The histories of The Blues Broads tell a story of the evolution of rock & roll, its roots in blues and gospel, weaving through San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury music scene, picking up bits and pieces in Austin, Chicago, Nashville, and many places in-between. Having recently been introduced to the band, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to their CD/DVD release party at Mill Valley’s Throckmorton Theatre on Sept. 20. What I got was easily one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. It was definitely the most fun I’ve had at a live show in… I don’t even know how long! If their stories aren’t enough to convince you to get to know them, check out the video clips below and let your ears make up your mind for you. Then head to a show near you! (Santa Rosa on 10/12 and San Francisco on 10/15 – details below!)
“Annie Sampson was a long-time friend of my husband’s family,” said Angela. “She had the great rock & roll band, Stoneground,” whose members included Cory Lerios, Steve Price,and David Jenkins (who all went on to become Pablo Cruise). In the late ’60s, Annie was in the San Francisco stage production of the musical Hair, “so she brings those influences. She does a Bob Dylan song that gets standing ovations routinely. It just kills–you never can tell what we’re gonna come up with! So there’s Annie’s influence. Everybody’s really strong–I would consider myself the least strong of all of the vocals….” Annie has recorded with the likes of Elvin Bishop, Taj Mahal, Buddy Miles, Maria Muldaur, Eddie Money, and Country Joe McDonald. On stage, she has performed with local legends Bonnie Raitt, Journey, Boz Scaggs, Sammy Hagar and Jerry Garcia, among others.
“Dorothy just has the biggest voice, and the biggest personality,” Angela said. “She does a Tina Turner song, a Spinners song. We end our show with ‘Oh Happy Day,’ which Dorothy Morrison made famous across the world! [That song, recorded by Dorothy with the Edwin Hawkins Singers, became the all-time best-selling gospel recording.] She wrote the verse on what was a traditional song, at least the chorus was, and she never got credit for writing the only verses that there are; we are just thrilled for her to get that credit. She’s just an irresistible presence on stage, and all her songs are outstanding!” Dorothy has been a force in gospel since the late 1960s, and she is very prominent in East Bay church circles as “Sister Pastor” with her brother, Rev. Bill Combs, at their late father’s Green Pastures Church in North Richmond. She, her brother, and nephew Levi Seacar, Jr. (onetime Prince guitarist) recently formed a band that mixes gospel and secular material. She has also worked with Van Morrison, Boz Scaggs, and Rita Coolidge; and she’s heard on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” “We were just fooling around, doing an occasional gig at Ranch Nicasio,” added Angela, “but when Dorothy joined up, we just melded musically and personally, and we got a little more serious.”
As for Angela herself, she has quite a story, too. Born to a musical family in Lubbock, Texas, it wasn’t until she moved to Austin that her illustrious career in music began. She met up with legendary promoter Clifford Antone and became an instrumental part of making Antone’s Nightclub the blues mecca it is today. During her time at Antone’s, Angela started in the back office, booking acts, running the sound board, and doing whatever else was needed. She was mentored and encouraged to get out on stage by Muddy Waters and B.B. King, going on to support emerging artist Stevie Ray Vaughan, and helping him to find his own voice. Eventually she became one of Austin’s most highly regarded female vocalists and has been called the “First Lady of Texas Blues.” Antone’s, with the indispensable help of Angela herself, is undeniably a major reason that Austin, Texas, is considered “The Live Music Capitol of the World.” She has been spreading her roots and sharing her Texas influences with the Bay Area since the early ’90s, when she moved here with her husband Bob Brown (former manager of Huey Lewis & the News). Settling in the tiny village of Nicasio, they now own and operate historic Rancho Nicasio, a little musical oasis right in the center of Marin County.
