When you encounter beauty, when you experience art, you know it. When my San Francisco jazz friend Barb Hauser visited New York for Christmas of 2004-5, she brought me the disc you see above. She had been at some of the recording sessions and thought I would like the music. Barb was only slightly incorrect in this: I loved the music. I was then writing reviews for The Mississippi Rag and I believe I asked Leslie Johnson if I could review this.
Hearing Melissa Collard sing was a seriously life-enhancing experience. Melissa has an easy rock to her rhythm, where nothing is forced. She doesn’t copy the records; her singing isn’t a series of learned gestures strung together, plastic beads on a string. She doesn’t imitate anyone; her warm voice embraces the song and the listener. She makes it sound easy, and we know that can’t be true.
Here’s a sample:
Hear what I mean? Clear diction, an easy glide, and her second chorus is not a clone of her first: she respects the song but she improvises . . . offering light and shade while swinging. The instrumentalists on this disc don’t do anyone any harm, either: Dan Barrett, Ray Skjelbred, Steven Strauss, Eddie Erickson, Richard Hadlock, Fiddle Ray Landsberg, Bobby Black, Bob Wilson, Bob Mielke, Bill Bardin (a collective personnel).
Let’s have another right away (with Eddie on banjo and the trombone choir of Barrett, Bardin, and Mielke, with a cornet-banjo duet in the middle for Dan and Eddie):
And one more (why not?) — with banter for Eddie and Melissa:
Now, the good news. These three tracks are taken from Melissa’s debut CD, which contains eleven more delights. The bad news is that the CD is seriously out of print — you’ll have to hunt for it — but it is one of the great delights of my listening experience.
A few years ago I came to Sacramento, where Melissa lives, and found her to be a truly endearing person — always reassuring when the art and the creator line up in the same pleasing ways. She did not ask me to write this post, but I thought that everyone should hear one of my favorite singers.
And in 2010, Melissa created another CD — this one’s available — for the Audiophile label, called IN A MELLOW TONE. Her accompanists there were Chris Dawson, Hal Smith, Richard Simon, and Bryan Shaw.
Here’s her gorgeously poignant reading of LOVE LOCKED OUT with Chris Dawson:
Here is Melissa’s Facebook page for those so inclined. (I am.)
Now, I think — in my ideal world — I could walk over to my shelf of Melissa Collard CDs (issued and distributed by a major record label), I could turn on her weekly radio program, come to her concerts . . . and then I take a long drink of ice water and remind myself of the actual time and place I live in. That we have two CDs by Melissa is marvelous, and that she is alive and well (and teaching guitar) equally so. But I don’t think it’s unbalanced of me to think, WHY CAN’T WE DO THIS MORE OFTEN?
May your happiness increase!