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From the Heart

D.C.’s reigning vocalist, Mary Ann Redmond, has more than just the blues.

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Redmond packed Poe’s Pub in late August, with an audience that frequently broke into applause midsong. She was playful when the music allowed it, often mimicking the lines her guitarist played, even egging him on to do something she couldn’t. When asked what that was, noting that it’s not scatting, she responds, “Trading licks!”

Redmond chooses tough songs and nails them — from her soulful and provocative treatment of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” to Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” — she puts her own signature on the music while remaining true to the legacy of the song. It’s as if she wants to breathe new life into it, but respects the song itself enough to leave pretty well alone.

It’s not just the power and range of Redmond’s voice, but her purity of tone and vocal discipline. It’s her delivery — her restraint and gradual uncoiling of emotion — that carries her interpretations as much as the sound of her voice.

“I love a lot of different styles of music, always have,” she says about her diverse repertoire, continuing: “I studied opera at VCU. And Aretha and Gladys Knight, well, I grew up on that. In college I liked jazz. Once I was out of college I discovered blues. Good music is good music. What ties it together is expression and brilliance of expression. No matter what art form, enjoying someone else’s creative brilliance is what it’s all about. It moves you. And it touches your heart.” Asked how she is guided to sing a song that others have done before, she answers, “Sing it from where it reaches you.” S

Mary Ann Redmond, Deborah Coleman, and Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women perform at Pocahontas State Park, 10301 State Park Road in Chesterfield Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. Tickets $12 in advance, which includes parking, at (800) 933-7275 and $15 plus $4 parking at gate. Children 12 and younger free. For more info call 796-4255.

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