Flavour of the earth
From spiritual music to country it was an eventful journey
Tracy Nelson was born December 27, 1944, at Madison, Wisconsin. Growing up there she began playing the piano at age 5 and the guitar at 13. She also sang in the church choir.
While attending the University of Wisconsin she played at the coffeehouses and formed her first band, The Fabulous Imitations. This was followed by another attempt to form a unit called The White Trash Blues Band.
It lasted only two weeks. Deep are the Roots, her first solo effort, was recorded at around this time with harmonica player Charlie Muselwhite and other Chicago blues musicians backing her.
In 1966 she moved to San Francisco and formed Mother Earth (named after a Memphis Slim blues song) in July of that year. Its critically acclaimed debut effort, Living with the Animals, included assistance from Elvin Bishop and Mark Naftalin both members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
It moved bag and baggage to a farm adjacent to Nashville, where its music became overtly country oriented as was evident on Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country.
The band witnessed many personnel changes after its 1971 release, Bring me Home, the only member to stick through them was guitarist John ‘Toad’ Andrews.
The Band changed its name to Tracy Nelson/ Mother Earth and released A Poor Man’s Paradise in 1973.
The following year, Nelson recorded her self-titled compilation called Tracy Nelson and it included a duet with the legendary country music exponent Willie Nelson on After The Fire is Gone, which was nominated for a Grammy. The late Seventies noticed her record erratically and on Home Made Songs she sang a duet with Carlene Carter.
Hide and seek
Tracy Nelson disappeared from the recording circuit for over a decade as she preferred to play at Nashville clubs. She reemerged only in 1993 with the critically respected, In Here and Now.
This was recorded in Nashville and had as guest artists Musselwhite and New Orleans R&B singer Irma Thomas, to whom she dedicated her 1976 album, Time is on my Side.
The Nineties saw her return to blues and R&B, a move culminating in 1998’s Sing It with collaboration from Thomas and pianist Marcia Ball. One of her songs, Down So Low was covered by Linda Ronstadt and many other singers.
A. GEORGE ANTONY
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