Dorothy Morrison, Tracy Nelson, Angela Strehli and Annie Sampson
The Blues Broads
Delta Groove (CD/DVD)
By Bruce Sylvester
These blues/gospel/soul/rock mamas — two black, two white — together bring more than two centuries of performing experience to this live set at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, Calif. Morrison sang lead on Edwin Hawkins Singers’ 1969 top-tenner “Oh Happy Day.” Nelson was the vocal power of aptly named Mother Earth.
Sampson (a long-time “Hair” cast member) shared lead vocals in Stoneground. Strehli relives the radio of her youth on “Two Bit Texas Town.” All contraltos, each with her own texture, they pass vocal leads back and forth, sometimes within a song, with keyboardist/tenor saxophonist Deanna Bogart occasionally providing a fifth contralto.
Bedrock gospel closes the show. “Jesus I’ll Never Forget” calls to mind Sweet Honey In The Rock’s polyphonous arrangements. We watch Morrison excitedly jump around amid the finale, her resurrection of “Oh Happy Day.” (The video’s camerawork is adequate, but not too imaginative.) Do contraltos maintain their best notes longer than other singers? The collective talent evidenced with these deep-voiced ladies suggests “yes.”