Sweetbread, the debut CD by CHELLE! and Friends is a tour de force that weaves traditional and contemporary songs into a seamless uplifting blend that transcends musical and ethnic boundaries. From the solid groove of Sea Line Woman featuring guest artists Jacqueline Rago and Donna Viscuso of Wild Mango to the can t-help-but-get-up-and-dance-to title cut, Sweetbread delivers. The hypnotic Come Ye, and the poignant Universal Soldier/America the Beautiful convey a message of peace in our time while gospel songs such as My God is a Rock, How Long? and John the Revelator speak to the faithful. Four Women and Be My Husband deliver a feminine perspective while the a cappella Doncha Hear Your Poor Mother Calling? is presented in full chain gang manner. CHELLE! and Friends is made up of some of the most distinguished and accomplished musicians in the San Francisco Bay Area. CHELLE! and Friends perform music that is vibrant and alive with the driving voices of artistic director and founder MICHELLE JACQUES, along with RHONDA CRANE, JAY LAMONT and BRYAN DYER, all formerly of Street Sounds. DEBBIE FIER on percussion and SAM BEVAN on bass round out the group. With drums, percussion, bass and powerful voices, CHELLE! and Friends delivers musically rich performances of jazz, R&B and spirituals that lift and motivate in a way honoring richness and diversity. Sweetbread is an upbeat and joyous celebration of hope that you ll want to listen to again and again.
In creating this album, New Orleans native Michelle Jacques, along with Rhonda Crane, Bryan Dyer, Jay Lamont, Donna Viscuso, Sam Bevan and Adam Goodhue, took the influences of jazz, funk, soul, Cajun or Creole or gospel, Caribbean, African, Zydeco, the chants and stirring rhythms of Mardi Gras Indians and a few more, and stirred it into this stewpot of musical gumbo that's sweet, spicy, aromatic and definitely intoxicating. Thoroughly original, yet familiar at the same time, Chelle! and Friends combines the talents of four world-class vocalists and top-flight instrumentalists. Any Chelle! and Friends performance live or studio is like Mardi Gras itself joyous, energetic and an unforgettable experience. And this disc is no exception, as it walks through swamp pop classics such as Hey Pocky Way and Wang Dang Doodle before delivering what is perhaps the most amazing version of Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans ever recorded a song that s far more poignant in light of recent events. Then from that depth of emotion, we are lifted up with Fire Water and See You Later Alligator before being thrust into the title track, which emphasizes there ain t no getting out of Voodooville, blended with the infectious rhythms and mystic images that to this day still haunt the Vieux Carre. Despite its name, Pearly Gates is anything but gospel, and concludes the album like a glass of fine cognac after a great meal.