Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Sermonette: Sister Rosetta Tharpe - This Train

Sister Rosetta Tharpe -- vocalist, songwriter and guitarist -- is the undisputed Godmother of Rock and Roll.  She was the first bonafide gospel star and yet, her trailblazing extends far beyond the church in three very important ways. First, she infused gospel with rock and roll the way Ray Charles infused R&B with gospel.  Secondly, she did this with the electric guitar, which was a new item at the time, and played it like none other. Thirdly, because she was a master of the electric guitar (she started playing in church when she was 3 years old), she was a strong influence with artists like Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley -- and they influenced everyone, most notably bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. And who hasn't been influenced by The Beatles and the Stones?

They're all standing on her shoulders. It is for these reasons and more that her body of work can't be denied or diminished.

This woman is my heroine and in many ways, my blueprint: here she is, performing for a European audience, in a beautiful gown with that white Gibson, singing an old Negro spiritual her way -- and talking smack to pianist Otis Spann, no less.  What a glamorous, flamboyant performer she was -- and yes, so theatrical.  It's everything I aim for, when I perform. It's like I was doing it, then I discovered her and found a parallel line that eventually ran all the way through me -- from her Southern beginnings in COGIC to her time in New York City and eventually Europe.

Listen in and be blessed.

This Train

This train is bound for glory - this train;
This train is bound for glory - this train;
This train is bound for glory - all who ride it must be holy;
This train, this train, this train.
This train has left the station - this train; 
This train has left the station - this train; 
This train has left the station - this train takes on every nation; 
This train, this train, this train.
This train don't carry no liars - this train;
This train don't carry no liars - this train;
This train don't carry no liars - no false pretenders, no back-biters;
This train, this train, this train.
This train don't pull no gamblers - this train;
This train don't pull no gamblers - this train;
This train don't pull no gamblers - no crap-shooters, no midnight ramblers;
This train, this train, this train.
This train is a clean train - this train;
This train is a clean train - this train;
This train is a clean train - everybody ride it in Jesus' name;
This train, this train, this train.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The Next (Black Americana) Gig: WFUV's On Your Radar, July 14th!

NEWSFLASH: I'll be playing WFUV's On Your Radar series at Rockwood Music Hall on Tuesday July 14th with Jon Regen and Flagship Romance. Doors open at 6:30pm, show starts at 7 PM.  Tickets are $12. My band and I are on at approximately 7:40pm for a 30 minute set of Black Americana featuring songs from my latest critically acclaimed release The Other Side

Tickets and info are available online HERE. You can catch Jon Regen and myself performing live on WFUV's Sunday Breakfast, hosted by John Platt, on Sunday 7/12 at 10:30 AM. Listen HERE.

What the critics are saying: 

"This album is amazing. And very difficult to classify. Can you imagine a black Lucinda Williams? Not like when she plays the blues torn from her first albums, no. A black Lucinda Williams in pop, rhythm, blues and even gender roots Americana. So it sounds, if you can imagine such a hodgepodge somehow, the latest album from this brutal, original, explosive singer." -- Vanity Fair 

"Our admiration for Queen Esther is almost beyond measure." -- Rootstime (Belgium)

"It’s the melancholy country cuts that Queen Esther excels in. 'I’ve Come Undone Again' is a particular highlight; a splendid slice of melancholy country complete with Hank Williams-esque melody and all. 'Love Is a Wrecking Ball' and 'I Feel Like Going Home' are wrought with emotion and are likely the best tracks here."
-- Americana UK

"Every song is sung with passion and fire, by this underrated female singer who should be a musical giant." -- Country Music People (UK)

“Queen Esther’s new album The Other Side is unlike anything you’ve heard in recent years…or possibly ever.” -- Muruch 

"The most exciting Afro-Americana release of the year."
-- Paste

"Queen Esther's vocals, even at their hardest-rocking, invoke the high-and-lonesome plaintiveness of the honky-tonk bluegrass/rockabilly continuum as much as they do the harsher-timbred blues tradition." -- Living Blues

