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"Music has been the balance in my life. It's led me to love - - it's led me to God, salvation, freedom. I didn't know it. I didn't know anything else, It's been my gift." --Gwen Avery
Fair to say that music is Gwen Avery's life -- the gut wrenchin,' belly laughin,' music of classic blues. It's the music Avery heard as a child hanging around her grandmother's speakeasy in Verona, Pennsylvania, the town where she grew up. Like roadhouses and juke joints all over the South where so many of the early blues and jive artists came up, her grandmother's joint rocked with the music, the laughter and loud talk, the drum of feet keeping time.
In an atmosphere heavy with smoke, buzzed by whiskey, often overwrought with the heat of the moment, Avery watched, listened and absorbed the elements that were to inform her own musical style. It was a place where every itinerant musician passing through could find an audience for a night. Their sounds and styles were as varied as the records that played on the joint's jukebox. It was from that jukebox that Avery first heard the voices of Aretha, Jimmy Reed, and sucked up the sounds of The Drifters, Esther Phillips, Ella Fitzgerald, Gloria Lynn. And there was the gospel music that Gwen has said, "flowed in that house of ill repute with the whiskey and beer as frequently as there were church services."
That life and those sounds invaded Avery's soul and set her on a course of personal exploration and professional growth. Born of a musical family, she grew up singing first at home then at church and in local clubs. The pull of the West Coast music scene and the need to express herself musically was too great to keep Gwen in Verona for long. In the early Seventies she hooked up with Gregg Young and for three years sang in his hard rock band, Full Moon, before the Women's Music Movement drew her to San Francisco and a whole new set of musical influences. Gwen has toured, recorded, and played venues as diverse as outdoor music festivals and prisons. Through it all her music, style and stage presence continue to evolve.
As a songwriter she reaches down into the recesses of her heart and the collective experience of the generations who came before her. Without artifice or pretense she writes music that connects with her audience in a way that only music which comes from the soul can. Grammy nominated producer, Linda Tillery, performed with Gwen in the early days during the Varied Voices Tour, and has known Gwen for over 30 years. She has said simply, "To hear Avery's music is to be gifted with hearing the Real Thing."
As a performer Gwen, dubbed Sugar Mama, is an irrepressible life force reaching out for another big handful of life. She grabs her audience by the lapels when she rattles the piano and raises her colossal voice. She means to connect with her listeners in ways that make them feel like they've just run into an old friend they haven't seen for years. Welcoming everyone into her realm with huge gestures of down home hospitality, she jokes, teases, shocks, charms, instructs, and preaches her way into their heads and hearts. The air vibrates with the expectation that something big, something provocative is about to happen.
"I want people to brighten up and lighten up. I call on them to participate and to take that with them. My singing is for people who want to be uplifted . . . moved until their foot can't stand no more sittin,' till their butt can't no longer be flush with the chair…"
"Music has been the balance in my life. It's led me to love — it's led me to God, salvation, freedom. I didn't know it. I didn't know anything else, It's been my gift."
From the liner
It's with more than a little pleasure that we offer Gwen Avery's debut solo album as a gift for our lives. Gwen made a brief, yet lasting splash on Lesbian Concentrate with "Sweet Sugar Mama". She sang that song like slow molasses, clinging like good love, salty like the sea. No one who has ever heard it can forget its languid sassiness, and it has become a classic . . . yet she disappeared from national view until recently. She has emerged from personal struggles stronger than ever, and shares part of that journey here both in music and spoken word. Gwen is a woman who is determined to rock the boat. Yet, within it lies a wonderful cradle, one we can feel safe in. Thank you, Gwen, for rocking us with you, and for showing us that, with determination and endless patience, the journey never ceases to surprise and amaze.
TO ORDER: (audio tape only available)
Gwen Avery - Live at IMA - $10.00 ea.
plus $2.00 shipping and handling
(CA residents please add 7.5% sales tax of $.75 ea.)
for credit card orders, phone toll free:
or send check or money order to:
IMA Special Projects
P. O. Box 141
Bodega, CA 94922
Reviews and Quotes:
"Don't know why it's taken so long for this master of the blues to treat our souls to this one. Avery's been on the circuit some 30 years and every bit of her love for this music is cut into this CD...filled with amazing purity of genre and grace of intention, Absolutely Necessary." Nicki Ehrlich, Victory Music Review
"Gwen grew up listening to songs in her Grandmothers juke joint, and with her extraordinary ear, she began to ingest, translate and decipher the complex language of 40's and 50's hipsters, swingsters, and R&B songsters. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with such a talented individual." Linda Tillery, founder of the African American Cultural Choir, Grammy nominated record producer
"She is known as the woman with the colossal voice and that's quite evident on the first cut, SUGAR MAMA. However, there is real depth and feeling emanating from Gwen's song writing and delivery. Her style reminds me of a throw back to a past era, I might call big band blues. I don't think too many people are capable of delivering this material with the drive and soul of Gwen." Jack Sutton, Harmony Ridge Web Site
To book Gwen Avery for performances, contact:
I'm On My Way
Cry No More
I'm On My Way
ORDER A CD NOW by sending your check for $17 that is ($15+ $2 for shipping and handling).
TO: SUGAR MAMA MUSIC, 1442A Walnut Street, #423 Berkeley, CA 94709
OR: PICK UP YOUR CD at one of
OR: or try vitaminic
joerecords.com where there are music samples.