Hipbone Records BFR-102
12 songs — 63 minutes
Brooklyn-born Alexis P. Suter possesses one of the deepest, most powerful voices in the entire world of music, and her bass/baritone delivery is familiar to blues fans far and wide, but this album casts her in a light than most concert goers never get to see.
A deeply religious person whose first training as a vocalist came in church and gospel choirs, she’s an anachronism in the music world. Unlike many of her peers from the South who were forced to choose between their religion and their love for what some folks perceive as the Devil’s music, Alexis keeps her feet planted firmly in both worlds despite being a multiple Blues Music and Blues Blast Music Awards nominee.
Recorded on a Sunday at the 2016 Briggs Farm Blues Festival in Nescopeck, Pa., this album marks the recording debut of her band, Ministers Of Sound, as she delivers a deeply emotional, non-denominational message of faith to an eager, enthusiastic crowd. Suter founded the group, which works under the acronym AMOS, in 2013 to perform what she terms “roots music of inspiration and love.”
Despite the name, however, the AMOS lineup is identical to Alexis’ regular ensemble. Anchored by Dave Keyes, one of the most in-demand keyboard players in the New York metropolitan area and a star in his own right, it features Chris Bergson on guitar, Ray Grappone on drums, Tony Tito on bass and Vicki Bell on backing vocals. As an added treat on this one, Blues Music Award winner Victor Wainwright contributes his voice on one cut.
The action begins with a version of the Sister Rosetta Tharpe classic “Didn’t It Rain.” Alexis’ powerful voice sets the stage with the audience becoming more animated as the spirit moves them with each succeeding cut. Written by Suter and Bell, “Them Days” — about overcoming oppression — follows and leads perfectly into “Faith, Grace, Love, Forgiveness,” which features the vocals of Keyes, who wrote it.
Another Suter/Bell composition, “Love” picks up the tempo as it delivers the message that we all have to get along and help each other in a loving manner. A take on Leon Russell’s “Song For You” follows and features Wainwright, who shares vocals with Alexis, before a cover of the ballad, “Piece Of Clay.” Made popular by Marvin Gaye, it deals with the struggle for self-identity, while another original, “Free” — inspired by Levon Helm — gives Suter space to stretch out vocally.
The Bergson-penned “Goin’ Home” — about being ready for a heavenly reward — precedes a cover of the Sam Cooke standard, “A Change Is Gonna Come” before a version of the traditional spiritual, “When I Rose This Morning.” Another gospel classic, “Wade In The Water” — first published by the New Jubilee Singers in 1901 — follows before a version of John Lennon’s “Let It Be” concludes the set.
The music here is perfect for folks of all faiths. Filled with universal messages throughout, it never targets folks of one religion despite Alexis’ deep Christian faith. Available through Amazon, iTunes and other retailers, it’s powerful, inspiring and will strike a chord with believers everywhere.