The contribution of Miss Martha High to the development of soul music has remained indisputable for many years. Born in Victoria, Virginia and growing up in Washington DC, she started singing in front of audiences at a young age, appearing in her local school concerts and numerous talent shows in the area. It was at a talent show that she was discovered by non-other than Bo Diddley; he was so impressed he told local upcoming band The Jewels all about this young talented singer.
On Bo’s recommendation they agreed to give her an audition. They were totally wowed with her powerful vocal range and she became an instant member of the band. After a few years passed, they recorded the national hit 'Opportunity,' with the help of George Clinton, who was with Parliament at the time. One night in 1965 Martha and The Jewels were performing at the Howard Theatre in DC, and all of a sudden there was a great ruckus in the house; Mr Brown was there watching them! He was so impressed afterwards he went backstage and asked them to be part of the James Brown Revue band and that was the start of Martha’s 32 year career performing alongside The Godfather, the longest of any of his backing singers.
She appears on his celebrated 1968 live performance of ‘There Was a Time’ and sings the unforgettable soprano note at the beginning of the 1974 US R’n’B ‘The Payback’ and his 1976 UK hit ‘Body Heat’ to names just a couple and remained by his side for over thirty years, singing at some of his most significant concerts. She was with him and the JB's at the famous Boston Garden gig in 1968, the night after Martin Luther King's assassination, she was also right by his side when James flew through the dangerous Vietnam sky to entertain the US troops. Not to mention with The Godfather of Soul in Zaire, celebrating and performing at the legendary ‘Rumble in The Jungle’ event, attended by over 60,000 people.
Martha was a true friend of The Godfather of Soul, she even graduated to his personal hair stylist an immensely important job given to his most trusted confidant, but she was just too young and shy at the time to overtake the other soul divas and take centre stage.
Fast forward five decades Martha has certainly earnt her nickname of the “hardest working woman of show business” and has been gracing stages around the world, from playing intimate jazz clubs, to playing venues such as the Boston Garden to adoring audiences.
Consolidating her relationship with Italian label Blind Faith Records and the italian producer Luca Sapio, she is finally coming back with a new album, ‘Nothing’s Going Wrong’, the second album recorded with Luca.
ABOUT THE ALBUM:
A singer who has “soul” can be said to have sensitivity and heart and the ability to emotionally move the listener. This feeling cannot be created with gimmicks or special effects in a recording studio. Nor can it be taught, it is an inbuilt quality one is born with. Martha's voice touches you right down to your “soul”, she never takes any of the songs presented to her for granted, creating her own unique interpretation of each song on this new album, backed by her band ‘The Italian Royal Family’.
Lyrically the album is very much inspired by the socially and politically conscious records made by the likes of Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Curtis Mayfield in the mid-70s.
Songs such as ‘I sing America’ are a clear example of Martha taking a stand and singing for the equality of minority cultures in the US. Martha herself felt compelled to leave the country she called home due to the toxic political situation in the USA at the moment and resides in Europe.
The heart felt ‘Land of Broken Promises’ talks about the sensitive subject of immigrants in the US and how the idea of the so called American dream can quickly be turned into the American nightmare.
Then there are more uplifting songs such as ‘Little Spark’ which is aimed at encouraging people to stick together in a climate of fear.
The album mixes funky blues and roots combining lush horn arrangements, that evokes the golden era of the Italian movie soundtracks (inspired by Piero Piccioni, Ennio Morricone and Luis Bacalov), and best of all it is all recorded and mixed in Luca’s stunning analog studio in Rome.
A hidden gem proudly shines through in the song ‘ I’ve Still Have A Lot To Learn’; Italian maestro Antonello Vannucchi (leader of the Marc 4 band and keys player behind thousands of iconic Italian soundtracks), has laid down a stellar Hammond B3 take on the melancholic ballad, sadly it was his very last recording session before passing away.
Every once in a while an album comes along, and this is one of them, that is beyond what is currently fashionable at any given time, which evokes the best sounds of the soul golden era,
combined with Italian soundtracks of the 60s; infuse them together and you get a funk/soul masterpiece, showcasing one of soul music’s most precious gems- Miss Martha High.
Nothing’s Going Wrong will be released on January 10th.
Larry Guaraldi - Guitars
Emiliano Pari - Wurlitzer, Hammond B3
Matteo Pezzolet - Bass
Matteo Bultrini - Drums, Tambourine
Theo Moore - Congas, Bongos, Tambourine
Claudio Giusti - Tenor, Bari, Flute
Antonio Padovano - Trumpet, Piccolo Trumpet
Background Vocals by
The Mighty Giovenale Hummingbirds:
Luca Sapio - Bari
Damiano Proietti - Tenor
Emiliano Pari - 2nd Tenor
Harold Lucas - Bass & Falsetto
Maestro Antonello Vannucchi on B3 Hammond on “Still Have A Lot of Learn”
Yasko Fujii Soprano voice on “Face My New Future”
Recorded, Mixed and Produced by Luca Sapio at Blind Faith Studios, Roma
Mastered By Giuliano Radiciotti, Roma
All songs written and arranged by Luca Sapio & The Italian Royal Family
Horns written conducted and arranged by Claudio Giusti
Background Vocals arranged by Luca Sapio
Lyrics by Luca Sapio
NEW ALBUM INQUIRIES
UK - GreenGab
BENELUX - Dox Records
ITA - Blind Faith PR
BENELUX - Dox Live
ITA - Blind Faith Live
"Martha High a gravé quelques-uns des plus beaux tubes du Godfather of Soul
lf Tracks beschworen das goldene Zeitalter der Soul-musik und klingen dabei erstaunlinch frisch
Rolling Stone Magazine (DE)
Le printemps sera funky!
On ne présente plus l'une des plus belles voix qui accompagnait James Brown
Le Mellotron (FR)
High's credentials as one of Brown's most trusted allies, and as part of his historic contribution to the history of soul music are unimpeachable.
UdiscovermusicJazz Thing (DE)