And then there is Deanna Bogart… “She is an incredible artist in every way,” Angela said, “completely well-rounded–singing, playing, writing, arranging–all of that stuff. She has so much to offer! So whenever she wants to be with us and we can get her here, that’s it, she’s on! She can’t always join us, being based out of Baltimore. Of course, this run of gigs is very important, being our CD/DVD release and everything, so we are thrilled that Deanna can be with us. She’s another one who could just take over the stage at any given moment! It’s wonderful. We just enjoy each other so much; we’re just as entertained as everybody else!” In her own right, Deanna is an award-winning and multi-faceted bandleader, singer, songwriter, producer, pianist, and sax-player. She has developed her own sound, which she has dubbed “blusion”: a combination of boogie-woogie, contemporary blues, country, and jazz. She has played with Jimmy Buffett, The Moody Blues, Paul Reed Smith, B.B. King, the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Buddy Guy, James Brown, and Ray Charles. She is an integral part of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue, along with with Tommy Castro and Magic Dick (founding member of the J. Geils Band).
Angela: It doesn’t mean we do bawdy material. It means that we have experience; we know what we’re doing; we have a sense of humor about it; we’re confident… And because we’re confident, we’re just more playful. We’re not so serious about ourselves, you know… We’re not divas, we’re Broads! We’ve got it, and we know it, and we have fun presenting it, and we’re not too serious about ourselves.I mean, isn’t it better than “chicks”? It just sounds better to say “The Blues Broads”!
Sunday September 30th 2012
Review: A Hot Night With the Blues Broads
For those who love roots music in the form of the blues, R&B and gospel, these four ladies are the real thing and this album is not to be missed.
“The Blues Broads Live,” a wall of sound, is now available through Delta Groove Music.
(Delta Groove Music: DGPCD154)
By Lionel Ross
The ladies also did an acapella performance of the gospel standard “Jesus, I’ll Never Forget.” Each member gives every drawn out-phrase everything they’ve got as they all share the spotlight.
September 19, 2012
1. Livin’ The Blues
2. Bring Me Your Love
3. Two Bit Texas Town
4. River Deep Mountain High
5. Blue Highway
6. It Won’t Be Long
7. Walk Away
8. Mighty Love
9. Jesus, I’ll Never Forget
10. Oh, Happy Day
1. Livin’ The Blues
2. Bring Me Your Love
3. River Deep Mountain High
4. Walk Away
5. Two Bit Texas Town
6. Blue Highway
7. It Won’t Be Long
8. It’s All Over Now Baby Blue
9. Mighty Love
10. Jesus, I’ll Never Forget
11. Oh, Happy Day
Besides the four vocalists, the instrumentalists on the CD/DVD inlcude Steve Ehrmann (bass), Paul Revelli (drums), Gary Vogensen (guitar) and Mike Emerson (keyboards). Deanna Bogart appears as a special guest (and honorary Broad) providing keyboards, vocals, tenor sax. She appears courtesy of Blind Pig Records.
9/21/12: Berkeley, CA Freight & Salvage
9/22/12: Monterey, CA Monterey Jazz Festival
9/23/12: Guerneville, CA Russian River Blues Festival
The Blues Broads make music as memorable as their name.A distaff version of the Traveling Wilburys, the group is made up of Dorothy Morrison, Tracy Nelson, Angela Strehli, and Annie Sampson. A combination CD and DVD, the recordings showcase their talents individually and collectively in a November 2011 concert. Nelson kicks off the show with a lively recording of her own “Livin’ the Blues.” Sampson delivers an impassioned “Bring Me Your Love,” which sets off some indoor fireworks. Strehli revs up some Lone Star State blues with her “Two Bit Texas Town,” a litany of her musical influences, including Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Morrison and the ensemble bring a gospel fervor to Edwin Hawkins’ “Oh Happy Day” and a soulful a cappella performance of “Jesus, I’ll Never Forget.” Versions of “River Deep Mountain High” and Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” show the group’s versatility goes beyond the blues. Augmented by a strong backing band and honorary Broad Deanna Bogart on keyboards, the Blues Broads demonstrate that in music the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. – Tom Wilk
Running a salon
“I’m not a blues singer, and I don’t like the word ‘broad,’ ” Morrison recalls telling Strehli when approached four years ago about joining the group. “In my circle of girls, to be called a broad is a putdown. She explained to me that Bob got that word from New York. In New York that means you’re ‘bad,’ you’re really good, you’re out of sight.”
