When four talented solo artists come together you might expect tension, but not so with the Blues Broads. These women have such a high sense of mutual respect and rapport with each other and the audience that they produce something special and unique at every show.
Dorothy Morrison, Tracy Nelson, Angela Strehli and Annie Sampson are all successful musicians with healthy solo careers and a long history in blues and gospel, and now they’ve teamed up to bring audiences a rich and deep blues experience.
Morrison co-authored and sang “Oh Happy Day,” which sold 7 million copies internationally. Nelson founded the group Mother Earth. Sampson was a longtime cast member of “Hair,” and performed in the group Stoneground. Strehli has a rich background in blues, and brought all of the women together to form the Blues Broads.
“It sort of grew organically,” Strehli said about forming the group. “You can’t artificially put people together and have it work; it really doesn’t go that way. We’re not some manufactured group that was put together for a pop song.”
She and her husband held annual Fourth of July barbeques at their restaurant, the Nicasio, in Marin County. Sampson and Nelson would come out and they’d all sing together.
Morrison was in the gospel world but Strehli knew she’d be a perfect addition to their sing-a-longs.
“I finally said ‘Dorothy I think if you just came to see us you would see it might be a fun thing to do’,” Strehli said.
Sure enough, when Morrison saw and heard the women together she jumped in and the project became much more serious. That’s when they worked on a CD and a DVD. This was in 2012.
Strehli said the group works because they have such a diverse range of strengths.
“We can sing in different combinations,” Strehli said. “We’re backing each other up in different ways and taking different parts. It’s been a challenge for people who are used to being a lead singer. It’s a wonderful challenge. We’re all sharing the load.”
CapRadio Music’s resident blues expert, Mick Martin, attributes this group’s power to the specific set of talents and gifts each woman brings to the table.
“Tracy Nelson has one of the biggest voices I’ve ever heard,” Martin explained. “The best way to understand Tracy Nelson is to hear what she does. She has almost an operatic range.”
Strehli described Sampson as the engine; Martin said she’s the glue.
“Annie is used to singing with other women… while Tracy Nelson does the arrangements, Annie is the glue,” Martin said. “They each have good voices but Annie holds together a lot of their ensemble work.”
Martin had high praise for the group’s organizer, Strehli.
“To my way of thinking Angela Stehli is one of the best blues singers, period,” he said. “Phrasing in the blues is extremely important, but very few of today’s artists understand that… When she sings the blues I marvel at the power she puts into the lyrics. She doesn’t have to growl, there are no phony aspects to her delivery – it’s honest and moving.”
Martin said the Blues Broads are truly a super-group in every sense of the phrase, and those “don’t come around very often.”
Even with all of that super-talent in one group, Strehli says they all share such a huge amount of respect for each other; there’s not an ounce of diva in the group.
“There’s no competition within our ranks – we’re just thankful for everyone else’s strength,” Strehli said. “We’re entertaining each other.”
Catch the Blues Broads live in Folsom at The Harris Center Saturday at 8 p.m.
The Blues Broads are backed by Steve Ehrmann on bass, Paul Revelli on drums, Gary Vogensen on guitar and Mike Emerson on keyboards. They’ll also be joined Saturday night by special guest Deana Bogart.