Lady Blackbird sings the blues at The Stissing Center

by Kevin T McEneaney

Saturday night at The Stissing Center featured an upcoming blues star Lady Blackbird, aka Marley Munroe (b. 18 January 1985), who has worked principally in England (born in New Mexico). At the Jazz FM Awards, Lady Blackbird won 2022 International Jazz Act of the Year.

This was the first concert of the year at The Stissing Center, as well as her first concert of the year, due to the fact that for the last six months she has been working on a new second album. Black Acid Soul (2022), her first album, was a significant success in the soul-jazz genre with Epic records. Epic wanted her to move to R&B, which was a direction she did not want to pursue, so she declined to work with Epic; she has moved to Los Angeles.

Executive Director and Emcee Brett Bernardini gave her warm welcome, saying that hearing her rehearsal in the afternoon made him think that she could sing anything, including the telephone book and he would be delighted to listen.

She opened with a Billy Holiday 1946 classic, “In my solitude,” with her register plunging the despairing lower depths of this well-known short, meditative song that few ever attempt to cover due to its plangent intimacy, which she delivered with well-paced, sultry feeling.

She sang mostly new songs she had written with her accompanist Chris on bass guitar or piano. “Matter of time” was an excellent western ballad with good lyrics and catchy rhythm, yet off her soulful brand. “No one can love me like you do” has soulful resonance with the potential of being a major hit-song. Her voice is downright sincere with a convincing touch of spontaneous improvisation without affectation. That spontaneity in transition talk communicated the feeling of a Happening or a hometown casual party with amusing, audience-engaging, off-hand, stream-of-consciousness rap-chatter.

Performing a cover of Nina Simone’s famous “Blackbird” with slightly revised lyrics displayed not only her ambition but the level of her talent. This version was somewhat close to Tina Turner’s acoustic guitar version. “I told you” lilted so soulfully that it was hypnotic; I was lost in the mood and shocked that the song was over.

“You really have a hold on me” by Smokey Robinson provided a wonderfully new, more intimate interpretation of the lyrics. “Woman” enjoyed good lyrics about women’s empowerment without snubbing men. She is at her very best with intimate, soulful lyrics that emanate naturally from heart and voice.

As a season opener, this concert was a delightful omen for this year’s venue. They have published an elegant thirty-page magazine of this year’s events at The Stissing Center.

Kevin T McEneaney

Author of Hunter S. Thompson: Fear, Loathing, and the Birth of Gonzo, and other books