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Autumn Sky to celebrate most-wonderful time of the year at the Torch Club

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Photographs by Barry Wisdom


Christmas may be Autumn Sky McClean’s favorite holiday, but it’s the fans of the 22-year-old Orangevale-based singer/songwriter who are getting the early yuletide gift: a 5:30 p.m. show Tuesday at downtown Sacramento’s venerable Torch Club.

Though she admits to being a bit behind in the seasonal revelry department, the perpetually busy McClean – who holds down a day job at a local café while forging a music career that’s already spawned two CDs – said she’s miles ahead of last year, when she failed to even tinsel a tannenbaum.

“But we did have a Christmas branch,” McClean said of the household she shares with husband Matt and feline “snuggle bug” Digby, adding sincerely, “it was a very pretty Christmas branch.”

Sincere is a very big word for this home-schooled child of a worship leader, who took McClean and her five younger siblings from church to church across California, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

Wearing her musical heart on her sleeve serves her well as she delivers her largely autobiographical canon of self-described “indie-folk-pop” with heartfelt emotion – whether it be anger (“Conversations”) or admiration (“Katie You’re a Hero”).

McClean said Tuesday evening’s extra-long 90-minute allows her to perform fan favorites, a few holiday chestnuts, as well as offer some new original songs that could find their way onto her current album-in-progress (“The Hallelujah Chorus”).

Featuring similarly well-known (and unsigned) local artists such as the Kelps, Sojourner Zink (of Trainwreck Revival) and Rachel Wilens, McClean’s third release (following 2007’s “Diminutive, Petite” and 2008’s “All Which Isn’t Singing”) is tentatively set for a late-spring release – hopefully on a well-known label.

“There’s a chance,” she said cryptically. “There could be some big, exciting news soon. But nothing’s signed.”

A record deal would be a wonderful Christmas present for the earnest, hardworking McClean, who has toiled arduously, albeit cheerfully, performing more than 50 gigs a year at sometimes less-than-glamorous venues.

It also would, she said, break the Sammies jinx, referring to the annual Sacramento News & Review local music competition that bears the same stigma for musicians as making the cover of Sports Illustrated has for athletes.

McClean nabbed two Sammies statues this year, taking home the prize for outstanding singer/songwriter as well as garnering the readers’ choice award for favorite artist. “Which is mind-boggling,” she said.

“I think it took a long time for downtown Sacramento to find out about my music,” she surmised. In the five years she’s performed publicly, she has played every likely and unlikely venue in the area, from Luigi’s Fun Garden to Cesar Chavez Park, from Club Retro to Macy’s Downtown Plaza.

It’s been a long road – especially when carting around a guitar, ukelele and tambourine – but McClean said performers have to pay their dues and that she feels lucky to have found something she loves to do.

“I’ve been getting more recognition locally, and that’s amazing,” she said. “I’m really grateful for that. For such a long time, I’ve felt like the kid from the suburbs, and now that the cool kids are telling me I can be cool now, too, I feel so excited.”

“If you put the effort into it, things will happen for you,” she said – sincerely.

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