"A masterpiece of an extremely talented singer/songwriter who can compete with the major players in this field, such as Lucinda Williams."
-- Blues Magazine (The Netherlands)

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Sunday Sermonette: The Caravans -- "Lord Keep Me Day By Day"

When it's time for me to perform country gospel songs for an HAI gig in the city, there are certain groups that never fail to inspire me. This classic gospel song was recorded by Florida Mass Choir, Willie Neal Johnson & The Gospel Keynotes, Dorothy Norwood and a few others. I especially like this one from The Caravans -- a group that launched the careers of legendary gospel greats Rev. James Cleveland, Albertina Walker, Shirley Caesar, Josephine Howard and many more.

Those of you in the peanut gallery who are actually paying attention already know that Ms. Howard is the one and only Miki I Found Love Under New Management Howard's mother.  So there's that.

Listen in and be blessed.

Lord, Keep Me Day By Day  (written by Eddie Williams)

Lord, keep me day by day,
in a pure, and perfect way.
I want to live, I want to live on
in a building not made by hand.

Lord, keep my body strong
so that I can do no wrong.
Lord, give me grace just to run this Christian race
to a building not made by hand.

I'm just a stranger here,
traveling through this barren land.
Lord, I know there's a building somewhere,
in a building not made by hand.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Quote of the Day - from a REAL Confederate/Southerner

(This image brought to you by graphic artist Doug Dobey in response to this idiocy: a gigantic Confederate flag that welcomes visitors to Richmond, Virginia.)

Any Southerner who honestly believes that the rebel flag is a reminder of their honorable Confederate history and heritage is woefully ignorant of the facts -- or flat-out racist.  And here's the quote that proves it.

"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth." --Alexander Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy, "The Cornerstone Speech," March 21, 1861
For any reasonably intelligent, clear-thinking American to stand by a flag that represents this racist philosophy is unconscionable. 

To read The Cornerstone Speech in its entirety, click here

Thursday, June 04, 2015

The Jazz Age Lawn Party: Details, details!