Sang with family
Lee Hildebrand is a freelance writer. E-mail: email@example.com
The Blues Braods–Great New CD From a Fine Little Supergroup
A new week of CD releases has brought a handful of fine new blues CDs to my attention, and it promises to be a fun week talking about them.
The first is probably my favorite, since it puts together four very talented singers to form a little supergroup that’s calling itself The Blues Broads. Their first and self-titled album, from Delta Groove Music, is actually a double treat — a live CD and DVD recorded at a California concert in 2011.
The singers: Dorothy Morrison, Tracy Nelson, Annie Sampson and Angela Strehli, with honorary Broad Deanna Bogart.They are all great vocalists, each with great credentials and individual strengths. Just a couple little factotums: Sampson was a lead singer in the original San Francisco production of “Hair” in the late 1960s; Morrison was the lead singer on the gospel hit “Oh, Happy Day,” by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.
Put them together with the often under-appreciated and always soulful Tracy Nelson, and criminally under-recorded former Texas blueslady Angela Strehli, and you’ve got enough musical talent to make you quiver just a little before the music actually begins.
And once the CD does kick in, with Nelson leading on the opening “Livin’ the Blues,” the quivering quickly turns to pure pleasure. These women can sing. They take turns, each shining. Sampson is powerfully soulful on “Bring Me Your Love,” Nelson reaches deep for “Walk Away,” Strehli is tough and bluesy on “Two Bit Texas Town,” and Bogart leads off on a romping “It Won’t Be Long.”
The DVD adds one song to the mix — Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” with Sampson giving it a gospel-flavored passion that makes it an even more powerful song.
The Blues Broads Are Four Ladies Who Can Really Sing The Blues
Thursday, September 13, 2012
By: Phillip SayblackGood morning, everyone. I’ve got one more brand new review to share with you today. In the last of the day’s new reviews, I’ve got some more brand new music courtesy of Delta Groove Productions and the Reel Reviews Music Department. If you’re a blues fan or know any blues fans, you’ll want to check it out and have those individuals check this out. This morning, I’ve got the brand new upcoming live CD/DVD from The Blues Broads. There’s no title. It’s just, The Blues Broads, as you can see from the cover art included here. The cover art and the show are simple. But the show rocks, plain and simple. These are four ladies who really can sing the blues (get it?). that’s a Billy Holiday reference for those who might not have known. So enough of my rambling. Without further ado, I offer for your consideration, The Blues Broads Live!
Bonnie Raitt, Etta James, Koko Taylor. All three of these women are among the most famous names in the world of the blues. But how many audiences out there have ever heard of a female fronted four-piece known as The Blues Broads? This four-piece is made up of some of music’s greatest female names. The group is comprised of Mother Earth singer Tracy Nelson, Stoneground founding member Annie Sampson, Dorothy Morrison (of the Edward Hawkins Singers), and Angela Strehli. Strehli has sung with some of the blues most famed names such as: Muddy Waters, Albert King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The combination of these four women has led to what is one heck of a group. And now thanks to the group’s new live CD/DVD release, odds are that the name of The Blues Broads may become as well known as its members other projects, if not more so.
The Blues Broads’ live CD/DVD release was recorded at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, California. This double disc set shows just how talented these women are. The CD and DVD set lists aren’t exactly the same. But that’s beside the point. Every song in this performance makes for a great time for any blues lover and music lover. There’s the up-tempo rocking cover of, ‘River Deep’, the easy going country/blues style of ‘Blue Highway’, and what has to be the absolute standout song from this performance in ‘Walk Away.’ This Stevie Ray Vaughan style song is classic twelve bar blues in every sense. And while it was performed in a nice club (as is seen in the DVD portion of the performance), this is one of those songs that immediately conjures images of a smoky, dimly lit bar.
