“Thirty Women Burning Up The Blues”
Alternate Root, March 30, 2013
NBC’s Today Show claimed that Lydia Warren is “changing the face of the blues”. Her music takes her around the world performing, and she receives a lot of home town love with Boston Music Award nominations. The Lydia Warren Band places the raw emotion of blues in a modern context, creating a new sound dubbed “alt- blues.” Lydia draws on her influences of West Side Chicago blues and classic rock to create songs and learns by watching as she opens for Blues artists such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Johnny and Edgar Winter, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Ruthie Foster, Ronnie Earl, Shemekia Copeland, Keb Mo and John Nemeth. Lydia Warren’s most recent release was the E.P., Turn It Up. – The Alternate Root
“From Blues Singer to Ada Comstock Scholar: Smith Becomes Latest Tour Stop for Boston Musician”|
Grecourt Gate New, By Eric Weld, December 10, 2012
Like many Ada Comstock Scholars, Lydia Warren’s path to Smith has been roundabout, filled with detours, endeavors and experiences gained through hard work and wits.
In Warren’s case, her life before Smith was that of a blues musician—performing as a singer and guitarist in smoky clubs, building an audience while cultivating her style and musical chops, spending months at a time on the road.
It was an education of a different kind than Smith offers, though no less rich in knowledge and insight.
As the Ada Comstock Program celebrates the 136th anniversary of Ada Comstock’s birth, on December 11, 1876, the program also celebrates 37 years, since its founding, of providing a place for women like Lydia Warren AC‘14J, who have lived some life, to rediscover and resume their intellectual exploration.
“The Ada program is the perfect fit for me,” says Warren. “The fact that programs like this exist, for people who don’t follow the conventional path, is so refreshing.”
“Ada Comstock graduated from high school at age 15, became a college president when most women didn’t have the opportunity to attend college and married for the first time at age 67,” notes Sid Dalby, associate director of admission. “Ada did things in her own time, in her own way, just like our current Ada Comstock Scholars.”
For Warren, there was little doubt about what she wanted to do after high school. From the time she recorded and self-produced her first album, as a high school senior in Franklin, Mass., her life has revolved around music, and she has built a successful career as a performer, traveling to festivals, selling her albums and frequenting clubs in the greater Boston area.
It was only a few years ago, after about a decade of that life, that Warren considered going back to school. The national economy had taken a hard hit, and while that might be fodder for more poignant blues, it wasn’t good for business. Many clubs closed, strapped municipalities cut back their arts budgets, gigs were drying up.
Warren enrolled in courses, first at MassBay Community College in Framingham, Mass., then at Middlesex Community College, in Bedford, Mass., from which she graduated in 2010 with an associate’s degree in music.
Even after her acceptance to Smith, the blues weren’t quite ready to relinquish Warren to full-time academia. She deferred her admission for a semester to travel to Amsterdam for a months-long performance tour. It was another notch on her world-traveling resume, having performed in Lebanon, Italy, Germany, Canada, and all across the United States.
Not that Warren has given up on the blues or music now that she’s an Ada Comstock Scholar. She has continued to perform during her Smith career, and plans to camp out in the recording studio for three days during the upcoming holiday break to record her sixth album.
For that matter, blues plays a central role in her academic study as well. Formally a music major, Warren is also completing a certification in ethnomusicology, with an emphasis on blues.
“Blues hasn’t been widely analyzed as a musical discipline from the inside,” she explains. “As someone who’s come up in the blues world, I hope I can study blues from an informed perspective.”
Since about age 15, it’s always been about the blues for Warren, a rock bass player at the time. After viewing a video of legendary bluesman Albert King, she knew what she wanted. She went to her father, a fellow guitarist, and “I said, ‘I want to trade in my bass equipment and get a guitar.’”
Her father accommodated her passion, accompanying her to clubs and introducing her to other musicians. Soon enough, Warren struck out on her own as a performer—a standout as a young female teen among seasoned blues musicians.
It’s a status Warren has been comfortable with ever since, fronting stages worldwide and now embarking on uncharted academic territory.
