Carolyn Striho beautifully relives her poignant written words in a refreshing fashion.
The Detroit rock singer-songwriter personally narrates a new compelling audiobook version of Detroit (Maiden Energy), her 2019 intimate, eloquent collection of song lyrics and poetry.
Now available via Google Play, iTunes, Apple Books, Nook, Scribd and Audible, Striho’s latest release commemorates the one-year anniversary of Detroit (Maiden Energy)’s print version from Aquarius Press/AUXmedia. It features Striho reciting 28 selections from her expansive 50-piece “street princess” collection in a compact 41-minute audiobook.
“I recorded them with me reading over two days in the summer at the home studio while Scott (Dailey) engineered. I sang a couple of lines on some of the songs. It was very different to hear myself reading the poems. It was not that different from a song, in some respect, when I sing in the studio,” Striho said.
“But I felt more self-conscious as they were ‘naked’ and not being talked to or sang with music behind them. As I love hearing and watching poets read, I know it could turn out really well. We had thought about doing music behind it with some guitar and piano, but it felt really organic and natural to just read.”
Gardens, Stars and Princesses
Striho starts her Detroit (Maiden Energy) audiobook journey with “Back in the Garden,” a nostalgic ode to carefree childhood city jaunts. She wistfully recites, “Behind the garages, hop over fences/Ivy on brick/The beautiful city/Running so hard/Exciting streets with my bike hitting/Concrete summer heat.”
“I’m reminiscing about growing up in Detroit, and the beauty of the backyard, the street, the magic of the trees and how much it felt like your ‘own little world.’ To be able to be so happy, imagine! It felt like a forest of trees and so much was so good. Everybody had gardens, too,” said Striho about the book’s opening poem.
“I think people can relate to that feeling … I guess it reminds me of early kid days in Detroit from skinned knees in the summer and running around just being kids. I wrote this when I was missing my mom and missing everybody when we were little and all the adventures with my family, sister and cousins and all the neighborhood and magic dance of growing up.”
Striho quickly transitions from glistening childhood magic to gloomy, harsh reality on “Midnight Stars” as she recites, “I watch all the ‘should have’ I meant to/I would have and realize they couldn’t have/They don’t have it/They don’t have sincerity or background/Living in a city/Living with defending/They have never had to defend a damn thing.”
“I was thinking about survival and pain. Some of this is from another poem I had written, but I also sang it on the Afterthought album. It’s about angst and seeing hope, and if you can’t put yourself in someone else’s shoes who has been through so much, then what?” she said.
“The poem also takes a stand, folding in against a struggle and the bright sun ‘hurts my eyes; when it should only be sunny in the summer.’ The reader might see some hope somewhere in it, maybe?”
The promise of hope is also captured and preserved in “Detroit (Street Princess)” as Striho searches for hidden internal and external beauty around her. She recites, “Stands in the litter/But gorgeous energy lights the sky/Dirt in the mouth/But gold in the heart/Future and past stand side by side/All of your dreams are mine.”
“I was near Belle Isle where I lived after the Cass Corridor area. I was walking and saw the little flower poke out from the sidewalk hard concrete. There were girls nearby and over on streets that had the faces of hope and beauty, so truly, freely beautiful with ‘gold in the heart.’ This poem is an older one. I saw the image with a smokestack and litter that was always somehow there … of the landscape next to that flower,” said Striho about one of her signature pieces.
Necklaces, Songs and Memoirs
Outside of her reflective, profound poetry, Striho shares a haunting assortment of love-fueled song lyrics throughout Detroit (Maiden Energy). The sparkling, tender “Necklace” tightly encircles readers as they clasp the bejeweled lyrics around their souls.
In response, Striho elegantly recites, “A Pacino act, an Empress piano/A purring panther reminds me of a singer/This is good, this is the way I want it/Out from the city out in the fields.”
“‘Necklace’ is a painting poem song. It always makes me see rain or paint falling or swirling down … to the ground. I can read it, and for some reason, see it. Like I see it more than read it. I wrote this in the late 1990s, and it was saying if you don’t stop tugging at something, you could be broken or broke and all alone,” said Striho about the track that appears on 2000’s Secrets & Space: Original Soundtrack of Transition.
“The Pacino act means it’s perfect. The Empress piano means it’s perfect and so does the purring panther. It’s all set, but if you don’t take care of it, it’s falling down to the ground, underground and all alone. The reader can hear the darkness going into the soft happy part, only to go back to darkness maybe.”
Striho triumphantly rises above the darkness and struggle on “Sing It to Me” as she recites, “If it is I can accept/That myths and lies are not a fact/But I believed I was the best/Sitting in my bright white dress.” A mesmerizing acoustic, Latin-filled version of “Sing It to Me” also appears on 2009’s Honesty, Striho’s first enchanting solo album.
