Kally Price is a fully realized singer, not for the timid, someone hard to ignore. She doesn’t create background music.
Price has a controlled emotional power than is remarkable. It’s not overacting or “dramatic.” Rather, she has an impassioned definiteness that comes from within; it’s not something she learned how to do in acting school. She doesn’t shout or rant, but it’s clear she is not going to let anything get in her way when she’s delivering the messages contained in a song.
I had not heard of her before our California trip, but many people told me about her. They went out of their way to let me know she wasn’t formulaic or ordinary.
I knew IF I HAD A RIBBON BOW from Maxine Sullivan’s wistful 1937 version, and it had always struck me as poignantly girlish: if I had a ribbon bow, then Prince Charming would come and find me. The singer of this folk song had not been able to learn much about assertiveness training, had never heard of Friedan or Steinem, so the song struck notes of wishing rather than action. Kally Price’s rendering is powerful, and you imagine her both singing the song (she is faithful to it) and examining it at arm’s length: pity this poor girl in what I imagine is her best frock, waiting for someone to come and love her, much like one of Toni Morrison’s doomed little girls in THE BLUEST EYE. Kally performs the song with fidelity but is also able to suggest her frustration at being confined to the constricting world of such narrow hopes and aspirations.
If my deconstructing of this text doesn’t appeal to you, sit back from your computer and witness a forceful performance by a musical actress with great skill and undeniable passion. Her accompanists are Leon Oakley, cornet; Craig Ventresco, guitar; Rob Reich (at the piano instead of the accordion), and Ari Munkres on string bass. This performance was recorded at San Francisco’s Red Poppy Art House in May 2010, just before Kally recorded her second CD as a leader:
She’s someone serious — not to be taken lightly!
The other performance from the Red Poppy is a fascinating merging of an a cappella I WANT TO LIVE and Price’s reimagining of RHYTHM — not the Gershwins’ classic but the 1933 Spirits of Rhythm perpetual-motion machine. Again, whether she’s creating a ferocious soliloquy or she’s swinging deeply, Kally Price is someone to take notice of:
I’m making room on my shelves — between Bent Persson and Sammy Price — for Kally Price’s CD . . . coming soon to you from Porto Franco Records.