Wednesday, January 25, 2023

For Rita Coolidge, Love Is Everywhere

A mid-week “music night” this evening at The Wild Reed, just to mix things up a bit!

It’s Rita Coolidge and Keb’ Mo’ with “Walking on Water,” one of a number of standout tracks from Rita’s sublime 2018 album Safe In the Arms of Time.

I came across this album shortly before the pandemic while perusing the racks of CDs at Cheapo Discs in Blaine, MN, something I occasionally do on my way home from work. I’ve found some exceptionally good music this way; music from the likes of Daby Touré, Rahsaan Patterson, Seckou Keita, and Ash Dargan. I’ve discovered I have a pretty good knack at finding good though often obscure music, simply by trusting my feelings about a given album’s cover artwork and/or song titles. Yeah, I know, it totally goes against the old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” But then, these aren’t books!

Rita Coolridge, of course, isn’t an obscure artist to me, and the cover of Safe in the Arms of Time, her latest album, definitely caught my attention. It’s just such a beautiful image! To my eyes, Rita looks to be beautifully at peace with herself and the world. Later, when listening to the twelve songs that comprise the album, I was moved by the wisdom, beauty, and humanity of the lyrics and their delivery. All of which conveyed a spiritual dimension that resonated with me, and one most resolutely expressed in the tracks “Spirit World,” “The Things We Carry,” “Satisfied,” and “Walking on Water.”

Explaining the inspiration behind “Walking on Water,” Rita told PEOPLE magazine in March of 2018 that she “wrote the song with Keb’ Mo’ and Jill Collucci about the impermanence of life.”

“The most powerful lyric and the most basic truth is that ‘Love is everywhere.’ It’s our home and our truth,” she said.

“The music video for the song,” continued Rita, “was a celebration with my friend Keb’, who duets with me and plays guitar.”

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog then you’d know that some of my favorite music artists are women who first emerged and/or experienced their greatest commercial success in the 1960s or ’70s. They are women who are still making music that is not only relevant and appealing, but also the most authentic of their careers. It’s music with soul, wisdom, and a mature beauty that the market-driven music industry rarely acknowledges, let allow celebrates. I’m referring to artists Petula Clark, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Mavis Staples, Marianne Faithfull, Bettye LaVette, Kiki Dee, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris and, as you’ll see and hear below, Rita Coolidge.

I’m always searchin’ for answers
Down here reachin’ for the stars
The only truth that I’ve ever found
Is for me, there’s no such thing as solid ground

I’m walking on water, floatin’ on air
What lies beneath me is really not there
I know that love is everywhere
I’m walking on water, floatin’ on air

Why do I care how people see me?
Why do we wanna hold on to youth?
And what if the questions are the answers?
What if there’s no such thing as the truth?

We’re just walking on water, floatin’ on air
What lies beneath us is really not there
I know that love is everywhere
I’m walking on water, floatin' on air

I still believe in miracles
Things may not be as they seem
In my imagination
I'm livin' in a dream

I'm walking on water, floatin' on air
What lies beneath me is really not there
I know that love is everywhere
I’m walking on water, floatin’ on air

Following, with added images and links, is Blue Élan Records’ 2018 media release for Rita Coolridge’s Safe in the Ams of Time album.


Rita Coolidge – Safe in the Arms of Time

Rita Coolidge’s impact is undiminished – her voice as pure, sweet and powerful as ever, and her ability to get inside a song honed by experience and overview.

After ten years during which she bore witness to some of her life’s greatest joys and deepest sorrows – and the publication of her acclaimed 2015 memoir, Delta Lady – Rita Coolidge is back with Safe in the Arms of Time, her 18th solo album and a reaffirmation of her indomitable spirit and unquenchable creative thirst.

Safe in the Arms of Time marks Rita’s triumphant return to the songwriting that gave the world her shimmering (and still uncredited) “piano coda” to Derek and the Dominoes’ “Layla.” Three of the album’s 12 songs were co-written by Rita and draw inspiration from her personal journey.

Her enthusiasm for sharing her life stories was infectious. Rita, former Tom Petty drummer Stan Lynch and Joe Hutto composed “You Can Fall in Love,” about reconnecting with an old flame, minutes after meeting as all were swept up in an irresistible creative current – “the song was done and demoed in five hours,” marvels Rita.

“You Can Fall in Love” embodies one of Safe in the Arms of Time’s compelling themes: It’s never too late. “People need to have an awakening that you can fall in love at any age and it will feel right, like you’re 15,” says Rita. “I felt it was important to talk about that because so many people give up finding the love of their lives after a certain age, and it never has to be. I really wanted to have that message come across on the record.”

Safe in the Arms of Time is colored by Rita’s pivotal role in the Los Angeles singer-songwriter scene of the 1970s, where she made her bones as a top backup singer – that’s Rita on the refrains of Stephen Stills’s “Love the One You’re With” and Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” – before embarking on a platinum-selling solo career.

Rita and producer Ross Hogarth gathered an all-star lineup of the era’s top musicians – guitarist Dave Grissom, bassist Bob Glaub, John “J.T.” Thomas on keyboards and drummer Brian Macleod – at L.A.’s Sunset Sound, the famed recording studio where Rita recorded her first solo albums.

“The idea was making an album that had the same appeal of my early records – to make a roots record about my own roots,” says Rita. “Going back to Sunset Sound was taking a journey into the past – there was a memory down every hallway.”

Returning to the studio fulfilled her resolve that the new album must “resonate with an honesty of those early records. We aren’t using any tricks: no auto-tuning, every single note you hear on this record is in real time.”

