SINGING WITH THE ANCESTORS

I remember the first time I heard Grace sing. It was just grainy video from a smartphone of her doing a rendition of “Amazing Grace”. It might as well have been a dusty old 78.  Right away, you can hear it.  Grace has that thing.  It's what Van Morrison calls the "Hurrrrah".  It's what makes a singer and their voice truly matter.  In an era of obsessive, overused autotune and the sterility we now mistake for perfection, Grace's voice hits you over the head and directly in the chest because it is real.  One understands right away that Grace ain't faking it.  She sings her whole heart out and breaks it until she can’t go on any longer. That's how she exhales every single note.  She has inherited her gift and curse like many soul singers before her from Bessie Smith to Etta James.  It is to carry the burden of being black in America and to sing so directly from that experience.  The rest of us get to sit back and enjoy it.  As Taj Mahal would say, she is “singing with the ancestors.”  Grace Love is singing a thousand songs that she could never have heard before because these tunes were never recorded.  There isn't a million dollars or an apology that can fix that high lonesome feeling. That wailing that is so powerful if you cut it with just enough flour you get country music.  Many great soul records exist because of the racial injustice that pervades this country.  A deep chasm that may never be fixed.  The songs are the saving grace of a broken and unjust culture.

TAKE ME DOWN TO THE WATER

Running Toward It

When I first heard Grace sing live, I remembered something Bono said in a tender moment.  He mentioned the old adage that the blues is running from God and gospel is the sound of someone running towards it.  When Grace Love has her eyes closed and sings with an open soul, she's enveloped in a maelstrom whipped up by the likes of Pops Staples marrying gospel in the key of the blues.  I can see her fighting and tugging away.  We'll most likely lose that game of tug-a-war.  Throughout my life, I've been told so often that "Time heals all wounds" but that's a bunch of crap.
The truth is that good music is some serious old time medicine that can be used to eradicate hate, fear and injustice. With that in mind, Grace Love has some of the most beautiful salve I've ever heard.  Every day new listeners are finding Grace and her music. They may understandably consider Grace a new artist, but overnight ten years coming is an adage that rings so true.  Grace's journey has been a long and winding road to success.  What few people know is Grace's rise in the scene is the fine product of the genius of pairs.  There is an invisible and powerful bond, a unique partnership and an unspoken understanding that makes her band The True Loves tick.  Sometimes destiny offers you a packaged deal in the form of a songwriting partner.  She found that connection in Jimmy James.

LOVE YOU DOWN

THE RIGHT HAND MAN

Jimmy James is a peaceful quiet man in the company of strangers. He is the very opposite of trouble, but when the lights are on and the crowd is ready, he’s got Grace’s back every moment they are on stage. The level of his guardianship as musical partner and friend extends to every note he plays. It is measured in every glance of his watchful eye and his alert mind patrols the rhythm section and each breath of the horn players. He is a super computer with a soul, cross referencing thousands of vintage recordings simultaneously as he commands his bandmates through space and time. He  reminds me of a ship captain blasting orders with just a side glance and raise of an eyebrow over a bulging eye. Musically they always touch and the universe bends around them and when Grace sings you can feel the static brush against your skin.

That Is Soul Music. 

This complimentary dynamic translates smoothly for the both of them during the songwriting process as well.  There’s a genius that happens on a higher level when two people sit down to write.  "It's the joy of finding someone that can run in the same lane with you and keep up that speed...writing with Grace, you can sit there with her and you can play something on acoustic guitar, and I'll be messing with it, she gets the feel, and those lyrics just start popping out."  Jimmy says. "It's a god given talent...to me she's a genius. I don't know if she knows that yet, but she is.  It's made me better.”

LET ME BE

FEED EVERYBODY

They two of them have become a soul music machine with just the right mixture of sugar and what Tina Turner would call ‘Grease’.  With the full band  the two of them have assembled a complete, polished and hard-hitting classic soul ensemble.  “This band in the course of an hour, we can pop out 5 songs.”  Jimmy declares. “With these guys, there is a sound.  I appreciate that.  That's all I care about.  It's not how many notes you hit.  It's not about trying to invent something new.  It's playing like my favorite musicians playing what they felt, and that is the new sound.  If it's not organic, if it's not natural then what is it?  "Waiting for a moment  to see if an answer would arise, he then goes on "We are  all blues players.  The minute we disconnect from the blues, it stops making sense.  Personally, I don't play nothing I don't feel.  The very same note can comprise so many emotions depending on how you approach it.”  He pauses for a moment and then crystalizes his thought.  "I only play the notes that I really feel."  That right there is one of the world's best kept secrets to playing soul music.  “I want to make music that doesn't just entertain, but makes you feel good and makes you think.  I want them to feel like they want to take it home with them.  This is  soul food.  You want them to come to the show and send them home full and satisfied.  You don't want anyone to leave hungry."

 BY  DAVIN STEDMAN
PHOTO BY  SUNNY MARTINI