With a focus on Black American Music, as born and developed in fields, churches and social gatherings, Hold On
relies heavily on the strength of roots. But these interpretations address branches as well, drawing from the toughness of solid earth while extending above and beyond. Vocalist Chanda Rule
expresses and sees to that understanding between origins and original performance(s) on this arresting collection of material largely focusing on music birthed by unnamed and unknown African-Americans who often toiled in extreme circumstances and faced down the intolerable plights perpetrated on their race.
Working with the Sweet Emma Band, thus named to honor famed New Orleans pianist "Sweet Emma" Barrett, Rule stands tall while nodding to her musical ancestors and connecting cultures and styles. "Another Man Done Gone," with guest Billy Branch
's harmonica and Avirbhav Verma's tabla joining in on a trance-inducing groove that parts for a spoken word eye-opener, brings Eastern touches and Western ideals into the same sphere. Albert E. Brumley's "I'll Fly Away" takes on a shuffling gait and adopts a sunny harmonic mien. "Rosalie," a tale of man and woman drenched by the humidity in Rule's vocals, gives tenor saxophonist Osian Roberts
and trumpeter Mario Rom
some room to blow funky. And "Sun Goes Down," warped and winning to its end, rides a post-modern R&B line.
Church comes calling at the album's midpoint and end, with Jan Korinek's Lord's-day organ introducing the bluesy gospel of "Motherless Chile," complete with an earthy horn escapade for Roberts plus the mute-enhanced combo of Rom and trombonist Paul Zauner
, and the prayerful delivery of Duke Ellington
's "Come Sunday," asking for God's benevolence while serving as a closing orison. Between those points, Rule and the Sweet Emma Band branch out even further, digging ever deeper into history through song. "Carry It Home To Rosie" blends direct vocals, West African underpinnings (courtesy of drummer-percussionist Christian Salfellner
), eerie long tones and an earthy horn skirmish into one absorbing whole; the title track dials the tempo way down without losing a hint of intensity, thanks to Rule's rule; and "Sinnerman," with its tight horn lines, bouncing groove and Nina Simone
associations, brings poignancy and energy with its run. Creating their own Great Migration with Hold On
, Chanda Rule and the Sweet Emma Band map out an odyssey moving through Black America's sound, promise and pride.
Another Man Done Gone; I'll Fly Away; Rosalie; Sun Goes Down; Motherless Chile; Carry It Home To
Rosie; Hold On; Sinnerman; Come Sunday.