If “Never Say I Love You” and “Please Don’t Make Me Late” are about the more teasing and playful sides of a new love, then the third and title track of the album, “The Blues Keeps You Alive”, is about the “thin line between love and hate”.
“If you haven’t contemplated murder, you ain’t been in love.”
–Chris Rock (Never Scared, 2004)
By the summer of 2010, Juwana Jenkins and the Mojo Band had debuted at Hard Rock Cafe Praha in preparation for a performance at the international Šumperk Blues Alive Festival that November. The band was created by special request of the program director, Ondřej Bezr. Because the bandleader, Charlie Slavik, and I wanted to bring an authentic sound but our own original work, I had already written one song “Please Don’t Make Me Late”, but wanted at least one more for the special event.
When Charlie brought me the groove for what would become “The Blues Keeps You Alive” I didn’t like it and didn’t want to use it. There was absolutely nothing in my Philly soul, Motown loving, gospel raised self that could relate to the savage, primal, pagan drums of that Bo Diddley beat–I thought–but Charlie was insistent, saying that no one else on our scene was using such a groove and it was exactly the type of sound that our new “old school Blues” band needed to define and distinguish its sound.
So I put the groove on repeat and went about tidying up, washing dishes and thinking, “Blues Alive. Blues. Alive. Blues Alive? What in the world am I suppose to do with that?”
“Blues Alive. How has the Blues kept me alive?” Washing dishes, I remembered.
I remembered the moment when I hit the kitchen floor in a heap of tears on my knees – a defeated, sobbing, devastated mess, when I knew my marriage was irretrievably lost. I had fought with everything in me to save it, but I was still too young to understand that actually I needed to fight everything in me to save it.
I remembered the moment when feeling abandoned, betrayed and confused I threw a bottle of red wine out the window just to hear the sound and watch the sight of something other than me shattering and falling to the ground.
I remembered the time when my mama felt it necessary to explain, “It’s better for you to separate than end up in a Czech jail,” because the vow “‘til death do you part” was being misinterpreted.
I remembered when I explained to my father what the Blues feels like to me: it’s how you feel the moment just before you begin to pray.
I remembered the moment when I swore that the pain of loss would not break me, but make me.
Then I washed the last glass and began to write the story of how the Blues keeps me alive.
So listen to “The Blues Keeps You Alive” and let me know your thoughts and how the Blues keeps you alive.
PS: If you want to hear this song live, come on down to Hard Rock Cafe Praha next Thursday, April 4th, where Juwana Jenkins and Her All-Star Mojo Band will be performing.