Ty and I are just two wild and crazy kids now. When Brandon called us last week and told me one of my favorite voices, Morgan James, was playing in Columbus on a Tuesday night, we decided to take a road trip. No more school nights for us. We can stay up as long as we want or even leave town on a Tuesday. The dogs can stay in the kennel. So we decided to go for it.
When we walked into the bar the first thing we noticed was it was tiny. The website had said a capacity of 200, but they were stretching it. There were four tables in the whole place. Fortunately, we got there early enough to scrounge up four bar stools for us and my siblings. We sat 20 feet from the stage and waited.
Morgan James has an out of this world voice. She is this teeny tiny white woman who sings big bad soul music. She went to Julliard. She has performed on Broadway as Teena Marie in Motown. She writes her own music. And she can flat out blow. IOW, the woman is overflowing with talent. But here she is playing this dive bar in Columbus OH. It just goes to show it’s not only talent that determines who becomes the superstars. I say without hesitation her voice rivals Ariana Grande. I’d even compare her with Whitney.
Eight o’clock rolls around and it’s time for the show. They can’t be too late because another band is coming on at 10. A lone black woman walks onto stage carrying a guitar. This is a brave woman, I think. The opening act is Celisse Henderson. Celisse is a bubbly 20-30 something (I’m guessing). She is black with an afro and Rubenesque. I hadn’t heard of her until last night. I just found out as I Googled her she was in Godspell on Broadway. Celisse doesn’t fool around. She immediately starts playing that guitar and singing an original blues song. I am amazed by her talent. I could practice for the rest of my life and not be able to do that. She has a lovely voice and she is playing some serious blues on the guitar. Before her last song she jokes with us that she is going to try to pull off a big number normally done with a full band, but she can’t afford to pay a band, so she is going to do it by herself using the magic of the looping pedal. And she DOES. I think she amazes herself.
After her set as she walked by I congratulated her and resisted the urge to ask her what a girl like that was doing in a place like this. It’s so wrong that people with this much talent don’t get more recognition.
Next up is Morgan. She does not disappoint. I am just basking in listening to her perform. Watching her on that tiny little stage where she can barely move and knowing she has played on Broadway I wonder what’s going through her mind. She doesn’t hold back. She gives us a full performance of numbers from her album and some new stuff she is trying out. The tenderness, power and richness in her voice the talent. I look at her and marvel at this creation. Then I look at Celisse, who is singing background vocals for Morgan. She had joked about how she and Morgan look alike. it’s a joke because they are polar opposites on the surface. But the connection between the two of them is something to behold. Very different bodies, but similarly talented souls. The connection between the two of them is something to behold. The way they play with their voices back and forth, it looks like they are having way too much fun. Then I look over at Morgan’s guitarist. He cowrote most of her album. They play back and forth with his guitar and her voice.
I cannot tell you how many times I got goosebumps watching and listening. There is something about music like that that can take you to another place. I found myself wishing I could just stay in it forever. Then i wished I could bottle it and take it with me. Finally, I realized I just had to stay in the moment and try to remember as much as possible. The music was like waves washing over me. I could feel the vibrations lifting my vibration higher and higher. I literally felt closer to heaven- which I now perceive as just another dimension away, no distance at all. I sensed the veil was getting thinner and I could almost see through. When we were kids we were told about the rapture when Jesus would return and take the good boys and girls up. I felt like the music could just about lift me up to where Shayna is. Almost… But I did feel like Shayna was there with me.
Morgan gave an outstanding performance. My two favorite songs are a remake of a Prince song I had never heard, Call My Name. There is a note in that song that just gives me chills every time (it’s at 2:14 if you watch the video). There is another original that she must love too because she teared up just introducing it. Say The Words. After it’s over, she says she’s just spent. Well, I can see why.
We have to do more of this. Music for me, is about as close as we get to heaven here. Black Violin is in Dayton in March. I will be there.