Angela Strehli is a long-time Bay Area resident but her Austin days were on both of our minds when I first interviewed her.
That conversation took place just six weeks after the singer returned to Texas to perform at a memorial for long-time Austin club owner Clifford Antone. I could hear the anguish in her voice as she remembered the man and his death.
"It was pretty overwhelming, really," Strehl said in her distinctive Texas twang. "I'm still really close with his sisters, so as soon as it happened they wanted me to know. Everybody was in shock."
Antone had been a pillar of the Austin music scene for more than 30 years. Indeed, it was his self-named club and record label that put the city's blues scene on the map in the 1980s, helping launch not only Strehli's career, but also those of Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.
These days, Strehli along with Tracy Nelson, Dorothy Morris and Annie Sampson comprise the Blues Broads, a supergroup of blues belters joined onstage by Gary Vogensen (guitar), Steve Ehrmann (bass), Mike Emerson (keyboards) and Paul Revelli (drums). The quartet will bring its decades of musical experience to bear as it performs July 24 at City Winery in Napa, July 25 at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley and July 26 at the Harris Center for the Arts in Folsom.
The Throckmorton show brings the Broads back to the place they recorded their eponymously titled live album. The CD/DVD package finds the quartet running through a wide range of material from “Livin’ the Blues” and “Two Bit Texas Town” to the soaring pop classic “River Deep, Mountain High” and the gospel standard “Oh, Happy Day” (Morrison sang lead on the original Edwin Hawkins Singers’ hit).
A Lubbock native, Strehli moved to Austin just as that city was becoming a blues Mecca, one of the driving forces in the U.S. blues revival of the late 1970’s and ‘80s. She was at the very center of that experience, as her bio notes:
She was a fixture at Antone’s in Austin, where she initially played a key role in that legendary club’s development. She was mentored and encouraged by many of the artists she booked including Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins and her love for the blues literally found a voice as she transitioned from the back office to the stage.
Strehli released her debut album, 1987’s “Soul Shaker,” on the Antone’s label. My first exposure to her voice came via “Dreams Come True,” her 1990 collaboration with Lou Ann Barton and Marcia Ball. Another personal fave is the Antone’s 20th anniversary live album, a two-disc set on which Strehli sings “Big Town Playboy” and “What It Takes.”
Strehli by then had moved to the Bay Area, but she continued to record her own brand of sassy Texas blues on “Blonde and Blue” (1993), “Deja Blue” (1998) and “Blue Highway” (2005). There also have been two significant live releases – Strehli is featured on Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble’s “Live At Carnegie Hall” (1997) and her own “Live From Rancho Nicasio” (2001).
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