Karrin Allyson Goes Shoulder to Shoulder


Vocalist Karrin (pron. kah-rin) Allyson clearly has a good ear for thematic recordings.  And that’s a perception I don’t make casually, based in large part on her splendid 2001 project Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane (Concord ’01).  On that particular record she re-cast Trane’s Impulse! Records classic Ballads album vocally, including releasing those songs in the same order John and producer Bob Thiele followed for the master’s classic exploration of a tender portion of the Great American Songbook.

For her latest project, Ms. Allyson, whose voice bears a very pleasing Midwestern sensibility from her Kansas roots, working closely with producer-conceptualist Kabir Sehgal, has chosen to go deep in a vivid color pallet of our ongoing social justice concerns – women’ suffrage, a platform originally based on the right of women to vote in elections, which has in an omnibus manner also come to embrace ongoing women’s rights & social justice pursuits.  In the artist and her producer-conceptualist’s response to gender justice issues, Karrin’s current Shoulder to Shoulder album celebrates historic women’s suffrage and justice acts & efforts, and the ongoing need for women and allies to remain firm and stand tall together because the gender justice work of our world never ends.

Notably this project includes powerful spoken word passages, like Sojourner Truth’s vividly memorable 1851 speech, which as producer Kabir Sehgal’s liner notes assert: “…spotlights one of the great oversights and misgivings of the women’s suffrage movement.  It was largely about the societal advancement for white women.”  To deliver Sojourner Truth’s speech, Karrin engages the distinctive voice of Lalah Hathaway.  Frederick Douglass’ 1888 wisdom is recalled on the record by Harry Belafonte, while Julie Swidler honors suffragette Alice Paul’s 1921 commentary.

Musically Allyson works with an imposing cast of guest contributors, including Regina Carter, Rosanne Cash, Kurt Elling and additional guests, including the fast-emerging young singer Veronica Swift, whose mere participation is applause for Karrin’s selflessness (it’s not often that an established vocalist welcomes such a newcomer onto their album).  Core musicians include saxophonist Mindi Abair, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, pianist Helen Sung, bassist Endea Owens, and the crafty drummer Allison Miller.  Clearly some questions about this brilliant project were in order for Karrin Allyson.

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