Chanda Rule + Sweet Emma Band – Hold On
(PAO Records. CD review by Lavender Sutton)
Chanda Rule + Sweet Emma Band have put together a collection of songs from the African-American tradition of spirituals. Often originally written by anonymous preachers, prisoners or workers, these songs have been passed down through generations and hold deep meaning and messages of positivity, optimism and strength.
Rule brings honour to these songs, originating from Chicago and coming from a background of gospel music. In the liners, she says: “The bluesy gospel hymns of my grandmothers, moans born in fields and rhythms that still hover above the Atlantic Ocean have worked my dreams as long as I can remember.”
While respecting this tradition, the songs are also treated in an entirely new and fresh manner, both musically and lyrically with Rule remarking she made some updates to the lyrics to make sure the words stay relevant for our current world. The international band – from the USA, the UK, Austria and Czech Republic – each bring their own musical traditions and styles with them, resulting in unconventional, modern arrangements of songs that are usually left untouched. Track two is the well-known I’ll Fly Away, made popular in country music by Alan Jackson and also well known in the folk world as an Alison Krauss classic. This version is compelling and distinctive; it almost sounds like a new song entirely.
In Sun Goes Down and Carry It Home To Rosie, Christian Salfellner uses some refreshing percussion instruments. The horn section, featuring Osian Roberts on tenor sax, Paul Zauner on trombone and Mario Rom on trumpet, stands out in these tracks adding some harmonised fills and solos that bring what could be considered old chestnuts into the modern jazz realm.
In Motherless Chile and Hold On, the stylings of Jan Kořínek on the Hammond B3 transport the listener intrinsically into classic New Orleans for a heaping helping of the blues, featuring Rom’s super-swingin’ trumpet solo complete with plunger mute. Rule’s voice fits effortlessly into these orthodox arrangements.
Sinnerman takes a famous rendition by Nina Simone and funks it up a bit, still holding on to the power and drive the song is known for while allowing the horn section to show off their bebop chops.
The album closes with Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday from his Sacred Music Concerts. It acts as a prayer – a calling to anyone listening that we might still need to reach out to the spiritual powers that be when we’re in times of trouble. It is certainly still relevant, and if you need a boost, I recommend putting this on the hi-fi.
LINK: Buy the album