The Broads are extremely talented singers. There is no doubt at all about that. The ladies’ backing musicians—Steve Ehrmann (bass), Paul Revelli (drums), Gary Vogensen (guitar), Mike Emerson (keyboards), and Deanna Bogart (keyboards, vocals, tenor sax)—add their own flair to each song. All together, they add so much to the song that helped make Dorothy Morrison famous in ‘Oh Happy Day.’ Gary Vogensen plays as well as Stevie Ray Vaughan on ‘Walk Away.’ There is so much more that could be said and written of what makes this such an enjoyable live recording. But audiences would do best to experience it for themselves. It hits store shelves next Tuesday, September 18th.
“I’ve been listening to all of these girls for a long time and always loved them for their soulful honesty. Angela Strehli especially just knocks me out. The power of the combination is awesome, more than the sum of its parts.” –– Elvin Bishop
“I don’t think I’ve ever been witness to such an amazing performance by four female vocalists.
It left me speechless.” — Ronnie Narmour Island Moon/Corpus Christi Magazine, June 14, 2012
The Blues Broads
Live CD & DVD
The Blues Broads are non-stop excitement. There, I said it. I could very easily end my review right here, but I’m not going to. What we have here, is a consortium of women, four seasoned blue artists, each one a headliner in her own right, taking the stage by storm together. They perform songs as a group as well as spotlight each individual. And as much as I love the CD, I have already watched the DVD half a dozen times. They are giving it 110 percent, and having so much fun, it just sucks you in and there is no escape – not that you’ll want to. I love watching them play off of one another, laugh and cheer each other on. Just a stone cold blast.
Individually the Broads are Tracy Nelson, the founder of the group Mother Earth, whose signature composition “Down So Low”, has been recorded by the late great Etta James, Linda Rondstadt, and Cyndi Lauper, among others.
Angela Strehli has devoted her life and career to the heroes of the “Blues” is the organizer of The Blues Broads. Angela has worked with everyone from Muddy Waters to Albert King to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Dorothy Morrison is the singer and co-author of the classic “Oh Happy Day”, recorded with The Edwin Hawkins Singers. It has sold over 7 million copies internationally.
Annie Sampson was a former longtime cast member of “Hair” and the groundbreaking group Stoneground.
The show kicks off in high gear with “Livin’ the Blues,” giving each singer a chance to solo, and it doesn’t let up. “Bring Me Your Love” gets down and funky with Annie Sampson belting out the vocal. Dorothy Morrison leads the group in a power packed cover of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High,” and Tracy Nelson steps into the spotlight to perform her song “Walk Away.”
Angela Strehli goes back to her Texas roots to sing her own song “Two Bit Texas Town,” and all four of the Broads tell it like it is on “Blue Highway.” While the playlist is the same on the CD and the DVD other than the order of the songs, there is one priceless gem on the DVD not found on the CD, and its a tune that just wore me out – Annie Sampson’s absolutely passionate rendition of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue.” Deanna Bogart underscores the song with an outstanding sax solo.
Speaking of Deanna, the “honorary” Blues Broad wears out the piano, and kicks out some lead vocals on “It Won’t Be Long.” Good stuff.
The triple punch at the end of the set begins with Dorothy singing the melodic r&b classic “Mighty Love,” just before taking us all to church with “Jesus I’ll Never Forget.” Then comes the roof-raising hit “Oh Happy Day,” bringing it all back home.
Backed by a mighty powerful band, The Blues Broads can do no wrong in my book. This is the real deal kids, all the way around. Blues you can use from four ladies who are, and have been, livin’ the blues.
