Vocal siren Janet Ryan likens the collection of tunes on her newest release, Mama Soul, to an “interesting marriage.”
Longtime fans of the singer with strong Valley roots would probably find the marital metaphor equal parts interesting and apropos. For, much like a blushing bride on her big day, Ryan appears to have borrowed something old (tracks “Take Your Shoes Off” and “Tired of Talking” are road-tested favorites), something new (the local singer was recently signed to CSP Records of Dallas, Texas), something borrowed (Dallas notables Crosscut join her longtime back-up group, the Straight Up Band, on several tunes) ...and of course, some deep, deep blues (including a cover of the Sippie Wallace chestnut “Women Be Wise”).
Ryan first emerged on the music scene at the ripe age of 16, where her choir group actually backed up jazz giant Duke Ellington at one of the “sacred concerts” he prepared in Connecticut later in his career. From there, it was off to the Windy City, where she cut her teeth at legendary clubs and gleaned whatever knowledge she could from mentors like Koko Taylor and Magic Slim.
By 1989, she had returned to New England to be closer to her family and utilized her life experiences to build a regional fanbase.
While her passion for creating and performing music has never wavered, Ryan does admit that the vehicle she had utilized to fulfill this need had morphed in recent years. In fact, she had been teaching music at two area elementary schools when an out-of-the-blue set of circumstances landed the blues singer back in the studio and on stage.
“I had just about given up on the music business,” Ryan remembers, when CSP Records came a-calling after hearing a performance of hers in a documentary film. “This opportunity came out of nowhere and seemed like a signal that I still had more songs to sing. It’s been the biggest surprise of my life.”
Ryan celebrates the release of Mama Soul at Theodores’ Blues, Brews & BBQ (theodoresbbq.com) in Springfield this Thursday, April 18. The show starts at 8 p.m.
In other news, a veritable who’s who of regional notables including Charles Neville, Evelyn Harris, Avery Sharpe, Tony Vacca and Jo Sallins have signed on to lend sonic support to the First Generation Benefit Concert taking place at Northampton’s Academy of Music April 20.
“I got a call from artistic director Julie Litchenburg to participate and it was an automatic yes from me,” says Sallins. “At the time, I had no idea I would be sharing the stage with such heavies, but I’m psyched. This will be a great night of special music.”
And for a very special cause.
First Generation was created in 2008 with the charge of bringing together Springfield area youths ages 15-22 for research, self-reflection, artistic training, intergenerational mentoring and more. The current First Generation ensemble includes members from Haiti, Nepal, Burundi and Puerto Rico in addition to its local members, and will perform at Springfield Technical Community College, Springfield College and Hampshire College in 2013. For more information on both the cause and the concert, kindly point your browser to performanceproject.org.
Last but not least, veteran blues rockers the Wildcat O’Halloran Band (wildcatohalloran.com) checked in to report that... what? They are famous in Sunderland? And this is news why?
“No, not our hometown of Sunderland, Mass., but Sunderland, England now, too!” the Wild one explains.
Seems award-winning Brit bluesman Trevor Sewell has asked O’Halloran and his merry band of musicmakers to remake his most notable hit, “Hate Me For A Reason.”
“He plans on overdubbing it and rereleasing it, and we just sent him a video for British television as well,” says O’Halloran. “The Sunderland to Sunderland connection is working!”
For those not interested in crossing the pond—or waitingfor their Wildcat fix—you don’t have to. The band plays Noho’s City Sports Grille on Sunday, April 21 and Holyoke’s Waterfront April 26.•
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