Last time we checked in with Clemson, South Carolina-based folk singer/songwriter Carla Ulbrich, she was alive, well, and working too hard: touring the country, writing humorous songs about wedgies and such, and presiding over the Difficult Last Name Club. That was all before her first stroke in January of 2002. Yes, a stroke. Why a healthy thirtysomething gal would be so afflicted remains a mystery. Undiagnosed high blood pressure might have been one culprit. That and "weak ancestral chi," as a holistic health practitioner told her.
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Feeling somewhat better, Ulbrich had brushed her illness off without seeking medical help. Along came another stroke a few days later. While riding in a car on the way to a gig, she noticed her left hand had gone numb. Unaware of what was really happening to her body, she still performed. "I've told my musician friends I've raised the bar for when it's okay to cancel a gig," she says dryly. "No more of that runny nose stuff!"
A definitive medical diagnosis and fun experiences like water retention, near kidney failure, intense pain, anemia, and hospitalization followed. With the help of conventional medicine and holistic remedies, plus support from friends -- especially those in South Florida, where she relocated during her ordeal -- Ulbrich has recovered. How well is she? Well enough for what she calls the Tour de Grants, with collaborator Grant Livingston and fellow Dr. Demento devotee Grant Baccioco. This Saturday Ulbrich stops in Homestead to celebrate the release of Professional Smart Aleck, a live album she recorded back in October 2001.
Ulbrich's future plans include a more balanced approach to life, an album of zany tunes penned from her sickbed, and a possible duet disc with Livingston. As the strong-willed musician notes: "There's something about adversity that makes me very creative."