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“There are so many ‘wow’ moments” – Dave Marsh, SIRIUS/XM Radio personality / Rolling Stone editor emeritus
“Whatever she touches becomes soulful and passionate.” – Hal Horowitz, The All Music Guide
“Ohlman and Rebel Montez concoct a Soul atmosphere as thick and palpable as a humid Southern night. Ohlman’s stunning originals…blister and soothe in equal measure.” – Brian Baker, Cincinnati CityBeat
The heart of Christine Ohlman has belonged to rock n’ roll from just about the moment she could walk and talk. By the time she traveled from Boston to New York on an overnight train to make her first record at the age of 16, writing the “B” side on the way to the studio, she was already a veteran of the local coffeehouse circuit around New Haven, Connecticut. “The first guy who ever signed me flew down from New York City to hear the band; he signed us the same day,” she says. “We were in the studio practically before we knew what hit us recording a version of Al Kooper’s ‘Wake Me, Shake Me.’ The next thing we knew, we were on the charts and I was in heaven!”
While touring and recording with Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez are the main focus, Ohlman has other all-star concert appearances to her credit, including the Lincoln Center “American Songbook” Series (with Sting and Lou Reed), the 2009 Obama Inaugural Gala, and Celebrate Brooklyn’s Tribute to Bill Withers (with Nona Hendryx and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James). She continues to perform with the SNL Band, appearing with Al Green on the show’s 25th Anniversary Special and in the hilarious 2010 commercial parody “Carter n’ Sons Barbeque.” She is a sought-after studio guest vocalist, appearing on Ian Hunter’s Shrunken Heads (named one the Top 20 CDs of 2007 by the New York Daily News), Big Al Anderson’s Pawn Shop Guitars, and two CDs by esteemed Irish punk group Black 47. Labor of Love: The Music Of Nick Lowe features her vocal collaboration with Marshall Crenshaw on Lowe’s “Cruel To Be Kind.” And her commitment to the blues runs deep, as her scorching duets with the legendary Eddie Kirkland on his CD’s Where You Get Your Sugar and Lonely Street; her guest-shots with Charlie Musselwhite on his Grammy-nominated One Night In America; and her appearance on the Songs Of Willie Dixon (with Sonny Landreth & Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown) and Grammy nominee A Tribute To Howlin’ Wolf (with Taj Mahal & Lucinda Williams) give statement.
Dedication to preserving the soul in rock n’ roll has been the hallmark of Christine’s work from the days of The Scratch Band through a stint with Christine Ohlman and The Soul Rockers to her present band Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez’ (Cliff Goodwin-guitars, Michael Colbath-bass, Larry Donahue-drums; original guitarist Eric Fletcher passed away in May, 2006). Her earliest idols were Etta James, Ray Charles, and Jackie Wilson. “My mom taught me to love those artists,” says Christine. ” When she was growing up she used to frequent Cafe Society in New York City to hear Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Lena Horne. I just naturally picked up on blues and jazz through her. Then of course there was Elvis, and Jerry Lee, and the artists on Stax and Atlantic. At some point I also began to listen heavily to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James. So my songwriting reflects influences old and new. I always tend to lean toward wild guitar bands—you know, the ‘crazies’.” (Ohlman continues this fascination with musical tradition via her work as a music writer and musicologist. She was an original editor of the All-Music Guide, edited legendary producer Andrew Loog Oldham’s 2002 autobiography 2Stoned, and is a cover-story-writing contributor to Elmore Magazine)
Ohlman has released six CDs with Rebel Montez. The Hard Way, Radio Queen, Wicked Time, Strip, and 2008 career retrospective Re-Hive are joined by 2010’s The Deep End, her first CD of new material in five years. Co-produced gby Andy York (John Mellencamp), it featuresduets with Ian Hunter, Dion DiMucci, and Marshall Crenshaw and guest shots by Levon Helm, Big Al Anderson, G.E. Smith, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, and others.
No stranger to tragedy, Ohlman suffered, in addition to the loss of longtime musical collaborator Fletcher, the death in 2005 of her mate and producer of more than 25 years, Doc Cavalier. Re-Hive is dedicated to his memory (as The Deep End is to Fletcher’s. .Following Cavalier’s passing, she produced a memorial concert at legendary rock club Toad’s Place in New Haven, Connecticut that featured 26 acts and nearly 100 musicians pivotal to the professional life she shared with him. “This is a time of reordering in my life,” she said recently. “There are no words to describe the empty spaces left by these losses. I feel I honor the memory of Doc and Eric by creating, by writing, and by performing. It hasn’t been easy by any means. But friends and fellow musicians have been extraordinary in their generosity and support. Michael Colbath, Larry Donahue, Cliff Goodwin and I look forward to the next record and to future collaborations.” Ohlman says, “The songs on The Deep End deal, in some ways, with the subject of loss, but much more importantly with the ways that love intersects with life to bring a kind of joy into one’s heart that is sometimes bittersweet.”
With her trademark mile-high platinum beehive hairdo and enviable collection of sequins and rhinestones, Ohlman looks like a lady to be reckoned with, and when she opens her mouth to sing, the truth comes out. But underneath it all lurks a no-frills approach to music. In her own words—”I give it to an audience straight, which is the way I like it myself. Yes, I like to shout, and I like to croon, and I love to wail. I just need to get in the groove and rock—not think too much about it– tear it up or soothe it over. I’ve loved rock n’ roll since I was a little girl, and I’ll love it forever. It’s my greatest kick and my greatest privilege to be able to get up on a stage and rip it apart. That’s rock n’ roll to me. I’m here to set your soul on fire.”
Billie Holiday, Christine Ohlman, elvis, Elvis Presley, grammy, groove, Music, musicians, New York City, opera, ray charles, sting