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Ingrid Gerdes ~ High Priestess
“In a way, Ingrid Gerdes’ new album, “High Priestess,” is a throwback to days when a recording artist approached a new project as a complete package — a song cycle — built around a particular theme. Every track was written and produced and sequenced in a way that would convey a certain emotion or experience for the listener.
Largely a thing of the past in this age of single-song downloads; many artists and producers now concern themselves with recording only songs they believe will sell apart from a collection. They compile songs not necessarily connected to one another that they hope will be popular enough with their fans to sell them online. There’s often no concept or plan.
Ingrid took an old-school approach to her new release, “High Priestess,” choosing instead to attempt to create an experience for her fans through a complete collection. Brought together by her unique blues-rock sensibilities, the result feels like summer in the South. It is at times both cool and hot, breezy and still, and imbued with a shot of sass to Gerdes’ hot buttered soul, Dusty-in-Memphis delivery.
This album also features an impressive roster of musicians including Garrett, “G Love” Dutton on harmonica, Brad Hallen and Mark Teixiera of the Duke Robillard band, Aaron Lipp of Robert Randolph and Milt Reder of Barrence Whitfield /Dwight and Nicole. “
Boston soul singer Ingrid Gerdes’ gospel-meets-R&B voice has earned her more than one comparison to greats like Irma Thomas and Mavis Staples, and the title of her new album, High Priestess, helps conjure images of a vocalist trained in a Mississippi Delta choir loft, spending Sundays praising the Lord and raising the roof.
Actually, Gerdes spent more time serenading house pets than heaven while growing up in the Ozarks town of Springfield, Mo. — an area known for its natural beauty. In fact, she used the four elements essential to all life — earth, air, fire and water — as inspiration for High Priestess. The result is both cool and hot, breezy and still, and imbued with a southern blues-rock sensibility that adds a shot of sass to her hot- buttered-soul, Dusty-in-Memphis delivery.
Gerdes, who studied opera at University of Kansas before earning her degree at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, explains, "Where I come from shaped who I am and I want to honor that.”
Who she is, for what it’s worth, is a singer who eschews labeling her sound. “I reject the idea that I must only express myself musically in one style. I love the artistic freedom of working in many genres.”
In any case, a label can't adequately capture the allure of her nearly four-octave vocal range and old-school, old-soul sound, as exhibited on tracks such as the funky mid-tempo “Pride” and the slinky, snaky groove of which came to her in a dream. Or tunes such as “Rules,” on which Gerdes conjures the spirit of another adored singer, Amy Winehouse, or “Fire,” a smokin’ slow- cooker on which she generates the kind of heat that sends couples straight from the dance floor to the bedroom. Or “I Need A Man,” in which she explains, in no uncertain terms, that she’s done with “foolish boys.” This is a woman who has no more need for trifling dalliances; who’s sure of herself and in command. A woman who, one suspects, might be able to shoot lightning from a pointed finger; with her beguiling beauty, rich vocals and the winning songcraft of High Priestess, she leaves no doubt she can cast quite a spell.
After working with much of Duke Robillard’s rhythm section on her last self- produced album, "Shed," she reunited with them and adds to the impressive roster of musicians for "High Priestess." She sought help from Milt Reder, who has toured with Barrence Whitfield and worked with Susan Tedeschi, among others. They recorded at his Rear Window Studio in Brookline, Mass., with co- producer/engineer Craig Welsch. Aaron Lipp came off a Robert Randolph tour to add key- boards, and Garrett Dutton, aka G Love, de- livers harmonica flourishes to two songs, Gerdes's homage to her roots in “Missouri Limestone” and “Lindenlure,” about a cabin on the Finley River where, Gerdes says, “many of my most precious memories originated.”
In addition to performing, Gerdes is an accomplished voice-over artist. When she needs a break from working in her home studio, she spends her time outdoors running and gardening. But she still heads home often as she can, so she can watch her radiologist father “play tractor” on his 60-acre farm (“he has, like, six,” she notes), hug the dogs, ride horses and hang out with her young nieces. And of course, refuel her inspiration at its source.