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Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame 2009 "Supportive of the Blues"
The Blues Foundation's 1999 "Keeping the Blues Alive Award"
(CDF Music Legacy, 2005)
Review Date: November 2009
by Norman Darwen
In a music where the unexpected is not unusual and the curious can be common-place, how likely is it that the younger sister of a famous bluesman, who spoke only English until she was in her thirties, should relocate to Europe, become a big star in France and the francophone countries around the world, and eventually leave a musical legacy that has become a standard resource for teaching French? That is, of course, a potted biography of the remarkable Carole Fredericks – whose older brother, Henry St. Clair Fredericks, is better known to the blues world as Taj Mahal. Carole died too young in 2001.
‘Springfield’ was the first of her two solo albums, and was originally released in 1996. It is sung entirely in English, in case you were wondering, and revisits Carole’s roots – the title refers to the town where Carole and her family were raised. The music is tough-sounding blues, gospel and rhythm and blues – though no category is mutually exclusive here – showcasing Carole’s powerful singing or more intimate style. The approach can be strongly contemporary – try the driving ‘Jesus In Me’ – or classic southern-flavoured rhythm and blues such as ‘Reason To Stay’. Then there is the straight-ahead blues. For an example of the latter, take a listen to ‘You Had It Comin’’, which has a guest appearance by Taj himself. There are elements of rock – ‘Run Away Love’ was unsurprisingly picked as a single at the time of the album’s original issue and also turns up on a movie soundtrack – but the blues has changed a lot over the last decade or so and what might have seemed too much in 1996 is now perfectly acceptable in 2009. Most of the accompanying musicians are French, though you would never guess it from the playing – but this is Carole’s showcase and she comes across as a “prophet without honor” whose memory should be far better known than it is.
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