“I wrote this ‘on the fly’ putting it together on little pieces of paper in the studio with Scott as he and I did the music. It was working perfectly … to see the white dress, perfection, and I said, and you said, ‘Sing it to Me …’ Tell me the story of myths, surprises, stories, ghosts and even the Bible. Damn my heart anyway; tell me what is real and what is truth. Tell me, only, and sing it to me. Singing to someone is beautiful, and I hope the reader can feel that,” she said.
Readers easily absorb Striho’s vivid, heartfelt song lyrics and poetry throughout Detroit (Maiden Energy) as they sift from one piece to the next. The audiobook and original print version only represent a fraction of the immense personal and professional experiences of Striho’s illustrious music career.
Initially, Striho envisioned Detroit (Maiden Energy) as a memoir filled with intricate tales about being a Motor City rock and roll girl. As the project quickly grew, she opted to share her reflections, feelings and experiences through a leaner volume of past and present poems, song lyrics and prose.
“It became lengthy, and it needed an editor. There are many people who are quite well-known in it. I thought instead, ‘How about my lyrics or poetry?’ I was long overdue for that, and many people had asked me to do a book like that. So this was the next best thing,” said Striho, who named the book after two of her poems, ‘Detroit Street Princess’ and ‘Maiden Energy.’
“I’m also happy that so many people like the book and like ‘Out of Tune.’ It’s not in the table of contents, but that one gets compliments because it is thoughts, musings and some specific emotion. So maybe the next book gets more of the prose, the memoir, the story.”
Origins of Striho’s Musical Story
Striho’s initial musical story starts with growing up in a creative Detroit family. Inspired by her mother’s voice and her father’s World War II valor, she instantly developed an appreciation for music and saw it as a valuable form of self-expression. Striho would sit at her aunt’s organ and noodle with the keys while dreaming up new tunes.
That early musical discovery led to Striho taking classical piano lessons, adding guitar to her repertoire, joining bands as a teenager and hosting a jazz radio show in high school. She also spent time listening to bossa nova, Herb Alpert, Motown, Béla Bartók, Hungarian czardas, polkas, The Stooges, MC5, David Bowie, Bob Marley, The Runaways, Patti Smith and Suzi Quatro.
“We got exposed to all kinds of music and much jazz and blues. I don’t even know how I first heard the MC5, Iggy and everybody like that, but when I did, I thought, ‘This sounds crazy good.’ The first time I saw David Bowie on TV, I was really young and realized it was something different. I thought, ‘I can get into this; it’s something I want to do,’ and realized how much I wanted to have a band and be a singer,” said Striho about her musical influences.
Striho followed her eclectic musical path, which led to joining the art-punk-jazz group The Cubes and becoming a DJ on WDET-FM’s “Radios in Motion” punk, new wave and underground music show. She later fronted the all-star ensemble Detroit Energy Asylum before embarking on a multi-genre solo career, which has included performing with Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Steve Earle, Don Was and The Ramones.
The album celebrates Detroit’s longtime spiritual and musical journey against an evolving artistic backdrop that includes pop-rock, jazz, soul, experimental and other city-driven sounds. As one of the project’s highlights, Striho collaborates with Patti Smith on a sparkling rendition of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)” on the project.
Nine years later, she released her first solo album, Honesty, and followed up with Word Attack (2013) and Afterthought (2016). As an introspective, timeless rock tribute to those left behind, Striho’s Afterthought spotlights eight stunning tracks with Carolyn Striho Group bandmates Scott Dailey (vocals, guitar, mandolin, drums, percussion), Dave Dion (bass), Bonnie Kaye (violin) and Ron Wolf (percussion).
Afterthought also features special guests Erin Zindle, Thornetta Davis, Johnny Evans, Khary Frazier, Barbara Payton, Darrell Smith and Sponge’s Vinnie Dombroski.
“If you think of the word, ‘Afterthought,’ it means, ‘Oh, you’re an afterthought or something like that,’ and I went with that down-and-out theme of ‘I’ll show you a little bit.’ It’s about someone who’s forgotten, whereas Word Attack is about confusion,” said Striho, who’s known for her energetic live stage performances.
In 2019, Striho finished her latest track, “I Will Rise,” as a personal victory for defeating breast cancer and national anthem for advancing women’s rights during the current turbulent administration.
She’s also been writing and recording new music with husband Scott Dailey and preparing for a WDIV-TV Christmas show performance and the New Year’s Eve Atomic Fez Fundraiser for Detroit.
Outside of songwriting and performing, another volume of Detroit (Maiden Energy) is in the works for Striho fans. “For the next book, I think I would have more prose, and it would be more divided up. When I had a little bit in the current book, I got a lot of feedback from people who said they wanted to read more of my writing,” she said.