Rocker Melissa Etheridge has stayed true to herself, brings show to the Palace Theatre
Staying true to oneself is a goal everyone should reach for. It's a lesson that Melissa Etheridge has embraced right up through the release of her latest album, last year's “Memphis Rock and Soul.”
This outing also represents Etheridge's current mindset, which emerged following a 2004 breast cancer diagnosis that understandably turned the singer's world upside down. She took a hard look at the choices she was making starting with 2007's “The Awakening,” her ninth studio album.
“Before cancer, I was really concerned with being on the radio and having hit songs and that really drove my music into a kind of stale place,” she says. “After cancer, I didn't care anymore because it was about making music that I love and inspires me.
“I think that I've made some of my best music since then. ‘Fearless Love' and ‘This is M.E.' and even ‘4th Street Feeling' have all been music that came straight from my heart and from the moment of enjoying and concentrating on my live performances because that's where people keep coming back over and over and having that experience. I've fallen in love with music all over again.”
Etheridge says a few songs from “Memphis Rock and Soul” are likely to be in her set during her December tour, along with a good helping of holiday-oriented fare. The tour comes to Greensburg's Palace Theatre on Dec. 13.
“This holiday tour features songs from my Christmas album that I did in 2008 called ‘A New Thought for Christmas,' which is more of a spiritual-leaning album than one that's religious,” she says. “When you come see the show, we're going to do the hits and have all the fun that we do. It's just going to have a feel that is needed now. That when we come to the end of the year and are looking back at it in reflection, that we do it with inspiration and hope. That's my plan.”
For “Memphis Rock and Soul,” the throaty singer-songwriter delved into the catalog of Memphis-based Stax-Volt.
With such a rich vault of material to delve into, the 56-year-old rocker wanted to avoid going with obvious cuts. She started out with a wish list of 200 songs before whittling it down to the dozen that made the album.
“I wanted to get into them, restructure a few to fit my style more and just celebrate. I even found a song that the Stax people didn't even remember. It's called ‘Wait a Minute' and it was by Barbara Stephens and it's from the early 1960s,” Etheridge says. “If you can ever hear the original recording, she's just singing with such grit, and I'm sure Janis Joplin must have listened to her. Those (artists) are the inspiration for the rock and roll people that I looked up to.”
Etheridge's style fits hand-in-glove with the arrangements on “Memphis Rock and Soul.”
The proceedings kick off with the obscure Rufus Thomas gem “Memphis Train,” which is followed by a standout reading of the Staple Singers' trademark “Respect Yourself (Stand Up).” Etheridge favorite Otis Redding is represented by a pair of classics — a gut-wrenching take on “I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)” and the aching “I've Got Dreams to Remember.” Best of all is William Bell's “I Forgot To Be Your Lover,” a tale of regret and sorrow soaked in sweetly understated strings and sublime guitar.
Dave Gil de Rubio is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.