NEWS

Rita Engedalen on Radio Memphis!

Monday, April 22. 2024

Tonight we could hear Rita live on Radio Memphis!

The radio station was proud to welcome the return of Rita Engedalen live in the studio. The host Ric Chetter interviewed Rita about her music and the musical influences she has gotten from her dear friend and great musician Jessie Mae Hemphill. Rita got to know Jessie Mae before she passed away in 2006.
Jessie Mae gets a well-deserved honor in the “Women in Blues” project which Rita has run with her musical partner Margit Bakken for over twenty years. During the broadcast, songs from their album “My Precious Blues got airplay and Rita performed songs live accompanied by Dr. David Evans on guitar. He is one of the most important contemporary academic musicologists specializing in blues music, and is the author of the seminal “Big Road Blues”: Tradition and Creativity in the Folk Blues (1982).  Evans was Jessie Mae’s regular guitar player for many years!

An incredible and interesting hour for all who listened on Radio Memphis.

Thanks!

Radio Memphis

“Women in Blues”

Nominated for Norwegian Music’s most prestigious Spellemann’s Blues Award 2023.

Blues in Britain

JANUARY 2024

Review “My Precious Blues” / Bluestown Records

Blues in Britain (UK) / Graham Munn

Featuring Norwegian blues artists Rita Engedalen and her musical partner of twenty years, Margit Bakken, My Precious Blues draws attention to the ladies of the blues and their struggles for recognition. You’ll find gospel, emotionally-risqué songs, driving blues, and freedom songs on this lovely collection.
The title track opens, Rita singing with Morten Omlid on acoustic guitar, staking her claim in a male-dominated blues world. She has a wonderfully textured voice and the wonderful gospel call “I Will Be Ready” has her leading with guest singer Ester Mae Wilbourn responding on a song that throbs with passion and belief.
“Struggling Woman Blues” is a Clara Smith song, beautifully performed: Rita duets with Margit over an acoustic-driven backing, including a nice harp accompaniment. Atmospheric electric and superb, the hypnotic soundscape of “I Wanna See You In The Light” is a real highlight, plenty of echo builds the backdrop, Rita meeting her man at night but wanting to bring him into the light – a beautiful song. “Be A Good Man To Me” has an closing acapella hymn “Shine On Me”.
This is a heartfelt, lovingly crafted album from award winning Norwegian artists, carrying its message about equality (regardless of sex or color) with grace and elegance.
– Graham Munn

WOMEN IN BLUES

Interview with Rita Engedalen.

W1RS – French Radio Station dedicated to discovering blues & rock musicians!

Can you introduce yourself to the public who doesn’t know you yet?

I’m Rita Engedalen, a singer, guitarist, songwriter, and producer. I live in Jondalen in Kongsberg (Norway), a beautiful little village surrounded by mountains and forests.

I was interested in music early on, especially folk music, and have pretty much always been singing. Early on, I started performing all over Norway together with a friend of mine who played the piano, and we continued for 10 years.

In 1993, I joined a blues band that became Backbone, all well-known musicians from Notodden. It was at that time that I went back to my blues roots and the music that is closest to my heart. I toured for many years at clubs and festivals with my band, Backbone, before I released my first record in 2004.  My debut album was “Hear My Song,” and since then, I have recorded six more solo albums.

One of my highlights was when I received the prestigious Norwegian Grammy Award for the album “Heaven Ain’t Ready for Me Yet” in 2006.

In 2012, my band and I won the annual European Blues Challenge in Berlin, and it was great.

I am singing for the people! They make me feel, and they make me want to sing. I’m so grateful!

Why did you create this new project?

The Women in Blues project was created 20 years ago. I have always been influenced and inspired by female blues champions. They’ve always been important to me and are included in all my recordings and many of my self-penned songs.

I’ve run the “Women in Blues” project together with my blues sister Margit Bakken from Notodden since 2003, so this year we’ve celebrated our 20th anniversary.

Women in Blues first met while working on Kristin Berglund’s musical project ” The Tough Ladies of the Blues ” in 2003. Through this collaboration, Kristin became important to us, and she gave both of us a lot of inspiration. Unfortunately, Kristin Berglund passed away in 2006, but we’ll always keep honoring her. Her music and her songs deserve to never be forgotten. They will forever live with us!

The female Blues pioneers have greatly inspired both of us to keep this project going for so long. It was the women who dominated Blues music in the 1920s! Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey, Clara Smith, and Bessie Smith were some of the first to pave the way, opening doors for other African-American female artists. These women were, and still are, great role models for us and many others. They had varied, important, and diverse texts, which, among other things, highlighted injustice, racial discrimination, political challenges, and the fight for justice.

