With a wide-ranging recording resume that includes some 37 solo albums and compilations, three duet albums with ex-husband Kris Kristofferson and three more with the Cherokee group Walela, two-time Grammy Award-winner Rita Coolidge led a four-piece backing band in the nearly filled-to-capacity party tent at the Cobleskill Sunshine Fair last Saturday.
Coolidge chatted amiably with the crowd about touring with Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett, where she wrote her first big hit, “Superstar” for Eric Clapton. She is also known – but not credited – for writing the second half of “Layla” with drummer Jim Gordon. Along the way, Coolidge also recorded with many of the music elite of the seventies, including Dave Mason, Leon Russell, Boz Scaggs, Joe Cocker and others.
Her most famous collaboration – with Kristofferson, whom she called her “favorite ex-husband” – resulted in three songs she sang that evening, including “Loving Arms” from the 1973 album, “Full Moon.” Coolidge sounded great during her set, which also included covers like “Fever” by Peggy Lee, “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and “Born Under A Bad Sign.” A woman next to me remarked that she didn’t think Rita’s voice would make it through the whole set, but it seemed that the rough edges made the songs and the singer sound all the more experienced.
It also couldn’t have been easy to be heard above the constant outside noise of screaming riders on the fair rides, carnival barkers, the nearby chain-saw artist and the many in the back of the tent who had come from the demolition derby and were intent on drinking and talking at the bar.
But many of the fans inside had no trouble ignoring all this to sing and clap along with Coolidge, particularly as she finished with her biggest song, her re-make of Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher And Higher,” just before the fireworks display.
Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson