Starz InBlack Celebrates Black History Month With A Blues Divas Concert

Starz InBlack will present the world premiere of the soulful blues concert “Blues Divas,” featuring musical performances from eight gifted blues singers who are interviewed by Oscar(R)-winning actor and blues lover Morgan Freeman. “Blues Divas” premieres during Black History Month at 8 p.m., Sunday, February 5 with additional playdates throughout the month, only on Starz InBlack.

The film opens with a brief introduction by Freeman who describes his location as “ground zero” for the blues. Freeman just happens to be standing in front of Ground Zero Blues Club, a modern-day juke joint he co-owns in Clarksdale, Mississippi, where the show was taped. In between the stirring performances, which feature a blend of blues, soul, folk and gospel music, the show is punctuated with informal chats with the divas and Freeman who enjoys reminiscing about their early beginnings. “Blues Divas” features musical performances from eight gifted vocalists: Deborah Coleman, Mavis Staples, Irma Thomas, Bettye Lavette, Odetta, Ann Peebles, Denise LaSalle and Renee Austin.

Filmed over a three-day weekend, “Blues Divas” is produced by Blue M Productions and Mississippi Public Broadcasting as part of a series of feature films focusing on this true American genre of music born in the Mississippi Delta. Executive producer Ty Warren tapped noted music documentarian Robert Mugge (“Last of the Mississippi Jukes”) to direct “Blues Divas.”

Mugge travels to the heartland of the blues, Clarksdale, Mississippi, to capture, in his signature style, the soulful, passionate performances of the talented yet underappreciated divas. After watching the one hour and fifty five minute concert documentary you will be convinced that the soulful talents of these extraordinary blues singers are deserving of wider recognition.

“These incredible blues women singers will blow you away with their soul filled performances,” said Stephan Shelanski, senior vice president, acquisitions, programming and scheduling. “Starz InBlack is the ideal place to bring the world premiere of ‘Blues Divas’ to our viewers.”

“‘Blues Divas’ is a perfect fit for Starz InBlack” said Brett Marottoli, director, programming acquisitions. “At Starz InBlack we aim to celebrate the breadth and depth of the African American experience and ‘Blues Divas’ is a complement to that mission.”

First up is blues diva Irma Thomas, known to many as the Soul Queen of New Orleans and owner of the Lions Den blues club in the Big Easy. Thomas belts out a few old favorites, including the classic, “Chains of Love.”

Deborah Coleman has been hailed as one of blues music’s most exciting young talents. Her guitar style reflects the influences of Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy and Larry Carlton. Her vocal inspirations are often found in the singing of Patti Smith, Bessie Smith, Janis Joplin and Alberta Hunter. Both talents are clearly evident in “Blues Divas” in her performance of the KoKo Taylor song, “I’m A Woman.”

Soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples possesses one of the most recognizable voices in contemporary music and it comes through loud and clear in the film. From her early days singing with her dad “Pop” Staples and their family group, the Staple Singers, to her powerful solo recordings, Staples voice still rings true. Staples and Freeman enjoy discussing her early beginnings and she sings stirring gospel material including a sweet song entitled “God is not Sleeping,” from her latest CD, “Have a Little Faith.”

Bettye LaVette has been around for more than 40 years having first recorded, “My Man — He’s a Loving Man” when she was just 16. In “Blues Divas”, the crowd goes wild when she sings her old hit, “Your turn to Cry (Your Time to Cry).”

Odetta, although in her 70’s, looks radiant in red and sounds as youthful as ever. Her performance continues to reflect her passion for mixing the blues and protest songs. She sings the classic blues song “Careless Love.”

The extraordinary Ann Peebles sings a song she made popular, “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and Renee Austin performs a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, “Fool Moon.”

“Blues Divas” closes out with the Queen of the Southern Soul Blues Denise LaSalle. LaSalle makes sure you understand that she is an experienced, down-home blues singer and her performance in the film gives you no doubt when she belts out “Still the Queen.”

Ground Zero Blues Club’s mission is to showcase the best in blues talent with an emphasis on musicians living and working in — or with ties to — the Mississippi Delta. Located in a renovated turn-of-the century cotton grading warehouse near an old train depot that now houses the Delta Blues Museum, the club has become a cultural institution for blues aficionados. Freeman co-owns the club with Clarksdale attorney and businessman Bill Luckett and Memphis entertainment executive Howard Stovall. All are committed to showcase new blues talent and to the preservation and education of this native-born music genre.

Via PRNewswire

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