On June 13-14 and August 15-16 from 11a.m. to 5p.m., guests transcend time once upon the shore of Governors Island to celebrate the music and zeitgeist of the 1920s and ‘30s. The romance, joie de vivre and infectious rhythm of that halcyon age come to life once more, as the distractions of the modern world fade away.
Each weekend, guests will don fresh linen, lace, seersucker and straw at the world’s quintessential prohibition era gathering. Special surprises for its 10th Anniversary celebration will abound and delight. Featured programming includes: 
MUSIC & DANCE PEFORMANCES on TWO STAGES featuring the finest Jazz Age entertainment:
  • Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra: the world’s premier Jazz-Age dance orchestra, steeped in the hot-dance band tradition of the 1920s and early 1930s, present a one-of-a-kind songbook from Michael’s original album, “Blue River,” and his newest album, “Just In Time,” which will be on sale for the first time at the event. “Just In Time” highlights Michael’s horn playing and singing in an intimate, jazz-driven setting
  • Roddy Caravella & The Canarsie Wobblers: performer, teacher and Jazz Age Lawn Party Dance Director Roddy Caravella, and his fun-loving dance troupe The Canarsie Wobblers, will showcase performances that capture the exuberant spirit and flaming youth of the Roaring ‘20s
  • The Antique DJs: emcees and Antique Phonograph DJs, Michael Cumella and Michael Haar, spin vinyl and cylinder records on period crank up talking machines and bring to life original recordings from the 1920s
  • The Dreamland Follies: the ten girl dance spectacular harkening back to the days of the Great Ziegfeld, will delight guests just as much with their choreography as their Art Deco costumes and head pieces. Expect a new 10th Anniversary production set to Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra’s theme song, “Paddlin’ Madelin’ Home”
  • Peter Mintun: the world’s greatest piano man will dazzle guests with his magical fingers  
  • Queen Esther: hear modern-day jazz royalty as the award-winning jazz vocalist presides over the lawn 
  • The Gelber & Manning Band: feuding vaudevillian lovebirds, specializing in raggy time songs and early jazz styles, will quarrel and coo to your delight
  • The Minsky Sisters: tap dance darlings delight with fancy footwork in the tradition of classic vaudevillian family acts
  • Tamar Korn: ephemeral vocalist, known for her love of singing songs both lyrically as well as "instrumentally" with her pitch-perfect pipes, will perform her signature repertoire steeped in traditional New Orleans and early jazz
  • Molly Ryan: with a lush, elegant vocal style, songs of the 1930s will be brought to life with innocence and total believability to the music that refuses to admit that 80 years of distractions have ever happened 
  • Albert Cadabra: the master of illusion and charm will astonish onlookers with devilishly wild magic delivered with unmatchable style, class and an inviting sense of humor 
  • Dance Lessons: learn the hottest dance steps of the time from top Jazz Age hoofers
  • Charleston Dance Contest: see who’s the Bee’s Knees in this lighthearted yes spirited dance-off
  • The all new food market will feature New York’s fanciest picnicking fare and gourmet food trucks along with treats and snacks by vendors such as Luke's Lobster, Empanada Lady, Kaya NYC, Local 215, Carnal BK, La Crêpe C’est Si Bon, Vintage Ice Cream Guys, Chef and the Baker and more 
  • Annual High Court of Pie Contest: submissions are open for the annual contest. Categories include: “Mom’s Best” “Best Savory” “Most Original” and “Hobo’s Choice” (For entry email:  
  • St-Germain Artisanal French Elderflower Liqueur will be the signature spirit for the seventh consecutive year. Golden age elixirs such as the signature St-Germain Cocktail (made with St-Germain, sparkling wine, sparkling water and a lemon twist) will be served alongside the 10th Anniversary Cocktail (a refreshing Collins-style cocktail blending summer strawberries with gin, St-Germain and fresh citrus), and a delicious Boathouse Punch from renowned cocktail celebrity Julie Reiner’s new book (Bombay Dry, St-Germain, Aperol, Martini Sparkling Rosé and splashes of lemon, orange and grapefruit juice)
  • MARTINI & ROSSI sparkling wines again join the lineup of superior cocktail offerings. The iconic Italian winemaker will be showcasing a full menu of sparkling wines for refreshing enjoyment, including the new fully sparkling Prosecco, the aromatic Rosé and the naturally sweet Asti. Available by the bottle, by the glass, or in charming mini bottles, MARTINI & ROSSI has a wine for every palate
  • DUVEL and BREWERY OMMEGANG will be the signature beer  
  • Additional Beverages include: old fashioned lemonade, soda, juices, water, iced coffee and tea to whet your whistle
  • Bathing Beauties and Beaus Promenade: pull that itchy wool number out of the mothballs and parade it for all to admire
  • Vintage Clothing Vendor and Artisans: a veritable village of timeless treasures and inspired creations to take home
  • Kidland: carnival games and prizes for junior gents and flapperettes
  • 1920s Motorcar Exhibition: get up close and personal with flivvers, Tin Lizzies and “Buttercup,” Gatsby’s very own 1925 Rolls-Royce “Twenty”
  • Vintage Portraits: immortalize yourself while perched upon one of our Paper Moons with special vintage adornments and accessories available by Unique Vintage
Tickets and packages are still available for the June 13-14 and August 15-16 events. Ticket packages include General Admission, “Jazz Baby, “Bee’s Knees, “Bonnie & Clyde. “The Gatsby” VIP package brings special perks and table and bottle service. These packages can be purchased at To commemorate the 10th anniversary, the Jazz Age Lawn Party has presented “Sheikh of Araby”, a brand new private tent for eight to 10 guests located right off the dance floor, with full wait table service and luxury appointments, and which can be reserved by emailing