Writings, Essays, Lyrics, Musings, Commentary . . .

Article #31: Blue Mama Black Son

BLUE MAMA BLACK SON I am so very full. So very proud. This month, July, 2006, we completed a new CD. The "we" is my immediate family. The concept for this CD was spawned by my partner, Suzanne Moe. The songs were all written by me. All the instrumentation (except for guitar over dubs on 3 songs) were programmed by my son, Juno Pitchford. And all the vocals were mine.

We call this mother-son duo: Blue Mama Black Son -- so named because I dwell in the blues world and Juno often dwells in darkness. We call the CD "Blues Gone Black" -- so named because my songs are traditional blues, but Juno's instrumentation is often dark, sometimes black.

Yes, Suzanne thought of the idea to combine the two genres, but what triggered the idea -- what planted the seed?

Rewind to 1992. That was a difficult year. I had two primary cancers.
My Mom had relocated to a senior living complex. Suzanne and I were trying to start a life together. Juno was trying to make it in the hip-hop world.
Saffire had a change of personnel. We had some triumphs and quite a few disappointments.

However, for Christmas that year, Juno gave me a tape. A tape he'd created. Earlier in '92, Saffire had released BroadCasting. On it was a song I'd written for myself, "Miz Thang." It was a song to conjure up some of that Miz Thang at-ti-tude -- an invincible strength -- to fight cancer ("I hissed at all the red snakes, I bathed them in the light, I overcame my fear, I overcame my fright. . ."). Juno took this song and re-recorded it in two hip-hop versions.

That tape gave both Suzanne and I great understanding of Juno. For the first time, we saw/heard the breadth of his programming talent. For the first time, we knew that he knew of the depth of that song -- the depth of our struggle around my illness.

Of course, we went in the studio and recorded fresh vocal tracks over his productions. We never did anything with them. They sit untouched on a DAT (digital audio tape) . (We wanted to include one version as a bonus track on "Blues Gone Black," but the present day studio didn't even have a DAT player handy.) BUT, the seeds were planted.

As it happened, my son never got that elusive hip-hop contract. Sorely disillusioned, he gave up music for several years. Then in 2000, the muse returned. He began work on a solo CD, but his music had grown and had changed immensely. It was darker, more industrial sounding, more layered -- more complex.

This CD contained a song I'd written, "Learn to Settle for Less." It was absolutely amazing what he'd done to/with my song. I couldn't help but be thrilled that my son would want to record my song on his CD. I felt so honored. And. . . I liked it. Actually, I loved it!

Several months later, Suzanne and I were driving to Norfolk when she had an epiphany: "Why don't you and Juno perform several of your songs in this style? Why not call yourselves "Blue Mama Black Son?" Sounded like a wonderful idea to me. We ran it pass Juno and he was ready.

In 2001, we started performing together. Our repertoire and our fans grew. We recorded a demo in 2002 and we ready to do more marketing. BUT, at this time, Juno was thinking of moving to Arizona -- even started sending out resumes. Needless to say, it was time to put BMBS on the shelf.

Our songs sat there until Spring of this year, 2006. Some friends who had heard us perform 4 years ago got in touch. They said they really remembered our performance and our songs and wanted to know if we had recorded anything. Suzanne dusted off some demos and found a few other tunes. As she burned a CD for them, we listened and thought, "they sound really good. . . they still sound great."

Not being able to pass up worthy projects, we contacted Juno. (No, he didn't move to Arizona, but now lives in Northern Virginia.) He was ready to put some finishing touches to what we already had and also create a few new tracks. And, voila!, "Blues Gone Black" became a reality. Suzanne's photo and art work finalized the project.

We think it's great! But, of course, we are prejudiced. Blues purists might hate it -- it's really synthetic. Goth/Industrial purists might hate it -- the songs are still blues with a decidedly feminist slant. However, as a friend wrote me last week: "CREATIVITY REQUIRES COURAGE." This work is indeed courageous! It's new. It's different. It's provocative.

Aside from the music itself, can you imagine what a blessing it is to create with your child and your partner? As Gibran said, "work is love made visible." In this case, "work is love made audible."

360ยบ! Hallelujah!!

Visit my Recordings page to hear sound clips and my Shop page to order Blues Gone Black.