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Jen Tucker's new album celebrates West County town


OCCIDENTAL TOURIST Jen Tucker thrives in Occidental’s music scene, despite town’s small size.
  • OCCIDENTAL TOURIST Jen Tucker thrives in Occidental’s music scene, despite town’s small size.

'Each person who's made it to Occidental has a story about how they got there," says songwriter Jen Tucker. A fixture there since moving to Sonoma County seven years ago, Tucker gives the town a starring role on her new folk roots album, Occidental Journey, released this month.

Tucker grew up in Cleveland, and moved to Dallas as a teenager. There she got involved in the new wave and punk scene before moving to California to attend the California College of the Arts back when the Oakland school still called itself the College of the Arts and Crafts in the 1980s.

For many years, Tucker lived in San Francisco, worked for a dotcom company and kept music on the backburner, until she moved to Sonoma County in 2009. "This is a great music scene, and it reconnected me with my music," Tucker says. "It was the perfect environment to get back into music some 25 years later."

After relocating, Tucker recorded and released three albums of original music, 2011's Something I Didn't Do, and, in 2012, an LP, Songs from the Bohemian Highway, and EP, Angry Girl.

Over the last three years, Tucker has focused on chronicling the gifted people, the gorgeous redwood settings and her inspiring experiences in Occidental for the new album, recorded this year at Jackalope Records in Santa Rosa.

Tucker points to local personality Ranger Rick, formerly the unofficial mayor of Occidental, who in 2011 first befriended and guided Tucker through the community, introduced her to local musicians, promoted her shows around town and even found her a band at the local farmers market. That band now regularly consists of guitarist Kyle Martin, bassist Paul Lamb and drummer Kevin Cole.

Before Ranger Rick passed away in 2012, Tucker says he also came up with a line, "the songs of the redwood trees," that inspired the new album's collection of folkloric fables set in the west Sonoma County hamlet.

"Finding Occidental is a really long journey; it's such a magical place," says Tucker. "I love the town and the people so much, everyone is genuine, everyone has an appreciation of the arts, and it's an escape from the rest of the world."

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