The week prior to Sista Monica's live performance at Famous Dave's in Calhoun Square, I had just finished writing a review about her newest CD, "People Love The Blues." I fell in love with her rich, sultry vocals long before I observed her live on stage. The day that I'd finished writing her CD review our furnace broke, only weeks after our water well pump had broke. To fix each it cost over sixteen hundred dollars. Needless to say I wasn't feeling very grateful the week of Thanksgiving. The only thing which helped soothe the pain was the sound of Sista Monica's voice, which played on her CD repetitiously.
A ray of light emerged when I was asked to write Sista Monica's live review. I was thrilled. At this point a little bit of gratitude began to creep within. By the time I'd walked through the doors of Calhoun Square that Friday night, the feeling of appreciation was all around me and I could hardly wait for the evening to begin.
Sista Monica opened strong wearing a leopard print garment to match her lioness style, as well as her deep purrs and seductive growls. On stage she vocalized her extreme energy, her amazing spirit, and even revealed the most vulnerable areas if her soul to many cold, Minnesotans that evening. Sista Monica had brought a bit of the Santa Cruz sun with her. She devoured the audience, and was so hot, she could've left sparks on the old train track which was above me. Eventually, each one of her sweet, soulful notes made me forget all about my troubles.
In between Sista Monica's vocals you could hear her joy by the echoes of her deep bellied laugh. She performed with animation and knew just how to stimulate the crowd. Her passion was exposed to all who watched and indulged. Sista Monica told her story, about her roots, her Mama, and her mother's crock pot. She sang, "Mama whatcha cookin' in the crockpot?" Mama says, "Cookin' soul food." Sista Monica vocalizes, "Good, because I don't like Tofu!" I don't blame her - bleh.
Sista Monica states, "Soul is just soul, it’s a feeling in your bones. "That's precisely where her music hits too - deep in the soul. So deep you feel a good kind of ache in your bones. Her music is sometimes the roots of the blues, sometimes the roots of Gospel, sometimes the roots of funk, and many times quite a bit of all each. Sista Monica even had the ability to put tears in my ears when she sang in a cappella with her sleek voice, "Amazing Grace," in past remembrance of her past tenor/saxophone player, Ken Baker. Her vocals reach out and grab you with intense emotion.
This Blues Lioness drew in a great crowd, as well as a few well-known musicians. Chubby Carrier was in the house enjoying the show, as well as The Steeles, who joined Sista Monica up on stage towards the end of the night, and shared their spectacular vocals. And to remind me that I shouldn't worry and be happy, Bobby Mc Ferrin graced the room with his presence. I wasn't supposed to make a big deal out of it, but since the shows over, I can let the cat out of the bag.
The buzzing energy at Famous Dave's was intense! The service was wonderful. Ron Healey, head of security was an angel, and Pat Nelson was very accommodating. By the end of the night I had my opportunity to interview Sista Monica. She and her band had a warm presence. Because I'd just written a CD review on her, and had done quite a bit of research on her roots, I didn't want to ask the basic questions that I already knew the answers to, and waste her time. I could tell that the evening's performance had taken quite a bit of energy out of her. So I proceeded to tell her about how ungrateful I'd felt during the week, how her music on her CD had eased me through my difficulties, and just how she's touched me with her music that evening. The main question that I asked her was," How does it feel to know that you're touching so many people with your art, and making a difference in so many lives?
Sista Monica's response was," That's the whole purpose of performing - touching others and making a difference. When my band and I go out on the road, we never know who we're going to meet, or who we're going to make a contribution to. But we always hope and pray that somebody out in the audience will enjoy the music, get a message out of it, listen to the music beyond just the groove, and get into the lyrics and what we're saying. When I write the songs I write from my own experiences, and I hope someone else can go through a process while listening to it."
I don't know how many other people listened to her music beyond the groove and felt what I did after her performance. I don't know how many people went home with a grin as big as mine. But I do know that Sista Monica's purpose was met when I listened and watched her perform. Every one of her delicious notes and atoms of vibrant energy hit me deep inside with immeasurable intensity. Her music, soul, as well as lyrics had the ability to move me beyond the grim and into the light. Thanks Sista Monica for such a fantastic evening. It'll be a memory I won't forget!
If you want to learn more about Sista Monica, check out her web site at www.sistamonica.com. If you want to pick up her CD, "People Love The Blues," you can purchase it at any Best Buy store, or Bestbuy.com, CDNow.com, as well as Amazon.com.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Mia Jennings, 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.