Standing out and blazing new paths are notions Ada Comstock—an 1897 Smith graduate who became the first female president of Radcliffe—would be comfortable with, whether it’s breaking new ground for women in academia or playing the blues.
“Young Voices, Old Souls”
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, By Karen Nugent, 2007
Young people singing the blues?
The very mention is usually greeted with cynicism and scorn. The party line says you have to live the blues to play them, and that means living a long time — at least hit 30.
Last month, legendary bluesman Pinetop Perkins passed away at age 97. And while he outlasted all of his contemporaries, blues fans are accustomed to regularly losing their aging, but venerated, heroes.
Tomorrow night’s show at the Bull Run Restaurant holds the tantalizing promise of a shot of new blood into the genre, without changing it, according to organizer Steve Gaetz.
The “Brothers and Sisters Blues Tour” comprises guitarist-singer Lydia Warren, one of the “elders” at the ripe old age of 27 (Mr. Gaetz joked that the others call her the “mom” of the tour); Fitchburg native Jack Babineau, 20; Ryan Brooks Kelly, 19, of Hudson, N.H.; and Danielle Miraglia, 27, of Cambridge.
The show will consist of five sets, with each performer backed by their own band, and a final set combining the musicians.
“They all have their own unique, individual sounds, but they are not re-inventing the blues. They are mixing it with their own sound,” Mr. Gaetz said.
A longtime music promoter from Leominster, he met the four musicians in different places and found them all to be talented in various ways. All are songwriters, and all sing and play guitar.
“I saw that before they even met each other, they had blues in their hearts and souls, so I said, ‘let’s try this.’ And they just meshed so well, and are so supportive of one another, that I decided to call them brothers and sisters of the blues,” Mr. Gaetz said.
Ms. Warren, a Franklin native, is an established blues guitarist, singer and songwriter who recently competed in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. She has toured all over the world, and knew Mr. Gaetz from her solo performances at the Bull Run.
“He really wanted to put something together where local acts came together,” she said in an email. “Since we’re all local, we’d all heard of each other, or seen each other a time or two, but hadn’t played together. We all got together a few weeks ago to play and hang. It was a total blast! We are all really, really looking forward to these shows.”
Mr. Babineau, who hopes to become a police officer, said he picked up a guitar at age 15, and was initially interested in classic rock.
“But then I realized that all music gravitates toward blues. It’s timeless and everyone can recognize that,” he said, naming Freddie King, Big Maybelle, Stevie Ray Vaughn and B. B. King as influences.
Mr. Babineau’s band, Don’t Blame Jack, features his older brother, Joe Babineau, 22, on bass.
“He is actually the more talented musician,” the younger Mr. Babineau said.
Ms. Miraglia, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, cut her chops on the folk-blues circuit, giving it sort of an edge. This will be her first tour with an electric blues band, called My God Man. Mr. Gaetz ran into her at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge.
“Danielle was a solid folk singer for years. She is an entertainer with a lot of cool songs, and her act just lends itself to trying out electric blues,” Mr. Gaetz said.
Mr. Kelly starting playing guitar when he was just 6 years old, and was performing with local bands by 14. He has opened for blues great Sugar Blue, along with Joan Jett, Chicago and Lynyrd Sknyrd. He formerly fronted the band Smokehouse Lightning. His new, three-piece band is simply called RBK.
“He is so talented that his father actually encouraged him to pursue a music career rather than college,” Mr. Gaetz said.
“Queen of the Barefoot Blues”
Lowell Sun, By Rachel R. Briere, September 20, 2007
WHO: The Lydia Warren Band
AKA: Lydia Warren, guitar and vocals; Matt Malikowski, bass; and Warren Grant, drums.
VISIT: http://www.LydiaWarren.com and http://www.myspace.com/thelydiawarrenband
DOWNLOAD: “Any Different”
BACKSTORY: A suburban girl from Franklin, who took opera voice lessons at eight-years-old and played bass in a punk band is far from your typical blues babe. But at 24, Lydia Warren has graced the stage with The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Buckwheat Zydeco, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and sordid blues greats that will knock your socks off — or shoes in Warren’s case.