Their strong voices, which we value highly, are essential, and we will continue to give honor and attention to them.

Jessie Mae Hemphill, Rosa Lee Hill, Memphis Minnie, Billie Holiday, Ida Cox, Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin, Bessie Smith, Elizabeth Cotten, Ma Rainey, Odetta Holmes, Mamie Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and not the least, Kristin Berglund are some of the ladies who get their well-deserved tribute during our concerts.

We will continue paying homage to the lives of some of the most spirited women in the history of Blues because it’s well deserved.

If you had to describe your music in one word, what would it be?

It would be: NO LYING

What most characterizes your music?

In my sound landscape, I am very fond of acoustic instruments and have developed my own guitar style since I started playing at the age of 15. The style is directly inspired by music from the American South. I will describe my music as a solid mix of American Blues, Gospel, Roots Music, Hill-Country Music, Rock, and Norwegian Folk Music. My musical travels go on dusty roads, back and forth from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi Delta areas.

What are your musical influences?

My great personal inspiration for blues comes from the late Norwegian blues artist Kristin Berglund. For me, she was not only inspirational but also a good friend. When I went on my first trip to Memphis and Clarksdale in 2004, I met the blues legend Jessie Mae Hemphill in Senatobia, Mississippi. I had been listening to Jessie Mae for quite some time, and she was a great inspiration for me with her North Mississippi hill country blues. I have since written several songs about her, our meetings, and our experiences together. We became close friends until she passed away in 2006. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to get to know her. Hearing her made me find my kind of blues, which I have since developed into a personal expression. In my blues, I also gather inspiration from Gospel, Americana, Rock, Folk Music, and Soul. Big Mama Thornton, Memphis Minnie, Janis Joplin, and many other great musicians.

How do you go about creating your songs?

When I write songs, the form can be anything from a cappella to acoustic to a full band. My lyrics are almost always very personal, but there are opportunities for those who listen to fill in their own meaning and interpretation when they listen. I think that’s a nice way to do it. I do get a lot of feedback from my audience, telling me that my songs mean a lot to them and have done so during difficult times in their lives. They tell me that I touched something in them. I often spend time by the river where I live. It’s a beautiful place, where I feel silence and calmness, and here my thoughts often turn into songs.

What’s the latest news from your group?

A year ago, I released my seventh solo album, “Sun Will Come” and it was so nice that the album was nominated for the Norwegian Grammy (2022) in the Best Blues Album category. The latest album I produced and released was with the Women in Blues project. In August this year, Margit Bakken and I released our new album, “My Precious Blues”.

What projects are you working on?

Right now, I’m working on preparing concerts for next year. I’m going to have solo concerts with my band and with our Women in Blues project. I’m a musician and a songwriter, I’m always working with new music and creating new songs.

What question would you like us to ask you? (And you answer)

What is the message you choose to convey through your music?

I want to give hope, love, and freedom. I want people to feel that they are not alone.

W1RS French Radio Station – Interview

This is a heartfelt, lovingly crafted album!

SEPTEMBER 2023

Review “My Precious Blues” / Bluestown Records

Rhythm & Booze (UK) / Graham Munn

An album featuring Norwegian Blues artists Rita Engedalen and Margit Bakken, 11 songs, 6 of which are written by Rita, drawing attention to the ladies of the blues and their struggles for recognition. You’ll find gospel, emotional risqué songs, driving blues, and freedom songs in this lovely collection.

The album opens with, ‘My Precious Blues’, Rita with Morten Omlid on acoustic guitar, is sparse, real, staking her claim in a male-dominated blues world. Rita has a wonderfully textured voice, lightly smoked, yet darkly shaded. The wonderful gospel call, ‘I Will Be Ready’, has Rita leading with guest singer Ester Mae Wilbourn responding on a song that throbs with passion and belief of a better life to follow, one of the many highlights on this album.

More upbeat with the band, ‘Struggling Woman Blues’, is a Clara Smith song, beautifully performed, a woman’s work is never done, always working for her man. Rita duets with Margit, to an acoustic-driven background including a very nice harp accompaniment. Atmospheric, electric, and superb, the hypnotic soundscape of, ‘I Wanna See You In The Light’ is an Engedalen song. This is a real highlight, plenty of echo builds the backdrop, Rita meets her man at night, but she wants to bring him with her into the light, a beautiful song. Another pick follows on, ‘Be A Good Man To Me’, an excellent electric blues setting, has Rita referencing some blues standards in the lyrics.

