In a city whose spirit world is as old as Mother Africa’s children, Glen David Andrews has made a compelling case for his own deliverance. <em>Redemption </em>is Glen's balm after a very personal storm. The music is about ghosts and their residual energy; about acceptance and forgiveness; about rebirth and renewal.
We gathered at The Living Room, a converted church on the West Bank, in Algiers, just across the Crescent City Bridge. The rumble of the cars, clanging on the metal plates that patch the holes of the bridge in a New Orleans after the apocalypse, reverberated through six days of recording – everything in New Orleans has its own rhythm.
The sessions unspooled like a feature film, one frame at a time. While the core band of Alex Joseph Hall, Josh Starkman, Barry Stephenson, James Martin and Ricio Fruge&nbsp; embraced each other like smothered chicken and brown gravy, Glen invited some his favorite musical healers to break bread, too.
Galactic's Ben Ellman gave us shivers with his otherworldly harp playing. Ivan Neville looked like royalty in black and gold, laying down gritty grooves on a humming Hammond organ and a badass clavinet, the history of modern funk percolating in his fingertips. Jamison Ross, winner of the prestigious 2012 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz competition, brought his own brand of bonhomie to the sessions, singing, arranging, playing drums, percussion, organ and sporting dreads that flowed like Spanish moss. And as soon as he got off the road with the Grateful Dead's Phil Lesh, guitar god Anders Osborne overdubbed a pair of solos from a studio hundreds of miles upriver.
Glen surprised everyone with the emotional range of his voice. Sliding from a whisper to a scream, he summoned the soul fire of Wilson Pickett and the preacher power of Solomon Burke. He tapped into the jump blues spirit of Wynonie Harris and Big Joe Turner, and the haunting sound of Howlin' Wolf, and the world-weary voice of Louis Armstrong.
The struggle for salvation is older than history. From Job in the Bible and Apollo in Greek mythology to Bob Marley and Sam Cooke in popular music, it's a classical theme that comes in every shade of blue. Redemption is Glen's love letter to the Maker for a second chance at life – a chance that includes growing vegetables in his garden, and smelling jasmine, gardenias and magnolias rather than mud and mold.
Glen also acknowledges that the Universe is filled with naysayers and haters, and that his personal redemption will never satisfy them. “But,” he says, “I'm learning that you can't change anyone else. You can only change yourself.”