How did your musical career begin?
When I was 13, I played bass in a punk rock band covering Nine Inch Nails songs and some of that stuff. Then my dad put on this video with Albert King, I said ‘This is what I want to do.’
Do you play the bass anymore?
Sometimes I will pick up my bass players and fool around for awhile, but I don’t write on that.
So your father is the one who turned you on to the blues?
Both of my parents were really into music. My dad plays guitar a little, not professionally, but there was always a guitar in the living room. He was more into the classic rock stuff growing up — Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, never any farther back than the 1960s. When he put on the video of this older blues guy, I asked my dad to take me to see him. He laughed and said he was long gone, but he took me to see Monster Mike Welch instead. It was awesome to see young people are into this too. I asked Mike all kinds of questions. Then I started to look stuff up online tracing back the blues as far as I could. By far my favorite is 1950s Chicago blues.
Who are some of your favorite musicians?
My favorite, favorite, favorites are Otis Rush, Magic Sam and B.B. King.
You have been called the B.B. Queen by Boston Magazine. Is that a title that is hard to live up to or did you take it as a compliment?
I took it as flattering. When I read that I was like, oh my gosh –what a cool little quote.
You got to meet B.B. King, what was that like?
We actually got the chance to open up for him. He called me up on the stage to thank me for being the opening act.
Was that the most amazing moment so far of your career?
Yes and this summer I was in Chicago at a club that Buddy Guy owns. They kept telling us to stick around and maybe he will show up. We stayed another day and he did. He invited me to play a song with him.
What song did you guys play?
Um, I don’t even know (laughs). I do this thing when I play with my band where I take my heels off during the set, he handed me his guitar and started improvising singing about how this is a girl who takes off her shoes. It was so much fun. My friends were all there and video taped it. It’s on You Tube.
You have appeared with some blues legends. Is there anyone else that you would love to perform with?
There are so many bands out there I would love to play with. Obviously the classic people, like Led Zeppelin I heard was reuniting — that would be the thrill of my lifetime. Or Cream — that would be insane to open for them or even see them.
If you could resurrect one musician to play with, who would that be?
Magic Sam — definitely.
You toured in Lebanon? What was that like? Did they receive the blues well?
They didn’t have a firm grasp on where the blues came from. I would play something and they would say ‘Oh that sounded like Eric Clapton,’ instead of B.B. King. I would play a song then explain where it originated to the audience. It was really a amazing trip the audiences were really cool.
So how did this kicking off your shoes ritual during your show come to be?
I did a show years ago down at the Cape and my shoes broke before I went on. I didn’t want to go on barefoot, so I went up the street to a store that was a joke-novelty gift shop. The only heels they had were these cheap, black, very high patent leather platforms. Halfway through the show they just were not working, so I took them off and everyone started going nuts. I continued to do it every show after that.
I know you are a serious blues musician, but do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
Oh yeah. It is so bad, but I love Britney Spears. She can do no wrong. A couple of weeks ago I scoured the Internet for her new stuff and found five songs that were leaked. They’re OK, I am not sure this is her comeback.
Will we hear a Britney Spears cover by The Lydia Warren Band ever?
I would love to, but my bandmates would probably throw me off a bridge.
Catch Lydia Warren’s acoustic appearance at Brew’d Awakening Coffeehaus, 61 Market St., Lowell, Saturday. 8 p.m. Free.
“Lydia Warren at the Southwick Inn”
The Springfield Republican, By Donnie Moorhouse, August 12, 2010
Lydia Warren has a great description for her local fan base.
“They are small but mighty,” said the Boston-based blues artist. “I have family in the Western Mass area, so I have them update me on every venue around.”
Those venues include the Southwick Inn, where Warren will make her first-ever appearance on Saturday night.
“I have not yet played the Inn, but I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “With the full band I’ve played Theodores’ for years. Solo, I’ve done several venues in the area; Burrito Rojo in Turners Falls, and Black Moon in Belchertown.”
Warren has also been selling out her CDs at Turn It Up in Northampton due to her “small, but mighty” group.
