Hear the interview with Reba Russell and songs from the Reba Russell Band’s CD Bleeding Heart.
Reba grew up in Florida with a family that loved all kinds of music. Reba sang in the choir in grade school and junior high. At age nine her father passed away so the family moved to Memphis Tennessee. Reba said Memphis is what really inspired her to be a musician. There was all kinds of live music around her that got her interested in playing music.
Reba taught herself how to play guitar, and her family gave her a lot of moral support. Around 1979 or 80 she meet Wayne Russel a local bass player who asked Reba if she would like to start a band, and later asked if she would like to get married. Reba said yes to both.
Growing up Reba listened to Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Doors, The Who, Rufus Thomas, Aretha Franklin, and even classical music. Coming to Memphis really blew the doors off of everything because there were so many kinds of live music to listen to there. Robert Nighthawk Tooms, the organ and harp player for the Reba Russell Band, really helped Reba find her way in the blues. Reba described Robert as an encyclopedia of the blues. Reba knew that Zeppelin had been ripping off a lot of the early blues artist. Robert really helped her to see it better by showing her old Willie Dixion songs. Robert would also performer a lot of the artists he liked for Reba to hear like Earl Forest, Sonny Boy, and Little Walter to name a few. It was quite a blues education Reba was getting from Robert, besides what she was digging up on her own.
Reba has also done background vocals on many other artists CD’s like Jimmy Thackery, Tracy Nelson, Bernard Allison and Walter Trout. There’s also the Class of ’55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming CD that Reba sang background on. You know your good when you’re invited to sing background for Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Carl Perkins. Reba said about a year later Carl Perkins walked up to her and said, “Hi Reba how you doing?” A similar thing happened with Johnny Cash. For artist like these to remember you and your name you have to really have been doing a good job in the studio.
Reba Russell Band’s new CD Bleeding Heart really covers a lot of ground. They do roots, Mississippi blues, Chicago blues, Memphis blues a little gospel and soul. One thing for sure you’re never going to get very far from the blues with the Reba Russell Band. In the podcast you will hear the opener to Bleeding Heart CD “Red Mississippi Clay”. From there the Reba Russell Band go into a very nice blues/soul/ballad called “Miss Me”. “Memphis Moon Tonight” is a song that Jimmy Thackery wrote for Reba. A sweet song about going through some hard times in Memphis. “Love Is The Cure” is a great lyrical song, and Reba talks about in the podcast. “Levee Prayer” is the second Jimmy Thackery song. Jimmy did this on one of his earlier records. Here Jimmy plays a blazing lead guitar on another outstanding song off the Bleeding Heart CD. The drummer Doug McMinn’s mother wrote, “12 Bar Blues,” a straight ahead bar room blues song. Not to be out done, Doug’s father wrote “Some People”. A delightful song about how some people should be remembered but there are some that should be forgotten. “To Know You” is a slower more reflective song with some fine harp playing in it. This is as good a place as any to tell you about how good Robert Nighthawk Tooms harp playing is on Bleeding Heart. Not only is his keyboard playing good, the harp really adds to the songs. Reba said she is a big fan of Memphis Minne because she was an out standing guitar player plus is of local fame. They do her song “In My Girlish Days.” The song spoke to Reba as it talks about how she, “Didn’t know no better in her girlish days.” At the end it comes back with “I still got my girlish ways”. That was going to be the end of this article, but as I was reading about Memphis Minne the last song of Bleeding Heart kept playing. Funny how sometimes you just need to hear a song a few times to let it sink in. “Sleepless Nights Alone” was like that for me. How did this charming, almost lullaby like, song pass me by. What a significant song to end the CD with. For me “Love is the Cure”, “Some People” and “Levee Prayer” are must have songs. Other noteworthy songs for music loves are “Red Mississippi Clay,” “Blues is Mine,” “Miss Me,” “12 Bar Blues,” and “Sleepless Nights Alone.” While I go back and re-listen to Bleeding Heart to see if another song pops out you need to go to the CD Baby Website to pick up this outstanding record.
Songs in the podcast are:
Red Mississippi Clay
Blues is Mine
Love is the Cure
The band is:
Reba Russell – vocals
Wayne Russell – bass
Robert Nighthawk Tooms –organ, harp
Josh Roberts – Guitar
Doug McMinn – drums
2008 Bleeding Heart
2005 Broke Down But Not Out
2001 Going on Strong
1999 City of the Blues
1997 Buried Treasure
Buy Reba Russell Band’s CD Bleeding Heart at iTunes
Blues Music and Interviews
formerly A1 Artist Spotlight. Com
by A1 Mark