'Color of Dusk' casts light from shadows

This Just In...

April 24, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

In "Lucy Sleeps With Master Muford," the eighth cut on their new compact disc, singer Aleta Greene and guitarist Wall Matthews conjure a smoky ghost from a fire stoked in the seven previous songs. This ghost is a woman-child -- innocent, abused, weepy, weary -- and hers is the voice of midnight. She is Lucy, a slave somewhere in America somewhere in time. She comes to life as Greene sings and Matthews plays, a collaboration for which all people interested in interesting music should be grateful. The astounding thing is, there are only 25 words in the song, and yet Lucy lives.

Which is a testament to the woman who wrote the words -- poet Dolores Kendrick. The characters who populate her 1989 book, "The Women of Plums, Poems in the Voices of Slave Women," are vivid and real. Kendrick's genius was in humanizing people once treated as chattel, giving them lives and feelings and personalities.

Now comes Aleta Greene, an entrancing performer with a broad range of voice talent (from sweet shout to seductive murmur), and Matthews, a highly skilled instrumentalist, to put the voices of slave women to music. And they have done so beautifully -- without changing a word of Kendrick's poems.

In "The Color of Dusk," released earlier this year by Baltimore-based Clean Cuts, Greene and Matthews (along with master drummer Abdoul Doumbia) present a song cycle that turns the album into a storybook, taking us out of Africa, through the passage to the New World and the evil of slavery.

Matthews was careful about the historical spirit of Kendrick's book of poems; the first five cuts evoke the African village, with drums and haunted voices.

Then comes a spooky transition, "Tildy's Prayer," which brings drums and the blues guitar together. "I have always wondered," Matthews says, "where we would be musically if Africans had been allowed to keep their traditional drums once they came to this country and what the music would have sounded like if drumming had evolved side by side with the blues guitar." This song provides some idea. It's one of the four best on the album.

In the others -- "Lucy," "Julia, Carrying Water," "Leah: In Freedom" -- Aleta Greene is absolutely arresting. More of America, more of the world, needs to hear this woman.

"The Color of Dusk" is hurt, I think, by the poetry readings that occur in some of the cuts. They are a distraction. I found myself wishing they would stop, but only because I wanted more of Greene's singing and more of Matthews' guitar. Perhaps I'll get my wish with their next album together. There will be one, right?

Aleta Greene and Wall Matthews perform "The Color of Dusk" at 8: 30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Baltimore Museum of Art. For ticket information, call 235-0100.

Not the standard deal

We've never seen anything quite like the employee amenities of the "new" Sinai. There's the big, bright cafeteria-style food court, the dry cleaner and the kosher restaurant (Thursday is all-you-can-eat night) off the hospital's main lobby. There's valet parking and a uniformed doorman. But what really caught us by surprise was The MarketPlace, a wholesale shoppers service in a mini-grocery. From porterhouse steak to Oreo cookies, Sinai employees can phone or send an order by fax to the lobby store and purchase (at cost) just about anything they need, saving trips to the supermarket. As my friend Ingmar says: "What's not to like?"

Chipping in

According to his latest campaign finance report, Rep. Bob Ehrlich contributed $50 to the Community Assistance Network, the county anti-poverty agency that is the local contractor for the Moving to Opportunity program. What a guy!

A conservative proposal

Officials in the counties are worried about preserving old neighborhoods and scrounging for tax dollars to fix them. Seems the better way would be to stop building new "neighborhoods" -- if that's what you call sprawl development on what used to be farmland -- in the first place. Demand for, values in and revenues from the old residential areas would rise. The counties also would save the money needed to build infrastructure for the new developments. This roughly describes the recommendations of blue-ribbon panel after blue-ribbon panel here in the Chesapeake region. With so many conservatives in the suburbs -- isn't "conserve" part of conservative? -- you'd think a few of them would embrace such ideas.

More questions, hon

This Just In was swamped with calls from readers who suggested an official state question for Maryland. (My suggestion: "Want gravy on your fries, hon?") By far, the most popular suggestion was: "How'bout dem Os?" This had an equally popular variation: "How'bout dem Os, hon?"

But wait! There's more:

"Tens or ducks?" (A basic bowling question).

"Inside or outside?" (Choice of dining in crab houses.)

"Why does reading The Sun make the day of gulag prisoners?"

"Hot enough for ya?"

"How'd you get that way?"

"Where's Blair Road at?"

"J'eat yet?"

"Goin' downey ayshun?"

"Inner Loop or Outer Loop?"

"What's that smell?"

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