Alexis P. Suter Band – Be Love
Hipbone Records HBB-084
12 songs – 48 minutes
Possessing one of the deepest female voices in the recording industry, Alexis P. Suter is a powerhouse whose musical journey mixes blues, gospel, R&B and rock, delivering large doses of positivity in the process. This one takes a little darker turn, however, as some of the subject matter reflects problems of modern times.
A Brooklyn native who grew up in the church, she rose to prominence at the late Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble concerts in Woodstock, N.Y. Won over by her distinctive baritone/bass pipes and endearing nature, Helm invited her to serve as his opening act, a task Alexis performed more than 100 times.
A multiple Blues Music Awards and Blues Blast Music Awards nominee, Suter made her recording debut in 2005 with Shuga Fix. This is the ninth release in her catalog, including Live From Briggs Farm Blues Festival, a gospel performance that was released under the name AMOS – and acronym for Alexis’ Ministers Of Sound.
Her core band here consists of co-producers Michael Louis (guitars), Ray Grappone (percussion) and Vicki Bell (backing vocals). They’re augmented by Brandon Morrison on bass, Will Bryant and Daniel A. Weiss on keys, Lee Falco on percussion and Steve Jankowski and Doug DeHays on horns. Alexis’ 96-year-old mom, Mother Carrie Suter, delivers the vocals on the final cut.
With the exception of two covers, all of the material here was penned by the Suter band in differing configurations. “Empty Promises” — a dynamic urban shuffle that takes you to church, too — finds Alexis laying with her head on a pillow and staring at the wall, unwilling to deal with any more pain as she reflects on a relationship that she now realizes was devoid of romance. But the pain passes quickly. “Lips, Hips And Fingertips,” an R&B ballad, finds Suter ready, willing and able for love once again.
The pace quicks dramatically for “Little Back Rider,” another song of desire featuring Louis on slide, before the unhurried blues, “I Don’t See You Anymore,” offers up the sweet complaint that the singer and her man have to slow down in a life moving way too fast. The band gets funky for “Sway,” which will get you dancing, then slows down in a heartbeat for “Dog Eat Dog World,” which gives Alexis to stretch her pipes as she pleads for phone calls and words of kindness.
The title tune, “Be Love,” is up next, exploding out of the box, a powerful urban blues that urges for compassion in a world of chaos with Alexis stating firmly that her arms will always be open and that she’ll never turn her back. The soulful ballad “(You Make It) So Hard” turns down the heat and slows the tempo as it continues the message forward in the midst of a distressed relationship.
Suter dips into Odetta’s catalog for “Hit Or Miss,” reinterpreting it atop a funk arrangement before the pain returns for the straight-ahead “Sick And Tired Blues,” which is chockful of familiar imagery and flows directly into the ballad “Go,” which attempts to send a lover who’s become icy on his way. The final number, “I Just Got Off That Devil’s Train,” brightens the mood. A gospel number that was a personal favorite of disgraced evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, it’s sung by Mother Carrie with a jazzy ‘40s and ends the disc on a positive note.
Thoroughly interesting throughout, Be Love is especially appealing for folks with contemporary tastes. Alexis Suter has a distinctive voice for the ages. If you haven’t heard her yet, check this out. It’s available through most major retailers.