Playing For Change Records/Concord Music Group will make legendary New Orleans street performer and Playing for Change vocalist, “Grandpa” Elliott Small’s debut album Sugar Sweet available at traditional retail outlets nationwide on April 6. Sugar Sweet was previously only available exclusively on Amazon.com. Living Blues Magazine recently enthused, "Sugar Sweet will not leave you disappointed."
After nearly sixty years of captivating crowds on the streets of New Orleans, Grandpa Elliott will make his debut at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. His popularity has gone global in the last year after the Playing for Change hit viral video for Stand By Me, featuring 37 musicians from around the world, received over 30 million views on sites like YouTube and Vimeo.
After so many years persevering through incredible hardships and performing for free on the streets of New Orleans, Grandpa Elliott has become an unlikely cultural icon. He has performed as part of the Playing for Change Band twice on NBC’s The Tonight Show, The Bonnie Hunt Show and has led the band in an emotional rendition of “Stand By Me” on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.
Sugar Sweet is produced by Playing For Change founder Mark Johnson and Reggie McBride and was recorded in New Orleans with the Playing For Change Band. Their ability to lay down sturdy, elastic grooves is evident throughout the album, adding sympathetic backing to Elliott’s soulful vocals and sinuous harmonica.
“Grandpa Elliott embodies everything the Playing For Change project is about,” Johnson says. “Soul, talent, and perseverance. He brought the rawness of the street into the studio and cut the tunes in one take, with no set list and made every song his own. There’s a line in ‘Sugar Sweet’ that says ‘I love you more than the blood that runs through my veins.’ That’s how Grandpa feels about music. You can hear it in every note he sings.”
On the title track, the guitars of Jason Tamba from the DR Congo and Zimbabwe’s Louis Mhlanga play a New Orleans style Rumba with a hint of Ska, while drummer Peter Bunetta lays down subtle percussion fills. Grandpa Elliott’s voice is fluid, with quicksilver phrasing that falls before and behind the beat, playing with rhythm and meter. “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do,” an early hit for Bobby “Blue” Bland, gets a makeover that combines the swing of Tamba and Mhlanga, with an R&B feel, Elliott’s vocal slips from a buoyant tenor to a playful, bluesy growl as he adds subtle harmonica accents. Grandpa Elliott learned “Share Your Love With Me” from an Aretha Franklin recording and the band gives it a stripped down, old school R&B reading. “Fannie Mae” was cut at a rousing live concert performance with Keb’ Mo’ sitting in on electric guitar. It includes a blazing harp solo from Grandpa Elliott and lets the band show off its considerable instrumental prowess.
ABOUT PLAYING FOR CHANGE:
Grammy-winning producer/engineer/filmmaker Mark Johnson founded Playing For Change on the simple idea that the world can find peace through music. It’s been an incredible year for the project and momentum continues to build as Johnson and the musicians of Playing For Change were named “Persons of the Week” on ABC’s World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson last month and have been profiled many times nationally including NPR’s Morning Edition, CBS News Sunday Morning and PBS’ Bill Moyers Journal just to name a few.
Playing For Change was one of 2009’s most unlikely and startling cultural phenomenons. Hear Music/Concord Music Group’s two-disc CD/DVD Playing For Change – Songs Around the World, released April 28th, stunned the music industry selling over twenty-six thousand copies in it’s first week and landing at #10 on Billboard’s Top 200 Pop chart. This remarkable and unpredicted popular response has been driven by tens of millions of video hits, countless blogs and pure viral communication between fans and followers. The project’s deep emotional resonance, combined with the muscle of the internet and word-of-mouth has struck a profoundly enduring chord world-wide.
Most recently, with the Concord Music Group, Playing For Change announced the launch of a new record label that will support releases from select artists associated with the global music and multi-media collective Playing For Change. The first artist signed to Playing For Change Records/Concord Music Group is Grandpa Elliott.
Sugar Sweet Track Listing
1. Ain’t Nothing You Can Do
2. This Little Light of Mine (Medley)
3. Sugar Is Sweet
4. Baby, What You Want Me to Do
5. We’re Gonna Make It
6. Share Your Love With Me
7. Another Saturday Night
8. Fannie Mae (Live) – featuring the Playing For Change Band
9. Please Come Home for Christmas
*Produced by Mark Johnson and Reggie McBride