Sista Monica says the blues can’t help but support a healing process for people


By Steve Newton

Some music writers are quite skilled at describing certain artists by pointing to the attributes of others. Take Mac MacDonald of the Monterey Herald, for instance, who penned this stylistic sketch of California blues vocalist Monica Parker, aka Sista Monica: “She has the soul of Aretha Franklin, the vocal power of Etta James, the gospel roots of Mavis Staples, the sass of Koko Taylor, and the fun-loving spirit of Katie Webster.” MacDonald’s portrayal is right-on, because Sista Monica’s intense singing style bears all those traits—and more.

“In addition to them I would say Tina Turner is one of my biggest influences,” notes Parker, over the phone from Santa Cruz. “I kinda like the rock ’n’ roll side of blues, the high-impact, in-your-face type. I mean, I know how to settle it down and do a slow blues ballad and go for the heart, but I also like to get the blood pumpin’, you know what I’m sayin’?”

Parker’s high-energy approach to music is evident on her latest CD, Sista Monica Live in Europe, which was recorded in front of 16,000 blues lovers at the Belgian Rhythm & Blues Festival.

“It has a lot of audience participation,” she says, “and that’s pretty much what I do—I like to connect with the audience. The distinction between me and some other blues artists is that I interact and have fun and get the people up and dancin’ and clappin’ and singin’ along with me. People really have a good workout when they come out and enjoy my show.”

The Chicago-born, Indiana-raised crooner brings her spirited self to the Yale on Wednesday (October 10), accompanied by keyboardist and cowriter Danny B., guitarist Chris Cobb, tenor saxophonist Noel Catura, bassist Artis Joyce, and drummer Lee Neal (“He’s from the Al Jarreau/George Duke side of things”). In light of the recent terrorist-wrought carnage in her country, Parker thinks it’s a particularly apt time for people to immerse themselves in the kind of music she makes.

“I think blues—along with gospel—is very true music,” she relates, “so it can’t help but support a healing process for people. I enjoy the blues because it helps me to heal from, you know, lost love, and lost hope sometimes. And I think other people feel the same way when they hear the blues. It’s not to make you sad, it’s to help you reflect upon life’s situations, and then to move on from them.”

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