Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 10, 2013

Sweet Honey In The Rock

UMass Fine Arts Center, Amherst, MA
November 8, 2013
by Eric Sutter

The female African American acapella group Sweet Honey In The Rock sang a spectacular set with a live jazz trio that they dubbed the Honey Men. The men, Parker McAllister on bass, Jovol Bell on drums/percussion and Stacey Wade on piano/keyboard served as a tasty jazzy side dish to the soulful main course female harmonies.

This was a celebration tribute to four out-spoken musical icons: Nina Simone, Odetta, Miriam Makeba and Abbey Lincoln. The evening featured unique African music as in Makeba's South African chant, "Shuka, Shuka (Choo Choo Song)" which sounded like a steam engine. Female harmony and hand claps supplemented Odetta's, "I Can't Afford To Lose My Man." A beautifully sung solo vocal by N. B. Casel on Simone's "If I Should Lose You" was matched by Stacey Wade's earnest piano solo. Aisha Kahlil interpreted Simone's "Feelin' Good" with sign interpreter Shirley Childress doing an outstanding job. Louise Robinson highlighted "Trouble In Mind" with the sweet added Honey Men refrain, "She's Got Trouble In Mind." "Pata Pata" solicited lively audience dance participation that revved up the fun factor.

The next theme focused on the Civil Rights movement. Kudos to sound director Art Steele for his creative talents as the girls sang "Oh Freedom," "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me 'Round," "I'm On My Way To Freedom Land", and "Glory, Glory Hallelujah." The Abbey Lincoln tribute included "Down Here Below," "The Music Is The Magic" and a spirited "I'm In Love." Robinson rocked Odetta's mind-blowing "God's Gonna Cut You Down" with a powerful message.

The performance seemed to flow with music that touched all aspects of life. A jazzy rendition of "Let There Be Peace On Earth" was silky smooth. Sweet Honey closed with a sultry West African Makeba song, "My Love Has Come" which showcased an infectious keyboard solo. The encore, "N' diarabi/Africa Is Where My Heart Lies" was a hand percussion soother with colorful imagery of African skies, valleys, and mountains.