Rita traveled to Nashville and the studio of Keb’ Mo’ to write, with singer-songwriter Jill Colucci, two of the album’s most intimate songs, “Walking on Water” and “Naked All Night.” Duetting with the Grammy-winning bluesman on “Walking on Water” was a thrill for Rita, “I literally have every Keb’ Mo’ CD – I’ve been a fan for decades,” she says.

Safe in the Arms of Time reunited Rita with Graham Nash, her romantic and creative confidant during Nash’s Crosby, Stills & Nash days and one of Rita’s most cherished and enduring friendships. Nash and the journeyman L.A. session drummer Russ Kunkel had written “Doing Fine Without You” and offered it to Rita. “That was one of the first songs we chose. Russell and Graham had written that and thought of me, and I said, ‘I don’t know when I’m doing a record, can I put this on hold?” Two years later, the song is among the album’s standouts.

Safe in the Arms of Time’s songs are the first new music Rita has recorded since the tragic death in 2015 of her beloved sister, Priscilla, a recording artist and member of Walela, the Native American trio she and Rita founded with Priscilla’s daughter, Laura Satterfield. The recording of the album also coincided with Rita’s relocation from Southern California, her home since the 1970s, to a new life in Tallahassee, where in the 1960s, as an art major at Florida State University, she discovered her true calling as a musician – and never looked back.

In her subsequent career comprising five decades and millions of record sales, Rita captivated audiences with her signature hits “We’re All Alone,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “All Time High” and “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher.” And in a remarkable eight-year romantic and artistic marriage for the ages, she and former husband Kris Kristofferson earned multiple Grammy Awards.

Now, with Safe in the Arms of Time, Rita’s odyssey from the hills of rural Tennessee to the recording studios of Los Angeles and concert stages around the world has come full circle. As Rita recalls in Delta Lady: “It’s all about the journey. Sometimes the path is surrounded by rainbows, and sometimes it’s buried in the mud. I’m still here and I still have a lot of gratitude for the whole process of being able to make music.”


For other inspiring female music artists who are “of a certain age” but still very much on the scene, see:

Luminescent at 90
Meeting a Living Legend
Happy Birthday, Petula (2019)
Petula Clark: Singing for Us, Not at Us
“Pure Class”: Petula Clark’s Latest Offering Captivates
Happy Birthday, Petula! (2015)
Pet Sounds
Well, Look Who’s Coming to Port Macquarie
Petula Clark: Still Colouring Our World (which includes my mum’s review of Petula’s 2014 concert in Port Macquarie)

A Music Legend Visits the North Country
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Power in the Blood
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Medicine Songs
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient”
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That “Human-Being Magic”
The Music of Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Uprooting the Sources of Disenfranchisement”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Things Do Change and Things Do Get Better”
For Buffy Sainte-Marie, the World Is Always Ripening
Buffy Sainte-Marie, “One of the Best Performers Out Touring Today”

Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri
Celebrating the Proverbial “Soulman”
Deeper Understandings
The End Is Not the End
Together Again – Elton John and Kiki Dee

Ever Faithfull
Before (and After) the Poison
There Is a Ghost
The “People Between”

Country With Soul
“The Wonder You Bring”
“Here I Am” – The Lenten Response

Other previously featured musicians at The Wild Reed:
Dusty Springfield | David Bowie | Kate Bush | Maxwell | Buffy Sainte-Marie | Prince | Frank Ocean | Maria Callas | Loreena McKennitt | Rosanne Cash | Petula Clark | Wendy Matthews | Darren Hayes | Jenny Morris | Gil Scott-Heron | Shirley Bassey | Rufus Wainwright | Kiki Dee | Suede | Marianne Faithfull | Dionne Warwick | Seal | Sam Sparro | Wanda Jackson | Engelbert Humperdinck | Pink Floyd | Carl Anderson | The Church | Enrique Iglesias | Yvonne Elliman | Lenny Kravitz | Helen Reddy | Stephen Gately | Judith Durham | Nat King Cole | Emmylou Harris | Bobbie Gentry | Russell Elliot | BØRNS | Hozier | Enigma | Moby (featuring the Banks Brothers) | Cat Stevens | Chrissy Amphlett | Jon Stevens | Nada Surf | Tom Goss (featuring Matt Alber) | Autoheart | Scissor Sisters | Mavis Staples | Claude Chalhoub | Cass Elliot | Duffy | The Cruel Sea | Wall of Voodoo | Loretta Lynn and Jack White | Foo Fighters | 1927 | Kate Ceberano | Tee Set | Joan Baez | Wet, Wet, Wet | Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy | Fleetwood Mac | Jane Clifton | Australian Crawl | Pet Shop Boys | Marty Rhone | Josef Salvat | Kiki Dee and Carmelo Luggeri | Aquilo | The Breeders | Tony Enos | Tupac Shakur | Nakhane Touré | Al Green | Donald Glover/Childish Gambino | Josh Garrels | Stromae | Damiyr Shuford | Vaudou Game | Yotha Yindi and The Treaty Project | Lil Nas X | Daby Touré | Sheku Kanneh-Mason | Susan Boyle | D’Angelo | Little Richard | Black Pumas | Mbemba Diebaté | Judie Tzuke | Seckou Keita | Rahsaan Patterson | Black | Ash Dargan | ABBA | The KLF and Tammy Wynette | Luke James and Samoht | Julee Cruise | Olivia Newton-John | Dyllón Burnside | Christine McVie

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