PUTNEY — In some ways, 2015 was a typical year for Christine Ohlman, one filled with an eclectic collection of fond musical memories-just another 365 days in the unpredictable life of the "Beehive Queen." For just about anyone else her year would be considered implausible, outrageous, and completely unforgettable.
In an interview just before the New Year, I had the soul singer reflect upon her 2015. "Wow, let's see ... Grand Marshall of the WC Handy Festival in Muscle Shoals, riding in Sam Phillips' 1960 baby blue Caddy where Elvis had so often also ridden – they used to ride around and drink wine because it was a "less identifiable" Caddy, and then opening the fest with a sold-out-to-the-walls concert at the Shoals Theater with the legendary guitarist Travis Wammack at my side. I closed out the fest, at the request of the Sledge family, singing at Percy Sledge's gospel memorial at this little country church in Leighton Alabama. A moment I'll never forget."
There was more.
"Traveling the world with "The Sessions," which is an interactive all-star music industry panel, we visited a mountaintop music conservatory in Calabria, Italy, the Grand Old Opry in Nashville, the Berklee School of Music, All-Star shows with Steve Miller, Graham Nash, and Darlene Love. The list goes on and on.
Shortly after, Ohlman – best known for her work as lead vocalist with the Saturday Night Live Band – emailed a couple of highlights she somehow failed to mention. "FORGOT!! Saturday Night Live 40 concert ... it was so long ago (February!) After the live broadcast, we took over the bottom three floors of the Plaza Hotel and had a full concert stage in the ballroom. Jimmy Fallon hauled me up there and he and the B52s sang backup for me ... and then a duet with Elvis Costello on "Twist and Shout" ... also, my voice appears in five episodes of the upcoming HBO Scorcese series "Vinyl" about the NYC music biz in the 1970s. Fascinating recording sessions!" She also began work on a new record, entitled "The Grownup Thing."
So, maybe it wasn't such exactly a typical year for Ohlman, but it is typical for her to rub elbows with some of the best in the business having shared the stage with the likes of George Harrison, Al Green, Ian Hunter, Ry Cooder, Phoebe Snow, Sting, Maceo Parker, Big Brother & The Holding Company and the late, great Lou Reed, to name a few.
The fondest memory of 2015 for Ohlman was being invited to sing at the service for one of her heroes, Percy Sledge. "When the Sledge Family asked me to sing in Alabama this summer, I mean, wow. Come to find out that it was right next door to Muscle Shoals. The church is in the middle of a cotton field. People just came from all over. There was a gospel group there called The Orr Sisters who are the reigning gospel divas of northwest Alabama and the pastor himself plays guitar like BB King. The music was so great. They asked me to sing "How Great Thou Art" and they sent me his version, which I burst into tears the minute I heard it. When I sang, 'People Get Ready' the choir got up behind me, which I wasn't expecting, they just stood up and started singing. The whole thing, you can imagine how amazing it was. I was so honored to be there."
Ohlman is also honored to be who will be christening the dance floor at the newly refurbished Next Stage Arts in Putney on Saturday night with her Band Rebel Montez. "We have just loved our association with Next Stage and could not be more thrilled for them to have completed this wonderful renovation project. Our final show in 2015 a special benefit for the building fund, and also had a dance floor erected in front of the old stage. As you know, The Beehive Queen is all about the hip-shake. I love audience dance-interaction. Sit and listen for a while, then get up and dance, dammit!"
Christine Ohlman and Rebel Montez, will be at Next Stage Arts, 15 Kimball Hill, Putney on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance, general admission, $20 at the door, available online at: www.nextstagearts.org, Turn It Up in Brattleboro, or Offerings in Putney. For more information contact 802-387-0102.
Dave Madeloni writes music reviews for the entertainment section of the Brattleboro Reformer.