her visibility dropped off dramatically in the 1980s as she devoted increasing time to her daughter, who suffered severe brain damage at birth. Back in the spotlight, Show is still indelibly linked to "Poetry Man," a tune that's become a pop standard covered by the likes of Zap Mama, the Hawaiian group Na Leo and Queen Latifah.

PHOEBE SNOW Monday, Oct. 27, at 8pm at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $28 advance/$31 door, 866.55TICKETS or at

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