Every so often, I trip over a recording, which, once I listen to it, becomes part of me. Bright Blue Light from Delta keyboard player LaLa Craig has been absorbed!
Bright Blue Light
LaLa (Laura) Craig is the amazing keyboard player for the Clarksdale, Mississippi blues band, Super Chikan and the Fighting Cocks. The group performs often at Ground Zero Blues Club, which is known worldwide as the place to go for authentic Delta blues.
For Bright Blue Light, her solo CD, LaLa has written and also sings lead on all the songs.
Typically, when I play a CD for the first time, I pop it in the player without even scanning the liner notes. With this one though, I started reading at track one, “Cry Out In the Dark.” It’s an eerie unsettling tune and I needed to know the backstory.
First thing I noticed was a dedication to “the brilliant legacy of my brother, guitarist/ singer/songwriter, Buddy Craig (1957 – 2008).” Visiting his MySpace page, I learned that the talented country/bluegrass guitarist had taken his own life shortly before LaLa began work on the album.
“While it’s true that when this CD was done, my brother had only been gone less than five months.. and in retrospect perhaps some time to heal might have been in order before undergoing something so soul- wrenching as pouring out your guts and the contents of your entire life for public viewing – I do believe that it happened exactly as it should,” she wrote me. “It’s this sort of rawness and the courage of it that often helps an artist lead others into the deeper levels of feeling that the blues audience appears to seek, if not to downright demand.”
My reaction to this CD can only be described as visceral.It felt like an emotional assault. Craig’s achingly soulful tunes get under your skin before you can even prepare for it, so I asked her to tell me about some of the individual tracks.
“For ‘Cry Out In the Dark,’” the Oceanside, Calif. native told me, “I had the lyrics first; the tune just crept up and outta me one day like – not surprisingly – crying out in the dark — definitely meant to have that bittersweet pathos meets hope kinda feel.”
About the title track she said, “Quite literally, the ‘story of my life’, as it were – how I came to be called to dedicate my life to the blues, and at the relatively late age of 34 to boot. Over a decade later I still consider spirit of music, take my heart.. blue as it is to be one of the most meaningful images to ever strike me.”
One of my favorite tunes on Bright Blue Light is track three, “Friars’ Point Curse,” which LaLa calls “… a great real-life story about the adventures of myself and my tourist friend Joe. Whenever he visited the Delta and I was still a ‘newbie’ here, we’d go cruising and no matter where we sought to end up, seemed like we’d always end up in Friars’ Point! This prompted me to draw the parallel from Friars’ Point to the Crossroads legend … my conclusion? …that every Crossroads in the Delta’s just as hoodoo as the next …. a kind of a fun smokescreen that secretly sneaks a peek at my real-live take on the legend.
“Track four, ‘Delta Wind’ [is] the first song I wrote after visiting the Delta in July of 2000 and moving here a short four months later. Speaks of the feelings evoked by walking late at night – alone – in the town of Clarksdale, feeling the spirits of the old blues greats as palpably as if one could reach out and touch them; as if they were still playing for us all on the street corners and on the porches and in the jukes of this blues-infused Delta town.”
She goes on to say, “I remember reading a Clapton quote, a scaled-down version of which went something like this: the blues audience will devour a faker.
“When attempting to evolve into an artist, way back when when I was 30-something, I found it beneficial to first evolve into a person!
“I’m such a late bloomer, in everything I do. Luckily it’s never too late to bloom.”
This is an album permeated by utter sadness, but punctuated by a joy of living. Well done, baby sister.
Players include Super Chikan, guitar; Heather “PRJ” Crosse, bass; Lee Williams, drums; Paul Nunis, lap steel, mandolin; Walt Busby, guitar, bass; Daddy Rich, g uitar; Jacqueline Nassar, guitar; David Hanks Dunavent, guitar; Torey Todora, backup vocals.