I met Irene Baker seven years ago at a family gathering. She is aunt to the eldest of Eva’s four offspring. As she and I became acquainted, she told me of an upcoming concert at Sofia Church where she was to sing in one of the two choral groups which were jointly performing Sergey Rachmaninoff’s “All Night Vigil.” I wrote about the experience here.
The years unrolled; she and I were in touch here and there, mainly through Facebook. I learned that she is deeply rooted in the classical forms of music, plays various instruments, especially piano, and that she teaches music and the English and French languages. Further, she’s a poet and writer of stories. And, of course, a singer.
Imagine my surprise when recently she publicly announced she and a musical colleague had made a pilgrimage to the southern portion of the USA to experience the roots of the music we know as blues, and other indigenous musical forms. Inspired by her experiences, she wrote original music and lyrics to commemorate and honor the music and musicians of the present and past in this region.
Then she and Red Mike got it together to take their guitars and her voice on a traveling show around Stockholm and other venues. I went to see them at Bluesbaren (The Blues Bar) on September 10. On the walls of the small bar are large photographs of blues legends, including (the largest photo) B.B. King. (I had met Mr. King in the 1960s. I was in Reno for a bit of modest gambling with some friends, and found myself standing behind him in the Keno line. I shook his hand and told him of my admiration for his music. He was then performing at this hotel/casino).
Each item on the menu at Bluesbaren has attached to it the name of American or Swedish blues artists: Howlin’ Wolf, R. L. Burnside, Albert King, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, Nina Simone (I saw her perform in San Francisco around fifty-five years ago), Joe Bonamassa, Rolf Wikström, Big Mama Thornton, Beth Hart, Beverly Watkins.
I had arrived to the bar around a half-hour before the announced time of Irene’s appearance in order to get a good seat—right in front.
Irene soon arrived and we hugged a greeting. “Red” Mike arrived a bit later, and they set up their instruments and fiddled with the sound system to get everything just right—no hurry, relaxed like in the Southern USA.
The music was new, yet it was familiar. Each song evoked memories of music I have heard throughout my life. Red Mike’s expert guitar licks backed up Irene’s basic guitar strokes and her wonderful voice. Irene’s classical training in voice was evident in what I call the ‘trueness’ of her singing—always meeting the needs of the music and the listener’s ear.
I relaxed into the performance. A few songs in, Irene went into a falsetto ‘cadenza,’ as I call it. It was the blues, for sure.
To talk about music is completely inadequate—one can only encourage others to listen and decide for themselves. So, go listen here: Irene Jane Baker’s Soundcloud.
These are the songs I heard at Bluesbaren (note that one has a link to a performance on Youtube):
|The State you Put me in
Beale Street Blues
My Juke Joint Song
There is Only You (A Tribute to Elvis)
|Nashville Skyline River Crest
Riverside Hotel Country Song
Walkin’ out that Door
Call and Response/Lemonhead
Doc from Zagreb
Currently scheduled performances:
Look for a performance of ‘Lone Star Blues’ with Irene Jane Baker and ‘Red’ Mike Eriksson in your neighborhood.