An excellent finger-picking Memphis Mini song, ‘I’m Talking ‘Bout You’, is superbly performed in stripped-back form by Rita and Margit. “I’m talking ‘bout you, I don’t care what you do”. ‘Nobody Can Take My Soul’, is more a modern-day gospel blues, where a black girl isn’t free to go anywhere, but nobody can take her soul. It’s sung with a passion, flowing through on a river of blues rhythm.

Can’t overlook an Alberta Hunter song, ‘You Can’t Tell The Difference After Dark’, which says it all, what difference does skin color matter, it’s about the connection, a delightful traditional blues to piano accompaniment, a simple message with a simple delivery. ‘Let The Freedom Come’, freedom for women to do and go where she pleases, without remorse. Beautifully played with solid rhythm stomped out, foot tambo ringing away, and the vocals layered over sweet acoustic guitar. A lovely song, carrying an important message. The album closes on a short acapela hymn, ‘Shine On Me’, has Ester Mae Wilbourn on lead vocal, with Rita and Margit backing, a beautiful closure with the sun beaming down.

This is a heartfelt, lovingly crafted album, from award-winning Norwegian artists, carrying its message about equality, regardless of sex or color, with grace and elegance, well worth seeking out a copy.

Review Rhythm & Booze

Down to the bone old-school, true delta blues!

       

Review “My Precious Blues” / Bluestown Records

SEPTEMBER 2023

Bluesnews nr. 131 / Johnny Andreassen

The actual acid test of whether you can call yourself a blues lover or not stands to fall. Just put on Dame i Blues, or Women In Blues as they choose to call themselves in an increasingly international company, with their new record release «My Precious Blues». Quickly you know whether you want to leave the room or lock the door and not let others in. But remember – if you leave the room, I will never let you in again.
A bit of a rambling introduction here, but only to emphasize how down to the bone old-school, true delta blues and the re-experiencing of gospel music’s roots in the African quarters of southern states through the last century, Damer i Blues are. Not everyone has heard these old roots, which are the origins of today’s pop and rock music, but for Rita Engedalen and Margit Bakken they have been mother’s milk, their gasoline, and the most important of things in life, which they convey as authentically and sincerely as possible. This is the music they have consumed for breakfast, lunch, late dinners, and evening snacks, throughout their lives, therefore it is both strange, and not so strange, that they sound more like authentic blues than many Americans themselves.
Clearly, you get these feelings when listening to Rita Engedalen’s previous album “Sun Will Come”, as of today, her most heartfelt completion of her journey with Afro-American blues. It is an album that made waves across blues bastions in the US and England. Now she takes it further with her partner in Damer i Blues, Margit Bakken, the lady who has some of the same soulful vocal expressions Norway’s first blues queen Kristin Berglund had. This makes great music.
They also cover Kristin Berglund’s song “Your Secret Box of Mysteries”, which hits the Americana radar on this otherwise rather blues-laden album. But for Kristin herself, blues and Americana/country folk went hand in hand. This Damer i Blues album is enriched by the fact that they have gone in directions other than the purely cultivated delta-blues sound and the music of Memphis Minnie and other old legends, music which they shaped from their own hearts with great success.
For example, there is a magnetic, Native American Buffy Sainte-Marie feeling on Rita Engedalen’s “Nobody Can Take My Soul”, and I wonder if Patti Smith, the rock queen of all rock queens, has been the mentor behind “Be A Good Man”, a song that pushes forward with heavy rhythm and suggestive power.
Memphis Minnie and the old female blues legends have been the basis for Rita Engedalen and Margit Bakken’s starting point for Damer i Blues, aiming to keep their legacy alive. They perform Memphis Minnie’s “I’m Talking ’bout You” as well as Clara Smith’s “Strugglin’ Woman Blues”, which will soon be 100 years old. It just doesn’t sound like it, although the song’s roots are old and deep. The timelessness and authenticity that lies in all these songs, both the new Rita Engedalen compositions of which there are six, and the older songs that have crawl under our skin, are captivating and refreshing at the same time. “The elders are the wisest”, is a slogan that has often found its impact through music. Rita and Margit’s travels have begun to take the form of a long journey that is a life’s work.
The recording “You Can’t Tell the Difference After Dark” is done in an old-style piano blues in the ragtime tradition. With an exciting title, it is a song penned by a male songwriter, Maceo Pinkard who was best known for “Sweet Georgia Brown”. But it was Alberta Hunter, a female blues artist, who recorded it as her first single back in 1935. It’s amazing how the distant past and present bond in Damer i Blues, a bit like Sapphire – The Uppity Blues Women did in the 90s. Only that Damer i Blues go deeper, travel further back in time, while they pull longer threads through their tapestry. This Autumn belongs to Women in Blues – short and sweet!

Review Bluesnews (NO)

Ed Murphy – Thanks for translating the review!