Warren is a product of the Boston blues scene, one that has fallen on hard times along with the economy.
“The local blues scene right now is a little bit down and out, but not because of a lack of talent or support,” she said. “The economic downturn hit venues hard, so there are definitely declining numbers of venues that are willing or able to have bands. There are also fewer people willing to pay cover charges.”
Warren said that the players have responded by circling the wagons.
“Everyone is getting creative and coming together,” she said. “We’re all doing lots of co-bills, like the Boston All-Star Blues Revue with Toni Lynn Washington, Mike Welch and Mr. Nick. I’m doing lots of opening act sets at places like Bull Run and Blue Ocean Music Hall.”
Lydia Warren is also presenting her solo show more often, just as she’ll do at the Southwick Inn.
“During solo shows I switch between playing acoustic and electric guitar,” she said. “I do many of the same songs, but solo I can throw in a few covers that wouldn’t fly at a full band show.”
If you’re looking for an idea of what the Lydia Warren music experience is all about, log on to lydiawarren.com and watch the video on her home page.
“I really take my solo cues from the Magic Sam album ‘Give Me Some Time’,” she said. “It’s a recording of Sam at home, unaccompanied, and it’s really where I am coming from when I’m playing solo.”
Asked if she preferred playing solo or with the full band, Warren was hard-pressed for a definitive answer.
“Playing is playing, I don’t have a preference,” she said. “I’m just happy to be able to do what I love.”
“New face of the blues”
Lansing State Journal, By Anne Erickson, August 24, 2006
Hot young Boston singer is turning ears.
Lydia Warren might not be what you’d expect from today’s blues artists. First off, she’s young (23, to be exact). She’s upbeat, she’s fresh – and she’s undoubtedly quick on the six-string.
But Warren isn’t up nights pondering her place in the blues world.
“I think it’s all come far enough that anyone can play any kind of music,” she told the Newburyport Current on http://www.modernguitars.com. “Doesn’t matter what age or gender.”
Warren comes to LeRoy’s popular Detroit Blues Series on Sunday. But don’t be mistaken: She’s not from the Motor City. Warren and her band hail from Boston. A small technicality, thought show promoter Harry Oman when he saw the chance to book Warren during the group’s Midwest jaunt.
“She’s playing at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago,” said Oman, “probably the most prestigious blues club in the world. She is opening a younger generation’s eyes to the power of roots music and incorporating a lot of modern influences as well.”
While Warren herself is youthful, her resume is that of a seasoned pro. She’s opened for B.B. King, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Kenny Wayne Shepherd; she’s a Boston Music Award nominee. NBC’s “Today” show even did a feature on her, making the bold statement, “Lydia is changing the face of the blues with her music.”
Her band – rounded out by bassist Matt Malikowski and drummer Warren Grant – also has a catalog of CDs. There’s 2001’s self-titled debut, which first took Warren into the blues spotlight. There’s 2003’s “Pass My Way,” recorded on Cape Cod, showing off a more diverse R&B, jammy sound. The group’s latest studio album, last year’s “Through With Love,” blends Warren’s earnest vocals with blazing guitars and a pop sensibility.
Show details: Detroit Blues Series with The Lydia Warren Band, doors open at 5 p.m. Sunday, music begins at 8:30 p.m., LeRoy’s Classic Bar & Grill, 1526 S. Cedar St., 482-0184; $5.
“Lydia Warren: Britney of the blues?”
Appleton Post-Crescent, By Amelia Cook, August 20, 2006
Lydia Warren says she can’t wait for Britney Spears to make a comeback. At barely 23 years old, this blossoming blues diva’s influences wind from sugary superstars like Spears to soul-heavy musicians like Magic Sam, resulting in a sound that wavers between pop and the blues. On Thursday, Cranky Pat’s in Neenah offers a chance to experience the exuberance that is The Lydia Warren Band.
Warren first picked up a guitar at the age of 16 and went on to form a band with bassist Matt Malikowski and drummer Warren Grant while still in high school. They released their eponymous debut in 2001 to surprising fanfare. Since then, they’ve been playing big blues festivals, opening for big-name artists like B.B. King and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Despite performing at so many blues fests, Warren admits to a love of eclecticism.
