“It’s talking about life. It’s not talking about line dancing or doing some kind of crazy dance or something about that. It’s talking about what grown folks do. In order to relate to it you have to be grown. In most instances it’s the reason to that”
”There are some more youthful folks listening to southern soul. You find them in Mississippi in their 20’s or so forth. It’s depending on what region you looking at. In the Delta and Mississippi they have more exposure to blues. That’s their kind of music. That’s what they love listening to”
The answer came to a question I asked, as there seems to be no teenage artists in Southern Soul. Sweet Angel herself was 43 when she in 2007 with her very first recording, self-release ”Another Man’s Meat On My Plate”, attracted wide spread and justified attention. Until then she had not had any thought at all to enter the music business, but was satisfied with her work as an insurance agent. However she is no novice. Sweet Angel was a lively young child and her mother gave her a clarinet to keep her busy. In school she started with the xylophone, then went over to the clarinet and continued with the saxophone, which became her main instrument
”The first time I saw a saxophone, it glistened like gold, I wanted to have one”
In ninth grade she started in a jazz band and also played in parades. After school, she played mainly in church until the breakthrough came.
“Never having the fight in me to be there out in front, not even the desire at that time. Most folks will be discovered, some people know in their heart – hey I’m a singer, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that. I never really thought about getting involved in the band or anything once I became an adult. I let that idea go in something I could make a living of. But I continued to play sax in my church and so forth. But when I met my husband we kicked it off by starting of the karaoke thing and all of that. That’s the only time I really felt that I maybe do something with this”
Sweet Angel and her husband Mac ’Mike’ Dobbins had a small local juke joint for a maximum of 150 people, Mike’s Place, in Memphis. Every Thursday they had karaoke night. Sweet Angel was the hostess and also the DJ.
“I started in most times the karaoke as everybody was not quite warmed up to get that microphone. I would be the first one to start to singing. My husband watched me: ”wait – I think I have a singer in my hand, I will take you to a studio.”
Sweet Angel protested, saying that she was not a singer, but to no avail. The first album was recorded at the Ecko studio. When Sweet Angel started touring they sold the Mike’s Place, because they could no longer manage club as they wanted.
Many songs have a self-perceived character and I wonder of course if they are self experienced.
“Sometimes I when I was not in the recording industry, I used to wonder if the experiences of the singer were actually true. And now of course I come to find out not, because I do sing a lot of things, I sing about life, other people’s experiences mostly. And a rare occasion that is all about me. Clean up my act, rarely does any of it talk about me”
Mike and Sweet Angel are writing songs together. Mike is very good about coming up with ideas. Together they then form the song; the tail end of it, the hook of the change and then putting in the meat and the potatoes.
The difference between the Southern soul and the ard R & B, Sweet Angel says, is that Southern soul is storytelling, it tells a story from beginning to end, while the R & B, most of the time making a statement about something, which is then repeated several times during the song. In Southern soul, you need to say how it all begins and how it then ends, the whole story.
The difference between soul and blues, she said then with a laugh, is the guitar. But she also says that the music reached a point where it is difficult to distinguish one from another. She has herself hard to describe what she sings, because her music is played in such different types of radio stations. She says that the blues and gospel are closest to her heart, it was played already in her home while growing up and therefore they played a great role for her. But she likes many different styles, she says:
“Of course being in a band, you will play from rock to jazz, R&B, soul, – everything, all types of music. Even when it came waltzes, all kind of music. You just did experience a little bit of everything”
The songs that gave her the big break and which drew attention to her were the blues songs I Must Be Crazy and Another Man’s Meat On My Plate from her first record. Her favorites are also blues artists such as Denise Lasalle, B.B. King, Albert King, ZZ Hill and Shirley Brown, today as well as in her youth. But she also listens a lot to herself, both the earlier discs, and the new:
“Most of my time is spent listening to recordings both past and my most recent recording getting familiar with myself so to speak. I like to not only sing that song but to project that song too when I do a live performance.
I’m not a teenager anymore, I’m a woman that has been around and seen a lot of things. Even if a song doesn’t touch me personally sometimes, I know of someone in the situation or going through these things. Then you know you have something somebody is gonna love. When it comes to music, I like to say for anyone who’s out there, make it mean something. Because that’s the only thing that sells now, it got to be important, it got to mean something to somebody in order to touch some ones interest”
Sweet Angel says it is not easy to start a career, to stand in front of hundreds or thousands of people and give everything you have. There are lots of talented singers, but not so many that can keep your interest and entertain. She hopes that she belongs to those who attract an audience to stay to the end, not only those listening to the CD. She says that Southern soul is very much on the ”Meet and Greet”. You have to meet promoters, make sure that the record company gets the records played, you must visit the juke joints and ask if they have the music or the dj plays the songs. You cannot isolate yourself. Sweet Angel also has a website and a newsletter. At the website www.sweetangel.org you find news of the major blues concerts (Southern soul for us) and others of interest.
A career doesn’t come easy, but Sweet Angel has the talent and the dedication. In 2008, she won the Jus’ Blues Award as the year’s new artist, and was nominated for Best Vocalist of the Blues Critics.
Sweet Angel was born in Memphis, the 9 March 1964. Her parents were Robert John Colbert Sr. and Lucy Mae Colbert. She is one of 6 siblings and the only involved in music. Her real name is Clifetta Dobbins and she has two daughters, 7 and 10 years old. The interview was made in August 2009 by telephone.
Anders Lillsunde / Jefferson #161