And, in a special segment, Barbara Ching tells us about ‘Country Music and The Blues’.About the performers:
In some ways Roots R&B/Americana singer/songwriter/piano player/guitarist KELLEY HUNT is a rarity and a challenge to the music industry’s penchant for easy artist definitions — a woman who has muscled her way onto the scene on her own terms with an identity steeped in blues/roots/gospel traditions and a refreshing originality. She makes music with it’s righteous roots intact that also crosses boundaries, has an open-minded, exploratory attitude and takes on social and political issues. Together with a commanding, passionate stage presence and superior vocal, keyboard and songwriting skills she has earned the respect of critics and fans across North America and Europe.
Born in Kansas City, Hunt’s love for her craft was ignited listening to early blues, R&B, roots rock, jazz and Gospel influences — artists like Ruth Brown, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Ann Peebles, Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Aretha Franklin, Charles Brown, Wanda Jackson and a crossection of the New Orleans/St. Louis/KC piano traditions of Professor Longhair, Toots Washington, Johnnie Johnson and Kansas City masters Jay McShann and Mary Lou Williams among others. Before that came the sound of her mother singing jazz and blues – her first musical memories – and the influence of her New Orleans Gospel singer grandmother. Reminders of these very traditional influences are evident in Kelley’s live performances and recordings but the lyrics, soul and passion are all her own. Her career path so far has been a story of fierce independence, incredible will, unassailable cred as a blistering live performer and hard-won accomplishment. That narrative includes 1500+ performances with appearances on a long list of premier North American and International festival stages, six times on American Public Media’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’, nearly 150,000 indie units sold on her own label and critical praise reflecting her conviction from the outset to make her path in the roots music world not just as a performer, but as a forward-thinking songwriter as well.
Eden Brent‘s piano playing and singing style ranges from a melancholic whisper to a full-blown juke joint holler. She’s simultaneously confident and confiding, ably blending an earthy meld of jazz, blues, soul, and pop as she huskily invites listeners into her lazy, lush world.
That world lies just north of Greenville, Mississippi on the two-lane Highway 1, which follows the twists and turns of the river through fecund swampland, time-forgotten plantations, and blink-and you’ll-miss-’em communities like Rosedale, Benoit, Wayside, and Grace before it dead ends into Highway 61 at Onward.
It was there that Brent was able to develop her gutsy vocal-and piano chops via family sing-a-longs and a 16-year apprenticeship with the late blues pioneer Boogaloo Ames, who ultimately dubbed his protégé “Little Boogaloo.”
“Music school taught me to think, but Boogaloo taught me to boogie-woogie,” says Brent, who appeared alongside her mentor in the 1999 PBS documentary Boogaloo & Eden: Sustaining the Sound and in the 2002 South African production Forty Days in the Delta.
Where most 21st century roots musicians merely emulate their heroes, Brent and Ames were both “soul mate and road buddies,” says lifelong friend (and acclaimed journalist) Julia Reed. “She was a young white woman of privilege and he was an aging black man in the Mississippi Delta, but theirs is a phenomenal story of mutual admiration and need.”
Yet much more than the blues flows through Brent’s talented hands: Critics laud her “Bessie Smith meets Diana Krall meets Janis Joplin” attitude, compare her to jazz/pop dynamos Norah Jones and Sarah Vaughn, and wax effusively about her “whiskey-smoke” voice, which serves as a constant reminder that Greenville, nestled into a bend of the Mississippi River, is located a few hundred miles north of New Orleans.
Whether booked as a solo artist or bandleader, Brent’s performance is fresh and spontaneous, often filled with audience requests and participation. Her unshakable talent and her carefree demeanor have taken her across the country and around the world, with appearances at the Kennedy Center, the 2000 Republican National Convention, the venerable Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and tours of South Africa and Norway under her belt.
Since launching her career, she’s won the Blues Foundation’s 2006 International Blues Challenge, and was a 2004 inductee on the Greenville Blues Walk. Sharing a bill with B.B. King, Brent performed at the 2005 presidential inauguration, and solo, she’s appeared at the British Embassy and at the My South celebrations in Mississippi and New York. She’s also burnished her reputation via appearances on radio shows like the syndicated Beale Street Caravan and XM’s Bluesville, at festivals like the Waterfront Blues Festival, Edmonton Labatt Blues Festival and the annual B.B. King Homecoming, and aboard the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.