“As a band we really strive to blur the lines between genres. We like when people say ‘I don’t really like blues, but I like you guys!’ or ‘I’m not sure how to describe your sound.’ Our goal is to take the band as far as it can go and have fun doing it.”
She considers her style “funky, soulful and fun” and for fans of electric blues, Warren’s a real treat — the voice of Kelly Clarkson with a touch of Stevie Ray’s spirit. The Lydia Warren Band’s enthusiasm is best experienced in person; this is the idea behind its latest album, “Live,” a collection of, you guessed it, live tunes recorded over last summer.
As this is the East Coaster’s inaugural tour, Warren’s never had a chance to play in the Fox Cities, but expects lots of friendly faces.
“I’ve heard that people in the Midwest are much nicer than Bostonians, so I’m imagining lots of nice, polite people everywhere.”
And she promises a good time for all: “Everyone should know that they will have a great time if they come to our show in Neenah.”
So, nice folks, head over to Cranky’s tonight and support this young lady who just might end up being the Britney of the blues.
“Lydia Warren brings band to Theodores'”
The Springfield Republican, Donnie Moorhouse, January 19, 2006
After releasing three studio projects with her band, Lydia Warren finally acquiesced to fan pressure and has released a live CD.
“Our regulars, the people that show up at all the shows, kept asking for a live release,” said Warren, who brings the Lydia Warren Band into Theodores’ tomorrow night. “They would come up and say they liked the studio albums, but it never really captured us as a live band.”
Warren thought the group had enough material to work up a live disc, and recorded three separate shows to start the process.
“I had the job of picking through it all,” she said. “It was extremely tortuous.”
One of the recorded shows was the band’s September stop at Theodores’. Warren, who has relatives in the area, said a couple songs from that particular night ended up on the final release. “I had a lot of family at that show,” she said. “Those cuts had the best applause.”
Warren admitted to being a bit nervous at the idea of recording her live performance, so she set up the recording equipment at one gig just to see how things would go.
“We recorded a few shows beforehand and I was just too nervous,” she said. “It was too much for me to think about. I was gauging the attendance, the audience reaction, trying to leave enough space between songs, making sure I didn’t bang into the microphone stand. I stopped the recordings after three songs. But I finally got it down and was ready. The band was ready all along, they were just waiting for me.”
The process was apparently worth the wait. Warren is happy with the results.
“I think it’s as close as we could get to the live show,” she said. “Unless we could do something with a 3-D, surround sound DVD.”
Fans can get the disc through the Web site at lydiawarren.com. The Lydia Warren Band will take the stage at 10 p.m. tomorrow night at Theodores’. For more information, call the club at (413) 736-6000.
“My Dancing Shoes Gave Them The Blues”
Insite Boston Magazine, By Pat Keating, April 15, 2005
I don’t dance. I can’t dance well, but that isn’t why I don’t do it. I’m not exactly Ron Jeremy in the sack, but I keep giving that a whirl. I don’t dance because, with the exception of the horizontal mambo, it just isn’t fun for me.
So you can imagine why my friends last summer were shocked when I jumped up in front of the stage at Union Blues in Worcester. The music I was shaking what my momma gave me to were the sounds of The Lydia Warren Band. This young singer-songwriter slings Chicago blues as well as anyone in the country and the shimmer of her silver Stratocaster and fretboard fireworks were matched by the hypnotic groove of bassist Matt Malikowski and drummer Warren Grant.
Worcester fans were recently treated to a return engagement at the rail side venue to support her latest release, Through With Love. This album is the closest yet to capture the raw energy and expert musicianship of this talented artist. However, if I get the urge to dance again, friends have encouraged me to listen to the CD at home alone – along with a helmet.
“Meet Lydia Warren: Musician”
Worcester Telegram & Gazette, By Scott McLennan, February 20, 2005
Like many of the blues players that frequent Worcester, guitar slinger and soulful singer Lydia Warren has fond memories of the once-supreme Gilrein’s; enjoyed the short happy lifespan of the Zara club, and has notched a couple shows in the year-old Union Blues.
