“Black Americana? Oh, that’s interesting. I like that idea. A lot! I think Ben may have started something. I’m gonna put that out there too.”
Not two months after September cover star Ben Harper told us he’s finally thought of a name for the music he makes, along comes the redoubtable Ruthie Foster to endorse the brand. For the multi-award-winning Texan singer-songwriter is also the kind of soul, blues, gospel, sometimes folk ‘n’ jazz musical chameleon who’s spent her entire career refusing to be pigeonholed in a single genre. Unless it’s one that’s truly inclusive of all her influences.
“I’m kinda used to it now,” she expounds. “There’s truly been no place for me. I’ve seen my albums at the end of the aisle in record stores, right next to Radney Foster! I’ve actually had a great conversation with Radney about that: we both laughed at the notion. Sometimes I’m within the blues section. Other times, they want to call me ‘Americana’…
Artists like codes. It can be a subtle reference or a hint that may be meaningful to some, meaningless to others. Often obscure, but always personal, these nuggets of information come in any shape or form, from a sound or possibly an image, to a word – sometimes a freshly minted one at that. The new album by STR4TA is called STR4TASFEAR for a very good reason.
That snappy alpha numeric riff is a tribute to Atmosfear, instrumental groove heroes that made the earth move with Dancing In Outer Space.
“Andy Sojka [the band’s guitarist, who also set up the Elite record label] was always an inspiration to me,” says STR4TA’s Gilles Peterson of Atmosfear, who were on the beat when Margaret Thatcher was well off it. “A nod to the great man, who died a few years ago.”
Protoje’s newest album, Third Time’s The Charm, was released in late September, around the same time as the single, Late At Night, shared with Lila Ike, and the start of his coast-to-coast US tour. He was heading for Indianapolis when we spoke, and feeling pleased with the reaction to both his live show and the new album, which he feels is a good addition to all of the other work that he’s done.
“There’s no music I do that really sits alone. They’re all part of building a catalogue of music that I want to be able to look back on as a whole, as opposed to every album that I do being different. It’s still an extension of my sound and even if the sound I had from before moves forward, it doesn’t mean that what I was doing two albums ago is somehow negated. It’s just a matter of putting everything together so that it forms one complete painting.”
For the most part, the tracks on Third Time’s The Charm were recorded at Protoje’s own studio, The Habitat, which is located way up in the mountains near Irish Town…
It’s been more than two decades now since Hilary Mwelwa, otherwise Hil St. Soul, released her landmark debut album on Dome Records: Soul Organic actually notched its 20th anniversary in 2020 during the pandemic, a milestone celebrated with the issue of a Special Edition of the collection that included the signature tracks Strictly A Vibe Thing and an American hit cover of Until You Come Back To Me. The latter famously opened up US ears to the Zambia-born North-Londoner back in the late nineties, when Hils’ version of the Stevie Wonder co-written tune [originally a 1974 hit for Aretha Franklin] was picked up by the country’s smooth-jazz stations and turned into an unexpected smash.
That success, coupled to a warm reaction to Soul Organic, led to a first ever professional trans-Atlantic trip for Hils and her then musical buddy in Hil St. Soul, Victor Redwood-Sawyerr, when they were asked to perform at a radio convention in Miami, Florida. It provided Hils with one of the most embarrassing moments of her then fledgling career…