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Song Inside Me
( Milestone Music 2004MM66914-2)
Review Date: October 2007
by Arthur Shuey
When two people converse, one adjusts his or her voice toward the pitch of the other's, in a subtle sign of deference to leadership. In wolf packs, only the head wolf keeps his or her tail raised. The chief chimpanzee in a group (the correct term is a “murder” of chimpanzees, as it is “school” of fish, a “herd” of cattle, a “sneer” of butlers, a “frost” of dowagers, a “keg” of garage musicians, etc.) is allowed to sexually dominate and even mutilate members of his tribe at will. Research strongly indicates that identification and acknowledgment of leadership is essential to survival and, thus, built deeply into mammalian hard wiring. Mechanically, said identification and acknowledgment expresses itself through the senses. Longtime leadership in her region's blues community is plainly heard in this debut release from Michele Lundeen, who has planted and grown a number of blues publication, festival and other seeds way out west.
That her set list comfortably flows from jump blues/jazz to torch songs to front porch rollicks to convincing, larger-than-life “Big Blues Mama” biographical sketches is more than coincidence. These sub genres of blues and all the joys and narrative stimuli specific to them have been part of her crusade for decades. She's not just doing these different songs because she can, but because she has been compelled to. Blues is a broad field and, to build a blues scene, one must offer reward to every individual preference and perspective within it. While playing “Song Inside Me,” one can hear and almost smell Ms. Lundeen's long years of doing so.
Festival planners accept responsibility for investing a lot of other people's money in entertainment and culture. Editors match their wits against readers' attention spans and fickleness to obtain and maintain those readers. Regular participants in blues society jams take on the missionary challenge of converting occasional visitors to their bars and bandstands into frequent contributors to same. The shouldering and fulfillment of these responsibilities gives a person the equivalent of an advanced degree from a music school that most professional road and studio players would not dare to even enroll in.
Ms. Lundeen's band is straight forward. Playing along with this record would not be a challenge for competent players, but that is by no means to say that many of them could construct this release. Most players simply lack the discipline and vision it takes to concentrate full-time on the audience rather than on themselves. Most players cannot accept the fact that three four-minute songs give them exactly as much playing time as one twelve-minute song, but share three times as many songs with their audience.
These twelve songs take the bandstand and the community of a blues scene into the studio in a way that few performers are willing and able to do. “Song Inside Me” is pragmatic, gut bucket and effective. It is a demonstration, a sermon, a textbook and a rally. It is powerful, lively and humbling. It is a gift of love from a leader to her community.
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