Unlike most of her blues peers, Warren ran the Worcester circuit before she was old enough to have a cocktail in any of those places.
With her new album, “Through With Love,” it is time to accept the 21-year-old Warren on the strengths of her musical merits alone. While Warren first nabbed notice for being a young white girl from Franklin speaking a language most identify with old black men from Chicago, she has fulfilled the promise of her earliest career steps taken back in 2001 when she released her debut album while still in high school.
“Through With Love” may seem an odd title for a project from such a young artist, but, in reality, it gets at Warren’s aura of having a wisdom beyond her years.
“I was playing at a jam in Newburyport run by Parker Wheeler and I gave him a copy of the CD. He looked at it and just said, ‘Are you sure you’re through?’ Maybe I’m just taking a break,” Warren recalled during a recent interview.
Through with love or not, Warren moved closer to her goal of fusing blues intensity and pop accessibility with her new album, the third overall from her. “The hardest part was finding the right balance. There are fans who are into the songwriting and fans who are into the guitar playing,” she said.
Warren and her group including bass player Matt Malikowski and drummer Warren Grant spent six months rehearsing the songs found on “Through With Love,” and they played all the songs in concert before recording them, gauging the effectiveness of solos, tempos and delivery.
“If you play a 10-minute solo in a show, you can tell right away if they love it or if they don’t,” she said.
The prep work paid off, as “Through With love” boasts a great flow, one that allows Warren to move from funky twists to searing ballads to rocking blowouts as the album unfolds. Warren begins the album evoking Bonnie Raitt with the original tune “Any Different” and ends it quoting J.B. Lenoir’s “The Whale Has Swallowed Me.”
The Lydia Warren Band’s slate of album-release gigs includes a stop Friday at Union Blues inside Union Station, Washington Square, Worcester. Warren’s stature grows with “Through With Love” as it shifts the emphasis wholly onto her tunes. The caveats “for her age” and “for a woman” seem useless.
“This is the first time the interviews have been more about my songs than my age or the fact that I’m a woman,” she noted. “It’s nice to be one of the other musicians and not have to hear, ‘Oh, she’s good for her age.’”
Warren and her band have earned their reputation through extensive live work around the region which included a plum gig opening for B.B. King last year and several festival dates. The Lydia Warren Band has also performed in Canada, and, in 2002, did a spate of shows in Lebanon thanks to a connection made with fellow guitarist Murali Coryell who knew a blues-loving concert promoter in the Middle East. Warren conceded that the initial novelty of her presence on the blues scene was fun while it lasted. But with “Through With Love,” she has successfully transformed that novelty into true value.
Warren’s guitar style absorbs many historic influences, and she uses that large arsenal of tones and styles to breathe freshness into tales about falling in and out of love.
Local radio outlets for the blues have latched onto the catchy pop of “Any Different” and funky “You Don’t Know.” Any given song from the album is good for multiple listens as Warren is apt to slip scorching solos anywhere into a song. The wry cat-and-mouse tale of “He Wants Me,” for instance, is perfectly playful before Warren takes the tune to a whole higher level at the end with a stuttering and teasing sustained guitar at the end. The tight trio setting nicely serves Warren’s compositions. Nine of the 10 tracks on “Through With Love” are originals, all of them testaments to her muscled-up songwriting skills. “The songwriting is still totally blues, but rock and pop come from the same place, too,” she said. “The songs are pretty much my life and exaggerations upon it. My friends who hear the songs all ask, “Is that really about so-and-so?’ And I thought I had covered up the story.”
Then again, if the sounds weren’t so honest, Warren wouldn’t be so good.
“She’s Got It Bad, And That Ain’t Bad”
Boston Globe, By Nathan Cobb, January 3, 2001
(article was picked up by the Associated Press and ran in many national newspapers)
To shoehorn yourself into Lydia Warren’s jam-packed bedroom, located at the far end of her parents’ garden-style condominium, is to immediately realize that its inhabitant has musical inclinations not commonly associated with most 17-year-olds. Let’s see now: posters of such vintage bluesmen as Buddy Guy and Robert Johnson, a near-antique turntable and eight-track tape player, a quartet of Fender electric guitars, a pair of amplifiers, and a stash of music that includes recordings by such long-gone blues performers as Magic Sam, Big Maybelle, and Guitar Slim.
