Billie, Bessie, Laura and me…
Don’t worry; I’m not about to imagine myself in the rarefied sphere that embraces those 20th century musical giants :)
However, when I was in my mid-teens and a family friend introduced me to the recordings of jazz legend Billie Holiday, the Lady’s voice and style had an enormous impact on me. Her influence continues to this day.
While Billie held me captive in her little corner of the musical world, the ghost of blues giant Bessie Smith was schooling my friend, Laura Hubert. I hear echoes of Bessie’s commanding, no-nonsense stance in every song that Laura sings – even when she’s whispering about lotus blossoms.
While these two innovators appeared to have little in common with each other in terms of sound and style, Billie and Bessie did share at least one powerful trait. Each, in her own way, “told the truth” with every note, every word, every phrase – or, at least her version of the truth. That’s not as easy as it might sound, but those two made it seem as effortless and natural as breathing.
To my mind, Laura Hubert also tells the plain, unvarnished truth when she sings. I slash and burn my way through a myriad of hitches and hindrances as I reach for that same elusive goal.
When Laura joins me at the Home Smith Bar once again on Thursday, September 26, we will not do a tribute to Holiday and Smith. Still, I know that I will keep my eyes, ears and heart open, hoping to feel a trace of their spirits – perhaps a subtle phantom nod, a sly wink, a sotto voce “Mhmm…”
John Alcorn and Laura Hubert