-Michael Buffalo Smith
[A semi-regular collection of observations, reviews and more about blues, jazz and other matters informed by the blues tradition.]The Blues Broads is a musical revue that brings together four strong voices together with a tight backing band that began as a collaboration between Tracy Nelson who would join Angela Strehli on West Coast gigs. Later they added various vocalists for an annual BBQ event, “The Blues Broads” before Dorothy Morrison (best known for “Oh Happy Day” as part of the Edwin Hawkins Singers) and Annie Sampson (of a Bay area band Stoneground) became part of what was now a regular group that took the name of the BBQ Event.Delta Groove has just issued a eponymously titled CD/DVD package of The Blues Broads, recorded and filmed live at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley California. They are backed by a band that includes Steve Ehrmann on bass, Paul Revelli on drums, Gary Vogensen on drums and Mike Emerson on keyboards. Deanna Bogart is a special guest on keyboards, saxophone and vocals. The CD has ten songs which are all on the DVD along with Annie Sampson singing Bob Dylan’s It’s All Over Now/ Baby Blue. The sequencing of the songs differs on the DVD from the CD.There are some singing marvelous singing to be heard and seen here. Several songs allow the ladies to share verses such as the Tracy Nelson and Gary Nicholson penned Livin’ The Blues,’ which opens both the performances up. The material mixes blues, classic R&B, and some contemporary blues-rooted roots. Tracy Nelson’s vocal on Oliver Sain’s Walk Away, is simply a great performance full of both with subtlety and power. Annie Sampson certainly has people take notice of her on Bring Me Your Love, but even more so on her fervent re-imagination of Dylan’s It’s All Over Now/ Baby Blue.Strehli’s Two Bit Texas Town, is a tough performance that has remember how she used to listen to Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and more growing up in her two-bit Texas town. Deanna Bogart gets showcased on It Won’t Be Long, which is a centerpiece of her live shows. Its brave of Dorothy Morrison to cover Tina Turner on River Deep, Mountain High, and its an enjoyable performance but doesn’t really grab the listener or viewer as does the closing gospel numbers Jesus, I’ll Never Forget, and Oh Happy Day, with her taking everyone to the Church on this closing performance.This must have been quite an event for those who attended the performance where this was recorded/filmed. The filming is pretty straight-forward with little if any of distracting gimmicks some others might have inserted. While there perhaps only are a few exceptional performances, the level of the performances still is quite high and certainly this will rightfully appeal to a wide range of listeners who simply enjoy good music.I received a review copy from the record label. One can see a clip of The Blues Broads in performance at http://thebluesbroads.com.
Wealth of blues history in the dynamic women of The Blues Broads playing at the Monterey Bay Blues Festival:
Over the course of three days and nights at the Monterey Fairgrounds during the 26th annual Monterey Bay Blues Festival this weekend there will be music galore, not to mention festival sights and sounds that never fail to delight the stalwart regulars and newcomers alike.
Headliners include Mavis Staples, The Barkays, Bobby Rush, Magic Slim & the Teardrops, Millie Jackson, Ruthie Foster, Lester Chambers’ Blues Revue, and Men of Soul: Howard Hewett, Freddie Jackson, Peabo Bryson & Jeffrey Osborne.
While there is a tendency for this venerable local institution to dwell heavily on R&B and soul acts, plus oldies but goodies, there is one group, The Blues Broads, that will seem new to most at first glance.
But once you take a closer look, you’ll realize there is a wealth of blues history in this group that is spread across the lives of five amazing women.
On the Presidents Stage Friday night at 8:20, The Blues Broads will not rely on sexy maneuvers, black leather or chantilly lace corsets to hold your attention.
Tracy Nelson, Annie Sampson, Angela Strehli, Dorothy Morrison and Deanna Bogart will instead wow you with their unique blues and gospel styles, heavenly vocal harmonies, and an honest, no-nonsense approach to their craft.
Each has a story to tell through her music, but the surprise will be how this tour de force ensemble will gel their disparate talents into one big, beautiful illustration of “woman power.”
“Originally it was kind of a revue that got started probably six or seven years ago,” Nelson said in a phone interview from her home west of Nashville. “Bob Brown and Angela Strehli do these barbecues at Rancho Nicasio. They own that place out in West Marin. They decided to throw together a whole bunch of different women in blues, kind of do what they were loosely calling at that point the Blues Broads. I think originally Maria Muldaur was there. Dorothy wasn’t there yet. Carlene Carter has done a couple of them. It would be who was available and throw them into this big revue.
