Cyndi Lauper: Memphis Blues

It may be a surprise to see the name of a 1980s pop icon on this blog but there are good reasons why Cyndi Lauper is relevant and worth listening to. The latest is her excursion into roots music with her newest album Memphis Blues, released last year. The only real surprise is just how well Lauper has reinterpreted what some see as an increasingly moribund musical form. What she has done is to gather around her a blues band containing some of the very best musicians in their field. There are also appearances by Allen Toussaint, who plays piano on three songs, and blues guitarist and vocalist Jonny Lang, while Charlie Musselwhite supplies harmonica on two tracks. Lauper duets with Ann Peebles on the Muddy Waters song “Rollin’ and Tumblin’’’ (covered by Bob Dylan on Modern Times). And as if that wasn’t enough, B.B.King turns up to play guitar and sing with her on “Early in the Mornin’’’. The album closes with a version of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads”.

There is some great musicianship on display, and Lauper’s sources and her choices of song are extremely varied with both older and newer compositions from a number of different composers. Some of the very best tracks, such as “Romance in the Dark”, veer away from the blues altogether. None of this, or the addition of so many impressive guests, detracts too much from Lauper herself who leads the whole project with confidence and panache.

Cyndi Lauper’s albums over the years have continued to satisfy artistically even though sales may not have reached the early levels of her popular debut album, She’s So Unusual. In the 1990s, Sisters of Avalon found her adding zither and dulcimer to electronica on an album increasingly concerned with social issues, while Bring Ya To The Brink, ostensibly a dance album from 2008, is arguably her greatest all-round achievement. Also in 2008, she founded the True Colors Fund, a non-profit organization to engage people in the advancement of LGBT equality, and most recently the Give a Damn Campaign was launched as an online public education and awareness initiative. With Memphis Blues, the now 57 year old American singer is not just dabbling in her musical roots but is wholly engaged in another heartfelt project which succeeds on all levels.

Cyndi Lauper comes to Japan (but unfortunately not to Okinawa) in March when she will play six concerts in Nagoya, Tokyo, and Osaka. For details see her website:




Explore posts in the same categories: Roots Music from Out There

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