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Flavour of the earth

From spiritual music to country it was an eventful journey

Tracy Nelson was born on 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 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.

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.

Tracy Nelson disappeared from the recording circuit for over a decade as she preferred to play at Nashville clubs. She re-emerged only in 1993 with the critically respected, In Here and Now.

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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