Two musicians find friendship during quarantine.
My people, my people: Black music ain’t going nowhere, no time soon. Even better, there’s a batch of artists who pride themselves on making pure, soulful music. Trust and believe that. Now that that’s established, we as consumers need to find it.
It was about two years ago when a friend and colleague told me that I needed to see her client transform the Apollo Music Cafe into the Avery Sunshine tabernacle. She ain’t never lie. It was straight church up in that piece. The venue was big enough for Sunshine and the band to hold court, yet small enough that each member of the audience locked eyes with the artist and engaged in a form of communication. While the songs may not have been familiar at the moment, the honesty, passion and soul of the music forged a bond.
It was also important for me to leave that show with something more tangible than memories, namely her self-titled debut disc. The disc stayed in steady rotation in my whip as I, along with her other faithful fans, awaited her new material. Surprisingly, we got a taste of it on the latest Noel Gourdin project; Sunshine recorded a duet, “Can’t Wait.” That was a perfect appetite whetter. Fans were still tuned in.
That ability to connect through performance, be it live or through a recording, is a gift Sunshine doesn’t take for granted. “I think through church is where I sharpened my ability to relate to people, and it’s not something that I try to do. If you just be, [then] you don’t have to worry about trying to be anything else. That’s the easiest,” she said. Hmmm, church gets mentioned again. While gaining a spiritual foundation is paramount, the church has provided her with something else that would anchor her creative and professional life—her musical brethren writer, producer and classically trained guitarist Dana “Big Dane” Johnson.
“There truly would not be an Avery Sunshine without Dana. Meeting him was life changing. He saw something in me that, truthfully, is sometimes still hard for me to see,” said Sunshine. Collectively, they raised the bar for her highly anticipated, recently released sophomore set, “The SunRoom.”
Of the title, she said, “In the sunroom, you can discuss whatever it is you want to talk about. You can talk about God, your relationship, money, whatever. So ‘the sunroom’ is the best way to describe this collection of music.” After such a strong introduction, one might expect some creative trepidation, right? Maybe not. Sunshine shuns the notion. “I’m not going to receive that as pressure. We’re in a different place, and we’re going to make a group of songs from where we are at [this] time. To try to recreate that is like trying to have another child exactly like the one you have now. There’s no way. My son and daughter are completely different, and I’m glad they are.”
Johnson added, “There is some pressure that goes along with a second record. You’re out of the ‘ignorance is bliss’ phase, so you know what works, but that can lead to a self-inflicted, unnecessary pressure. But if God gave you a gift, who are you to say that it’s not good enough? Just trust it.”
With “The SunRoom,” which is in stores now, Shanachie Records is on the sho’ nuff path of Soul Music lockdown. Sunshine’s second album is adding plenty more concrete to the foundation!
Now, I’m about to check for this brother, Bradd Marquis, who’s buzzing around the city at BB King Blues Club on Friday, May 30. He’s opening for an unsung legend: Angela Winbush. Showtime’s at 7:30 p.m. See you there.
I’m gone. Holla next week. Till then, enjoy the nightlife.