Available NOW on Appleseed Recordings
“They are artists speaking to power, speaking to history, and illuminating its continued relevance to our lives through the medium of music. Love in Evolution might be their finest achievement.” -No Depression (read the review)
The lyrics for “We Have Come This Far by Faith” have motivated and guided us throughout this entire recording process. It is only by faith I am even able to write my Producer’s Notes: my laptop has crashed and the hotel staff of the Wrest Point Hotel in Hobart, Tasmania (where we are presently performing for the Festival of Voices) are being ultra-kind by allowing me to work on their computer at the concierge desk. The craft of developing our sound – the sound of the four women who stand today as Sweet Honey In The Rock® (Carol, Aisha, Louise and me, Nitanju) has created a delicate dance of establishing a fine balance between the old and the new, the familiar and the unknown. Yet, we have pressed forward . . . by faith. During the recording process, major events were happening so quickly in the social and political landscape of the world that we couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with it all. So, therein lies the groundwork for our next recording . . . ;-)
The four women who remain in the group have worked extraordinarily hard to maintain the spirit, integrity and essence of who Sweet Honey In The Rock® is, not only to the world community, but to ourselves as well. With the retirement of two major icons (Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon and Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell), we realized that in order for this legacy to continue we would need to advance to the new and have continually pressed forward to actualize the next steps. Dr. Reagon has always impressed upon us that no singer can ever be replaced; therefore, the musical nuances of our sound will organically shift and shape around the current configuration of voices. She pushed the boundaries for us so that we could clearly understand that we didn’t have to exist totally as an acappella ensemble (anyone remember “EveningSong” – the 30th anniversary season performed with a full rock band?). Wow! We have embraced that guidance wholeheartedly and are clear that the music and the message are the most important factors of all.
There have been twenty-four women who have graced the Sweet Honey In The Rock® stage, but the herstory begins with four (Bernice, Carol, Louise and Mie), and it seems we have come full circle once again; even with the use of a bass, which one will find on our very first recording. Our recent work with brilliant guest artists Navasha Daya (vocals) and Romeir Antonio Mendez (bass) has been an amazing musical journey. A journey not walked alone, for moving with us is an incredible extended family: Shirley, Art, Dwana, Ramon, Francés, Jeanna & IMN, Don, Sonia and all of our OSU team. I really hope you find something special within this recording to treasure. For me . . . IDK, but I’m LOL!
Looking forward with Love . . . Nitanju
Second Line Blues Official Music Video
IDK But I’m LOL Official Lyric Video
The twenty-four women who have passed through SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK since the group’s formation in 1973 have constantly expanded the power and focus of unaccompanied voices. On the new #LoveInEvolution, coincidentally the 24th album by the Washington, D.C.-based collective, the four “core” vocalists continue to intertwine and experiment with their unique mixture of soul, jazz, blues, spirituals, folk, and African chants.
In establishing their rich and ongoing legacy, the group has toured everywhere from Australia to Zimbabwe, performed at the White House at the request of President and Mrs. Obama, and served as good will ambassadors to Lima, Peru, and Kingston, Jamaica, last year during Black History Month.
The overall theme of the fourteen songs on #LoveInEvolution is hardly concealed. There are exuberant calls to enjoy life’s bright moments amidst its chaos (the group-written single, “IDK, But I’m LOL!”), SWEET HONEY’s celebration of its own longevity (the joyous “Sweet Sweet Honey”), the soothing “This Place Inside Where I Can Rest”). But to confront the urgent, ongoing need for societal and environment peace, the group looks life in the eye on fervent, heartbreaking original compositions such as “Second Hand Blues” and “O, Sankofa,” rollcalls of race-related riots and their victims). The traditional gospel song, “I Don’t Want No Trouble at the River,” dedicated here to the nine murdered victims of a hate crime at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in June 2015, is infused with a poem by the late Dr. Maya Angelou, “When Great Trees Fall,” which reminds us that, after great spirits pass, “we can be, and be better, for they existed.” Marvin Gaye’s landmark 1971 album, What’s Going On, is the source of both “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” and “Wholy Holy,” twin messages of the need for universal consciousness, supplement group member Aisha Kahlil’s “The Living Waters” (“Who killed the . . ?”).
Appropriately, #LoveInEvolution documents a group in constant but harmonious evolution. This CD, their third for Appleseed, is their first as a quartet since founder-member Dr. Ysaye Maria Barnwell retired several years ago, preceded by fellow founder Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, who left in 2004. The two remaining original members are Louise Robinson and Carol Maillard; the relative “newbies” are Aisha Kahlil, who joined in 1981, and her sister, Nitanju Bolade Casel, a member since 1985 who has also produced the group’s recent records. Shirley Childress, an American sign language interpreter, has been performing with the singers since 1981.
As always, Sweet Honey’s members accompany themselves on the CD on hand- and body-percussion. In a carryover from their 2011 tour dates using a jazz trio (and from their very first album), an acoustic and electric bassist, Romeir Mendez who plays throughout the album.