In her book Black Pearls, Daphne Duval Harrison identified the key themes of the blues genre, which included: death, Hell, injustice, love, men, murder, poverty, sadness, the supernatural, traveling, weariness, depression and disillusionment. On her second album Adia Victoria explores many of these ideas, filling the Silences with sometimes troubling but always intriguing music. For an artist like Victoria, the blues is not just history to be studied or a style to be replicated – it is the very lifeblood that simmers inside of her. Continue reading “Album Review: Adia Victoria – Silences”
Former Carolina Chocolate Drops cellist Leyla McCalla is set to have a busy year in 2019. As well as releasing her third solo album The Capitalist Blues, she will soon also be heard on the ‘Our Native Daughters’ project with former bandmate Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah and Allison Russell. Until then we can treat ourselves to this excellent solo album – a rich exploration of McCalla’s musical heritage, with a socially conscious heart. Continue reading “Album Review: Leyla McCalla – The Capitalist Blues”
In her work ‘Blues Legacies and Black Feminism’ Angela Davis states her aim is to discover what we can learn from three pioneers of blues music: Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. She wants to look beyond biography to investigate how their work reflected feminist attitudes and helped shaped black consciousness. The work is academic in tone and purpose, a rightfully serious but also personally passionate account of the significance of these often overlooked artists and their legacies. By placing their music in a wider sociocultural context, Davis gives these women the respect and acclaim they so richly deserve. Continue reading “Music Book Club August: ‘Blues Legacies and Black Feminism’ by Angela Davis”
On ‘America’s Child’ Shemekia Copeland infuses blues, classic rock, country and soul music into songs which wrap traditional sounds around words reflecting the concerns of now. The magical voice of Copeland gives us all hope for a better future – we see that optimism reflected on the album cover where a little girl wears the American flag as a comfort blanket, even if her eyes are downcast you sense the potential of a new day in the warm glow of the sun behind her. Continue reading “Album Review: Shemekia Copeland – America’s Child”
Hailing from Johnson City, Tennessee Amythyst Kiah is a contemporary blues and folk singer, with a real connection to the history of Appalachian music. This was the second of her two shows at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues festival where she has successfully performed for the last three years. The audience in the Piccolo venue were treated to an evening of stories and songs from a troubadour of the highest quality. Continue reading “Live Review – Amythyst Kiah @ Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival”
The summer months in Edinburgh are packed full of exciting cultural events and July’s highlight is always the diverse and interesting Jazz and Blues festival. This was actually the first year I’ve been able to attend and thankfully the programme offered a strong range of interesting women performing across the festival. What’s nice to see with curated festivals like this one is that the level of promotion and marketing ensures good turn outs and enthusiastic crowds.
My first show was ‘Queens of the Blues’, a homage to some of the best women of the genre performed by Edinburgh based Nicole Smit and her band. Despite the early afternoon slot the show was sold out and the packed crowd were eager to hear some blues classics. Continue reading “Live Review: Queens Of the Blues @ Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival”
Before I started reading ‘Shout, Sister, Shout’ I’m ashamed to admit that I knew almost nothing about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, except that she was important, influential but ultimately overlooked by music history. In this biography Gayle F. Wald, a professor at George Washington University, explores her subject in an academic but accessible style. Such respect and consideration of this remarkable woman and her music career has been long overdue. Continue reading “Music Book Club: ‘Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story of Rock-And-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe’ by Gayle F. Wald”
As a homeless teenage runaway Sunny War found a way to survive by busking and playing music anywhere she could. She learned guitar from a very young age and now writes songs with a mixture of folk, punk and blues influences. What is most intriguing about this artist is her distinctive fingerpicking guitar playing style, showcased throughout With the Sun. Continue reading “Album Review: Sunny War – With the Sun”
Pitchfork do a lot of things wrong but their article written a few years back about Lucinda Williams was an illuminating assessment of her career, expertly analysing why she remains one of the most overlooked and underrated artists in music today. In the constant search for new voices, new talent, new narratives we don’t stop to appreciate those who have been consistently producing quality music for years. The writer asked the simple question: why go looking for the new Lucinda Williams when she’s still out there playing live and releasing some of the best work of her career?