One of my favorite things to do on the radio show is introduce new artists to the Twin Cities blues audience. I look for some quality that makes that musician stand out from the crowd, either a unique way of presenting a song or an obvious "star" shine that just needs to be recognized. New blues diva Kevina Redwine has both those things plus a comfortable way of grabbing your attention and not letting go...literally. Kevina, well, she likes to hug...her fans, her band mates, the bartender or whoever is in the audience. "Black people love to hug" is how she explains it.
Saturday, July 22nd, I watched her in action at Big Daddyís in St. Paulís Union Depot. "Now, you all come on over here for a hug" she says over the microphone, stopping mid-song to acknowledge her friends and her day job co-workers as they enter or leave the club. She also likes to step out from behind the mic once in a while to party with the crowd. That night she left the spotlight to go dance with Kimberly, the waitress who requested a Tina Turner song. With the band still playing "Proud Mary", she leaned over to me and said "I betcha didnít know I knew that one. Well, I do...I learned it just to piss my Mama off." Back behind the mic, she belts like Tina but without the moves. "I just had surgery on my knees", she clarifies, "And if I start moving like Tina, Iíll need surgery someplace else". She and I both cracked up, cackling like hens. I donít know how her band, Citizenís Arrest, keeps up with her and in all honesty...really...they donít stand a chance. Kevina is one high-energy, wise-cracking, blues belting lady. She never stops moving.
The minute I got to the gig that night, she met me at the door with a hug and a crazed look on her pretty face. With murder in her blue-shadowed eyes, she told me what was wrong. "Girl, I ainít got no drummer. That _____ is late! Now, thatís what I get for trusting a black man with blond hair, you hear me!" I couldnít help it. I busted out laughing! The look on her face made me lose all empathy for poor Tsoch, the errant musician who had to face that angry black woman. Here she was, all dressed up in champagne-colored chiffon and no drummer. "Canít you just start without him" I
offered, still giggling. No response from her was needed. The crazed look in her eyes said it all "Duh, ya think so". I immediately shut up, then followed her trail of chiffon back inside.
She opened the night with Bessie Smithís Electric Chair, winked at me, we both laughed, touched hands and the rest of the night fell into a on-going joke about the missing drummer. A true blue trooper, Kevina knew how to handle the situation. "Since he got here last, Iím going to introduce him last" she said when Tsoch finally did arrive. He had been taken hostage by I-94 construction. When Kevina hugged him, the crowd laughed and we all had a very good time. Even the band finally relaxed. Kevina introduces them by saying: "My band is called Citizenís Arrest. Donít make Ďem have to pull you over. Steve Kimmel on keyboards, Don Edson on guitar, Tsoch ĎDetourí Drumm on drums."
Jacquie: Whatís a good song for you? How do you know what fits what you want to do?
Kevina: I like songs that...hereís what my Gramma used to say... I like music that "blows my skirt up". If it donít move me, I ainít doing it.
Jacquie: How long you been singing?
Kevina: (sings the theme of a 1959 candy commercial) I was three when I learned that. I started singing in church. Mama says I started singing and walking when I was 9 months old. According to her, I havenít stopped moving or shut up since. (Tsoch tries to take her picture, Kevina goes into a kung-fu stance, crane-style. Starts singing, "Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting". People at the nearest tables laugh.)
Jacquie: Did your family sing?
Kevina: Mama sang in a gospel choir called the Ransom Singers. I asked her "What yíall
gonna do....kidnap somebody?" And on a Sunday morning, too. You know that ainít right! (She laughs.)
Jacquie: Where you from?
Kevina: East Chicago, Indiana. Moved to Chicago to sing. Altogether, I guess I sang there
about 20 years.
Jacquie: Were you singing in blues clubs?
Kevina: The first 12 years, I sang with a gospel group called the Northern Indiana Voices of Deliverance. Then, I was with The Chosen Ones. That group sang up and down Southshore Drive. We were good. We even recorded with the Staple Singers, then went out to Los Angeles for more work. But then, the drummer and bass player lost their minds, girl. Women and drugs just did Ďem in...and that was the end of that. We lost the contract, I headed back to Chicago. I just sang gospel then, till I moved to Minnesota which was about 10 years ago. I didnít start singing in clubs till I met Steve Kimmel. Actually, we met in a grocery storeÖcan you believe it! He gave me his card and we just started puttiní it together. That was about three years ago.
Jacquie: You and Steve talked about a recording project.
Kevina: Yea, we got about 9 songs on tape right now, working to add 2 or 3 more. In a couple of months, weíll be ready. Want to write the liner notes? (You bet, I told her, I would be honored. She promised to debut it on Rollin & Tumblin).
Jacquie: You seem to favor Bessie Smith tunes.
Kevina: Got to. I feel some kinda connection to her. Weíre both born on the same day. Tax Day, April 15th. Thatís right, Iím an Aries. Iím wild. I donít always like to sing about death and violence but it sure seems like I always do. Just before I go into Bessieís Electric Chair, I always feel I got to explain it to the audience...you know. Just exactly why AM I Talkiní bout cutting my manís throat. Well, I tell Ďem... Iím singing it for the ladies, so they can remind their men just whatíll happen to Ďem.......(Her voice tapers off as she looks around the room, that maniacal look back in her eyes. Tsoch moves discreetly, but rapidly, away from the table. Me and a black lady at the next table exchange looks, then break up laughing. Two white ladies nearby at the bar join in the laughter. I know those 3 women went home that night feeling that they were part of Kevinaís life. I also know theyíll be back anytime Kevina and Citizenís Arrest gigs at Big Daddyís.)
For Kevina Redwine, being a "rising star" isnít about what you do on stage, itís about the crowd and how they feel about you when you step off stage. Kevina sure likes hugging her fans, but what I think sheís really doing with every hug is polishing up her star-shine.
Kevina Redwine & Citizenís Arrest returns to Big Daddyís in St. Paul August 12th, 2000 8:30pm - 12:30am
Email: Kevina Redwine
Rolliní & Tumbliní
KFAI 90.3/106.7FM Twin Cities
This review is copyright © 2000 by Jacquie Maddix, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.