November 2006

20th Anniversary Women’s Blues Revue
presented by the Toronto Blues Society
November 25, 2006Massey HallToronto
The Women of Blues
report and photos by Dougal Bichan
It was a night, such a night, a women’s night, a blues night, a mother-daughter night, and... yes, even a man’s night. There were some of us there. Holger Peterson, host of CBC’s Saturday Night Blues, the only man, man enough to get onstage with the Women’s Blues Revue, according to Shelagh Rogers, the main host for the evening, herself a CBC on-air host of Sounds Like Canada.

And what a lineup there was that night! Seven powerfully confident blues women, any one of whom could have easily blown the roof off that hall. I have seen them do it, too, and to have all seven on the stage in one evening! Well, I am surprised that the old Hall of Massey down there on Shuter Street is still standing.

The backup band included some of the finest women musici... NO NO scratch that — some of the finest musicians — of any gender — playing in Canada today. Musically directed by the incredible Lily Sazz. Suzie Vinnick, bass player, started off the evening with a torchy swing then stepped back behind the music stand to drive the evening through. Then Saidah Baba Talibah, all dreads and baggy pants, slight echoings of the dancing of some Jackson or other, daughter of the greatly revered Salome Bey, mother-daughter connection, one of the highlights of last year’s WBR, singing with her mother then, paid her respect to Salome, sitting in the audience this year, then launched into her own legend-creating performance. I could feel the roof starting to tremble, driven by the solid beating wrists and ankles of drummer Michelle Josef.

Kim Richardson, another mother-daughter connection came next, recently back from Montreal and a “Backup Singer no More”, front and centre, big and bold as brass. She was followed down the road to rockin’ by Diana Braithwaite, bright red and sassy. R&B’d by the backing driving twin saxophones of Colleen Allen and Carrie Chestnut. Sue Foley, blond hair and boots and guitar slingin’, lick tradin’ with Margaret Stowe, the WBR band guitarist, closed the first half with her "New Used Car" romp through some of the choice hinterlands of the blues, some barely glimpsed back street through the rolled down window of a ‘64 Chevy, on a hot summer night. It was good the break came then, because I was shakin’, the audience steamin’ and the roof definitely unhinged.

After the break, Ellen McIlwaine started soft and solo. Spotlight, centre stage, strange open tunings and many slides. “Notice”, she said, “that this is just a six string guitar.” and it was, acoustic, at that. But it filled the room to the upper balcony. Drawing turning and twisting pictures in the air. Back, back, back, down Celtic and Oriental memories intertwined. Lost in time.

Rita Chiarelli raised the bar a notch in her opening duet with trumpeter Sarah McElcheran, proving that the blues speaks many languages, even Italian. The Italian song took a life of its own. Then Jackie, Jackie, Jackie, Jackie. I saw her tear the house apart, one year, at the Maple Blues Awards. Such a pro. Her voice, her outfit, her mike handling. Experience. It shows. She was the top. That was when the stars started peeking through the rafters. She was joined by her daughter, Kim, and the combination of such confidence and the proud mother-love, the bonding and sharing of talent of those two nearly tore my heart out. I was nodding my head with the rest of the ground floor but my soul had jumped out of my body and boogied down the aisles of the hall.

Saidah Baba Talibah

Sue Foley

The finale old spiritual, we were sailing, rockin’ in the water, the bosom of Abraham, the blood of the Lamb, no one was untouched as we standingly ovated the assembled multitude of pulchritude many times over. Then we went tumbling in crowds, out onto the midnight street of Shuter and the red neon glow of Massey shaking and laughing and trembling and talking all at once.

It was a night. A night to forget. To forget yourself and be swept along in the proud, caring currents of the music of the women of blues. It was a night to remember. 20 years!

Jackie Richardson

Kim Richardson
We welcome your comments and feedback
Dougal Bichan
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
• •
Dougal Bichan is a professional photographer and communications consultant living in Toronto. He has spent many years photographing musicians. To view more of Dougal's work >

| Home | Archives | CD Reviews | Photo Galleries | Concert Listings | Contact |

Please contact us to secure permission for use of any material found on this website.
© The Live Music Report – 2006