“After a few years, it became Annie Sampson, Angela and I, plus there was loosely other people coming and going. Essentially when Dorothy Morrison agreed to be part of this, that solidified the unit, and then it just became us. I remember when they called me and said Dorothy Morrison was going to do the show that year, I just about died. We get to sing this gospel choir every time we do ‘Oh Happy Day’ in the show. And that’s just the best. With this particular group of women, that song works! And so we just went on from there.”
Joining the core four who all have at one time or another called the San Francisco Bay Area home, will be the Baltimore-based pianist/saxophonist/vocalist Deanna Bogart.
Her boogie piano will be just one part she plays in the mix, keeping one foot in the band context as well as joining the women in vocals, either front-and-center or background. Nelson explained that each “broad” will take a turn performing material from their own catalogue, with the others usually providing harmony and backing vocals.
“We’ve got some original stuff,” Nelson explained, “and we do a song that Annie wrote. We do a song that Angela wrote, a song I wrote, and ‘Oh Happy Day’ that Dorothy wrote. We pull things from our old records. I’m doing mostly stuff from my new record ‘Victim of the Blues.’ And we all pull in stuff from our shows. The group stuff is the most fun. We do an old Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers song, ‘Jesus I’ll Never Forget.’ We do ‘River Deep, Mountain High,’ and we do ‘Higher and Higher.’ For the group’s effort, we seem to fall into a really gospel bag. Even though they’re secular tunes, they have that feel.”
Nelson is originally from Wisconsin, but she garnered a loyal following in the Bay Area back in the ’60s with the band Mother Earth.
Her signature composition “Down So Low” has been recorded by Etta James, Linda Rondstat and Cyndi Lauper. After her second album, she moved to Nashville in 1969.
Sampson was raised in rural Louisiana, and her style exemplifies those deeply soulful roots, whether she’s singing blues, rock, a country ballad or a modern folk classic.
When she came to the Bay Area she enjoyed a long run with the musical “Hair” and then fronted the popular group Stoneground. They recorded four albums and toured internationally.
Morrison was lead singer and co-author for the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ recording of “Oh Happy Day,” which became an international hit, selling 7million copies. It is still the “national anthem” for American gospel groups.
Strehli is probably the most truly “blue” of the Blues Broads. She devoted her life and career to the heroes of the genre, knowing and singing with so many of the greats, from Muddy Waters to Albert King to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
She supported the legends through helping establish the Austin music venue Antone’s, known worldwide as a blues mecca.
She moved to Marin County 20 years ago, and with her husband, Bob Brown, has run the food and music venue Rancho Nicasio, where the Blues Broads originated.
After interning in western swing and R&B with Cowboy Jazz and Root Boy Slim, Bogart has fronted her own tight ensemble for more than 15 years.
Playing dazzling piano and soulful saxophone, she’s added the energy of boogie-woogie, contemporary blues, country, and jazz to create a unique fusion of musical styles. Her vocals and songwriting are full of vitality, as much as her playing is savvy, sensuous and deep.
“It’s so cool,” Nelson said about how the five women sound together. “My favorite thing to do on this Earth is to sing backup. I’d rather sing backup than sing leads. I love harmonies. I’ve always had gospel harmony singers on my records. To me, to have three- and four-part harmony behind a song is just thrilling. It’s just thrilling. And the voices in this group are all so damn good. And you know, there’s nothing that works as well as people in the same family singing together. There’s some kind of Zen magical thing that happens. I can’t really claim that with us, but it’s damn near. We just all have the same ear, the same tonality and it really works well.”
Whether you make it the whole weekend or can just come out for the day, the 26th annual Monterey Bay Blues Festival will be a feast for the ears. For the complete schedule, visit the festival’s website at www.montereyblues.com.
Beth Peerless can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. GO!