Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Sista Monica Is Living In the Danger Zone

Guitarist Vasti Jackson gave Sista Monica Parker the label of “Lioness of the Blues,” which fairly describes the power and impact of her vocals and performances. Having seen her live a few weeks prior to writing this review, I can attest to the presence of her vocals and performances that she delivers in a natural fashion. She is able to caress a lyric with a whisper before belting out her shouts without it ever sounding mannered or forced. Sista Monica will suggest to some the late Etta James, who along with Koko Taylor, Katie Webster and Ruth Brown, among the Sista’s major inspirations. However, she is her her woman and imitates no one. With a tight band that includes her long-time collaborator Danny B. (Daniel Beconcini), plenty of strong original material and select covers, she commands attention with the soul, warmth and passion she exhibits.

Her most recent recording on her Mo Muscle Records label is Living In The Danger Zone. It has her backed by Danny B.; Artis Joyce on bass; Leon Joyce, Jr. on drums; Don Caruth on guitar; and Danny Sandoval on tenor saxophone with appearances on guitar from Mighty Mike Schermer, Vasti Jackson; Terry Hiatt, Danny Caron and others; as well as appearances by Kelley Hunt on vocals and keyboards; Andy Just on harmonica, and Ruth Davies on acoustic bass.

Sista Monica at the 2012 DC Blues Festival
Monica may well be Fierce Force of Nature, as one of her songs is titled. Her fierceness may be directed against the the man who can’t take the truth when she says goodbye in No Shame In My Game, when he doesn’t meet her needs;  he spends no money on her; or is dancing too close with some other woman as on Worn Out Your Welcome. In contrast on the opening track (that was inspired by a back stage visit with B.B. King)Hug Me Like You Love Me, she sings that when you hug me like you love me I’ll feel it and let you know.” In a similar vein on Fierce Force of Nature, she declares that if her man treats her right she’ll make him scream and dance.

The title track casts a different mood as Monica sings about having to be strong and holding one’s own while Mighty Mike Schermer adds nice guitar fills. Tears is a strong slow blues where Monica sings that she can’t stop crying. It has outstanding guitar from Schermer and piano by Danny B. Andy Just's harp adds to atmosphere of the understated Let Me Moan, where she sings that “if you aren’t coming home, leave me alone and let me moan.” There is a soulful reflectiveness displayed on You Can’t Go Back, with Ruth Davies on bass and Danny Caron on guitar. 

There are more soulful originals including Sista Monica’s positive message on Just Keep Living. There is a solid cover of Robert Cray’s The Forecast Calls For Pain, and a heartfelt rendition of the gospel classic, Glory Hallelujah, where Kelley Hunt adds her piano and shares the vocal (sounding more than a little like Bonnie Raitt). It is a spectacular vocal duet that concludes this recording. Living In The Danger Zone s another excellent addition to Sista Monica Parker’s body of recordings.. As good as she is on record, she is even more enthralling live, and hopefully she is finally getting the recognition she deserves as among the finest blues and rhythm vocalists today.

I received this directly from Sista Monica.  Here she is performing the B.B. King inspired Hug Me Like You Love Me.

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