LaRhonda Steele and King Louie
Fun, funky, & spontaneous blues, soul, & jazz by a phenomenal vocalist and “Portland’s boss of the B-3,” featuring special guest saxophonist Renato Caranto of Merle Haggard’s band.
Genre: Blues: Classic Female Blues
Release Date: 2015
The album’s 11 cover songs span a range of genres, bringing a non-denominational spirituality to gospel tunes and highlighting the redemptive, healing power of soul classics. Steele and Pain perform everything from a sultry version of B. B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” to a sadly sweet “Phenomenal Woman,” featuring Steele’s daughters on backup vocals. Most impressively, the studio recording manages to capture the spontaneity and improvisation that energizes the duo’s live shows.
Until a few years ago, Steele said, “I hadn’t worked enough with Louis to know the tricks in his bag. He’s got a lot of references from different songs and progressions from different things he’s learned over the years, so it always makes it new.”
When Steele and Pain perform together, they don’t hew to a rigid script. Each brings a list of songs, they briefly compare notes, keys and tempos before show time — and then they just go for it.
“Every time we’d do a song, it’d never be the same,” Steele said. “There was always something a little bit different about it. That’s what I love about working with Louis. The music is always alive.”
They both laughed, then Pain jumped in: “It’s a jazz sensibility,” he says. “You’re playing soul music, but improvising the arrangement. And keeping each other amused!”
Portlanders got a taste of what Steele and Pain can do this summer (2015), when they performed together in Pain’s King Louie’s Blues Revue at the Waterfront Blues Festival.
Moving forward, the pair hopes to share their music with more people through the release of the album and through live performances coming in 2016. Steele in particular feels reinvigorated and “clearer about what I’m here to do.”
“When she hits the stage now, it’s another level,” Pain says. “Everyone hears it. I think you can hear it on that CD, too — the fun and the spirit.”
— Hilary Saunders for The Oregonian/OregonLive