Well, what were you expecting? Ricky Martin maybe? Not likely. Not from a teenage prodigy who is causing such a buzz in the small and often gritty local clubs, where blues musicians often hang and jam. Not from someone who’s weekend gigs and even weeknight rehearsals take her into a world thoroughly removed from her day job as a senior at Franklin High School. “Even my teachers don’t know who Magic Sam is,” Warren says, smiling. (Memo to FHS staff: Chicago-blues singer and guitarist, 1937-1969.)
Probably not since Mike Welch, a.k.a. Monster Mike Welch, flashed onto the local blues scene as a 13-year-old Lexington middle schooler eight years ago has a young talent with so much potential lit up the swampy jams of local blues clubs. Although Warren’s professional experience is limited, the singer/guitarist/songwriter is clearly opening ears.
Says Charlie Able, co-owner of Harper’s Ferry in Allston, where Warren’s trio placed second in the annual Battle of the Blues Bands last July and opened for the popular Entrain on New Year’s Eve: “I haven’t ever seen anybody her age who has this kind of stage presence, who plays with such confidence, and who can write songs this well.”
Among those startled by Warren’s precociousness is her own mother. “When I used to tell her to do her homework or empty the trash, she’s say ‘I’m busy writing songs,'” Patricia Warren says. “Then, when I went to see her play for the first time, I said to myself, ‘Oh my God, she really was writing songs.”
Raised in the same suburban condo where she still lives, Warren’s musical tastes have followed a predictable bubblegum-to-punk trail. She also took clarinet lessons for a couple of years, studied operatic voice for a short while, took up the bass, and when she was 14 bought a Fender Stratocaster, the 1950’s style electric guitar that’s still the most popular in the world. Also when she was 14, her father, Anthony, showed her a videotape that included southpaw bluesman Albert King. She was hooked. “I said to my father, ‘We’ve got to go see him!,'” she says of King. “Except, of course, he was dead. So we went to see Monster Mike Welch instead. And when we did I said, ‘Hey, young people can play this stuff, too.'”
Soon she and her father were on the road in the family’s 1992 Ford Taurus. She jammed at places like the Chickenbone Saloon in Framingham and John Stone’s Inn in Ashland. At first, she simply played her Strat, but later she sang. Performing was easy, however, compared to getting up the courage to ask other musicians for advice. “There were some pretty scary characters out there,” she says.
Welch, now a 21-year-old freshman at Berklee School of Music with several tours and three CDs under his belt, was one of the helpful ones. “She started asking me questions about guitars and about how I started playing,” the guitarist recalls. “It was really unusual for a 14-year-old to ask that kind of stuff. And she knew all these obscure tunes by people like Magic Sam. And I thought, ‘This is something I recognize. I’ve been this kid.'”
While Warren and her father prowled local clubs in search of stages on which Lydia could perform, her mother stayed at home. “Mostly, I bit my fingernails,” says Pat Warren, who earns a living as a “master” of Reiki, a technique for relaxation and stress reduction based on touch. Sometimes father and daughter arrived home so late that Lydia, who describes herself as a B student, was late for school the next morning.
The build has been slow. Warren went into the recording studio for the first time only last week, and performances with her three-piece band, formed in April  and re-formed since, are still scarce. Still, she’s serious enough about all this to consider putting off college. “It depends how the band’s going next year,” she says. “If I get a chance to go on a national tour, I’m going.”
Her mother agrees. “I don’t think everyone should go to college directly out of high school,” she says. “There are many creative people who could use a couple of years off to grow, I’d like to see Lydia go to college, but not if it squelches her creativity. She’s got a gift.”
“Besides,” chimes in Lydia, “I’m not interested in much else. “The Simpson’s. Nintendo. Computers. Does all that count?”