You see it, you hear it, every Wednesday night in the Torch Club, at 5:30, amid happy-hour people jibber-jabbering about the events of the day, drinking a Lagunitas or Corona or maybe something with a higher octane level. Then the jukebox powers down, and the audio focus shifts to the strength and clarity of the greatest of all the musical instruments, the one that breathes energy and emotion into jazz or pop, country or funk, the blues, rock and roll, and plain, old-fashioned American folk.
It’s the human voice, of course, and this one of unmistakable resonance kicks off the weekly open mike nights at the Torch, and then again later at Old Ironsides, and it also takes the stage once a month or more at the Delta King, and it wafts through coffeehouses and nightclubs all over the downtown/midtown Sacramento grid. It’s trained, it’s motivated, and it makes people stop what they’re doing for a minute to find out where it’s coming from.
This voice belongs to a vocalist named Sandra Dolores, whose Torch Club sets usually run about three songs before the hostess turns the stage over to the masses. She comes back again just before 8 to close the session with another song or two, usually behind a guitar that rings the same as her voice – clean and clear as the morning dew.
On Saturday night, Dolores is taking one of Sacramento’s more prominent musical stages. Harlow’s is having her over to mark the release of her new five-song compilation EP, “Anima.” She’ll be backed by drummer Tony Galioto, himself an open mike regular, and bass man Nate Riddle.
She said she’ll be telling the stories off her EP originals “about all the different things that women go through, and emotions that we go through in this crazy ride.” And she’ll tell them over steady grooves that cross over from progressive folk to blues and even into accidental calypso rhythms featuring ukulele.
Just as she does live at the Torch or the “Old I,” or at the Delta King, in recordings Dolores emits a definitive and distinctive vocal phrasing that cuts through the clatter of conversations in a neighborhood bar, of a busy day, of a distracted life. Hers is a voice that enhances a conversation or a drive home, with a propensity to captivate.
“When I started singing in Stockton, at the Blackwater, I realized I had something special when everybody would get quiet,” Dolores said, about the club where she first went public five years ago. “Not that they didn’t get quiet for other people, but I knew there was something special in it. People would constantly come up to me and talk to me about the song and tell me about their experiences – ‘that song makes me think about this,’ and then I would see that connection on their faces.”
About 20 years ago Dolores’ mother picked up on her 14-year-old daughter’s tone and enrolled her in singing lessons. The Stockton girl worked out the pipes at the University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music, developing range and refining her technique.
She lists Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez as influences. She covers Patsy Cline and Smokey Robinson.
A Sacramento resident for three years, Sandra Dolores has set aside day jobs and a marriage to define and expand the voice that is her own. These days, it pays the bills.
Her sound surprises the unsuspecting. It makes people nod and agree, makes them notice every time she steps up to the mike: This girl can sing.
Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.