Throughout her illustrious career, now spanning five decades, Tracy Nelson has never been one to abide boundaries. Certainly, in terms of musical genres, she’s been able to meld and/or incorporate folk, blues, rock, country and whatever else you might throw at her into her own musical persona. Tracy has always been her own master, as strong of character as she is of voice. She’s a far cry from today’s Svengali-controlled pop princesses who are, essentially, puppets of packagers and marketers whose interest in real music is both limited and limiting.
One boundary Tracy has crossed is the very real one that keeps prisoners and performers apart. Late last year, she journeyed to Mason, Tennessee to entertain the inmates at West Tennessee Detention Center and gave those guests of the state in which she, herself, resides a performance that has been documented by Memphis International Records on Live From Cell Block D. Tracy’s “prison record,” so to speak, is in the tradition established by Johnny Cash and B. B. King but she had her doubts going into the project when it was proposed to her by producer David Less. “Would we seem like dilettantes in the profound reality of a prison setting?” she wondered. The prison population, both male and female inmates at separate concerts, gave her a stirring reception that undercut her initial insecurity. The result in an album that is a singular statement of the humanizing power of music.
Tracy’s journey to Cell Block D began in the early 1960’s when, while growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, she immersed herself in the R&B she heard beamed into her bedroom from Nashville’s WLAC. “It was like hearing music from Mars,” she recalls of the alien sounds that stirred her so. Later, she was bitten by the folk music bug, which she refers to as “the folk scare of the sixties.” As an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, she combined her musical passions singing folk and blues at coffeehouses and R&B at frat parties as one of three singers fronting a band called The Fabulous Imitations when she was all of 18. In 1964 she went to Chicago to record her first album, Deep Are The Roots, produced by Sam Charters, and released by Prestige Records. A young harmonica player from Memphis named Charlie Musselwhite played on the album and the two would explore the city’s famed south side where she met and was inspired by such legendary figures as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Spann and others.
|Release Date||Nov 23, 2015|
|Record Label||Memphis International Records|
|Number of Discs||1|
|Box Lot Quantity||30|