The blond, bee-hived queen of blue-eyed rock ‘n’ soul is instantly recognizable from her longtime stint as a vocalist with the “Saturday Night Live” Band, and she’s become a regular visitor to the Local 518 in recent years, firing up her sizzling, soulful sound with bandmates guitarist Cliff Goodwin, bassist Michael Colbath and drummer Larry Donahue.
Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez (this incarnation: Chris Bickley, Larry Donahue and Michael Colbath) have a modest request: they want to be YOUR favorite Nippertown soul/blues/r&b band, and they laid out their credentials at the final concert of the Lake George Arts summer concert season in Shepard Park last Wednesday night.
Under balmy skies sparking with flares of heat lightning, they tore into a healthy selection of Christine’s lovely, dark and deep originals along with powerful covers of a few classics. Christine wants to convince you she’s a tough cookie, but lurking barely below the surface is a vulnerable, sensitive romantic, ablaze with the idea that love, in all its confounding, dizzying contortions, can really conquer all.
Live from Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, Christine Ohlman and her band Rebel Montez tell the tale behind the nearly forgotten soul song “Cry Baby Cry.”
Call it “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About ‘Cry Baby Cry’ But Were Afraid to Ask.” The first six minutes of the above video features Christine telling the story of how she stumbled upon an inconspicuous record at a tag sale, and how it changed her life. Finally at long last she plays with her band Rebel Montez their own luxuriously smooth rendition – stately, haunting and heartrending.
George Brantley, who with his brother sang the original 1968 version (credited as “Van & Titus”), was there in the crowd at Caffe Lena, and then afterwards they all sat around talking about the blues as an art form and music in general. As the credits roll, we listen to the original ole 45…
Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez (photo by Joe Deuel)
Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Denise Borden and Joe Deuel
A handwritten sign posted on the interior door of Caffe Lena proclaimed “Sold Out!,” and the two sets of music that ensued within the landmark venue on a warm Friday night justified why it would be standing room only. The performance was so hot that I had two pens run out of ink – thankfully, I had brought along a Sharpie as a backup.
After a rousing introduction by Caffe director Sarah Craig, Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez opened with a poignant “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” a soul classic written in 1964 by Roosevelt Jamison, who passed away last month. A song associated with O.V. Wright, Otis Redding, and more recently, Buddy Miller. Ohlman’s performance this night could join that list of definitive renditions. She nailed the longing, pleading and devotion innate to each and every verse.
Christine Ohlman has performed with the SNL Band since 1991 but has always blazed her own trail.
Known for her fiery blues, Christine Ohlman, “The Beehive Queen,” has two trademarks: her “do” measuring a rumored 19 inches tall, and her blend of rock and blues. The longtime vocalist of the Saturday Night Live Band, Ohlman is known for biting into the core of rock n’ roll. With her rock band, Rebel Montez, she will have the Berkshires buzzing on Saturday, April 21, at 8 PM as she appears as part of MASS MoCA’s Alt Cabaret series.
Her music has been described as “wicked, wild, and wanton, full of heathen rock n’ roll, crazed jungle voodoo, hillbilly hellfire, and sinful soul music” – Syndicated.
Inspired by the 1960s bad girls the Ronettes, Ohlman has been deep in the music scene ever since she recorded her first album at 16. After fronting her brother’s band, Fancy, she started The Scratch Band, which quickly developed a cult following throughout the Northeast. Credited with creating its classic blues sound, Ohlman has performed with the SNL Band since 1991, including a performance with Reverend Al Green for its 25th Anniversary Special. Famed for drawing from the history of rock and blues, she has directed her knowledge beyond her own music, having been an original editor of the All Music Guide.
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