Canadian matriarch of the blues and veritable force of musical nature Vancouver-based Dalannah wants to know “What The Hell Is That” when it comes to the state of the world in her empowering single and exceptionally powerful video.
Watch and Listen to “What The Hell Is That” here:
“This song is simple in its structure with a message of disdain for what is,” she says. “It’s a musical commentary on the state we are in.
“This conspired notion that everything is a commodity and ‘for sale’ in today’s landscape? Some of us who have been through the wars of change, resistance, and honouring our time have gone ‘under cover,’ so to speak, but still holding on to what we hold dear: The ability and opportunity to live beyond the manipulation of society with our core values and beliefs, (and that) every person has the right to live in a land of equality and equal freedoms.”
The song is the latest to come from her fifth and most recent studio album Looking Back, out via Quest Records and with support from Creative BC and the Province of British Columbia.
“I am very fortunate at this time in life as I usually get a message from spirit that it is time to do a CD,” Dalannah shares of her creative process and how Looking Back came to be. “All my albums have come from a waking moment where something comes through me…
“There has always been an underlying theme for my recordings,” she adds. “For Looking Back, I woke up one morning and knew I still had something to say musically at this crucial time. The more I thought about it, I knew that it was — and is — the undeniable fact that we need to take a good look at how we walk on Mother Earth…
“A good look at how we ‘be.’”
Born of African-Canadian and Cherokee heritage, Dalannah Gail Bowen’s indisputable prowess as a prolific singer, songwriter, actress, playwright, storyteller, event producer, social activist, International Memphis Blues Awards semi-finalist and Blues Hall of Fame Master Blues Artist has secured her standing as a fixture of the blues, rock and soul music-making scene for over 40 years.
Canadian Musician Magazine says she “has a truly spectacular set of pipes, and a most commanding stage presence,” before adding that Dalannah “has one of those voices that lays claim to part of your soul the first time you hear it, and never lets go.
“Smoky. Earthy. Soulful. Powerful. But it’s not just the voice, it’s what she does with it. So much emotion. So much control.”
Critics and colleagues across the board have long been ones to agree; an in-demand vocalist, she has performed alongside or opened for the likes of Led Zeppelin, B.B. King, Willie Dixon, as well as The Monkees and The Guess Who during her time with all-female group, The Feminine Touch.
Downbeat Magazine named her 2015 release Been Around A While one of the top blues albums of the year, and that year she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame as a Master Artist. Releases Mamma’s Got The Blues and Them Menz were also released to international critical acclaim, and she can also be heard in a wide range of musical collaborations, including traditional drum group The Snowy Owl Drummers, tribute collective to the world-renowned gospel singer in Songs of Mahalia Jackson, and Billie’s Blues: A Tribute to Billie Holiday.
It’s efforts like these that awarded her “The Key to The City” and have December 11th officially declared “Dalannah Gail Bowen Day” by Vancouver’s Mayor and Council.
All this to say there have long been many facets of Dalannah to shine, and they all share a common spark, joy, determination and fire towards her womanhood and craft.
The new release, Looking Back, takes the dynamic artist’s work in a new direction, with the music drawing more heavily from Dalannah’s own and more personal story.
“My journey has led me from an unsettled childhood, to finding music, to getting lost in the trauma, to finding traditional ceremony, and all that that means as far as healing is concerned,” she shares. “My journey as an activist started way back in the 60s, marching for the anti-apartheid movement and human rights… Women’s rights.
“Now, at this place and time, I have the opportunity to be a messenger through my music, and through Looking Back.
"The album also takes a hard look back at our world, and our cultures,” she adds of its genesis. “It takes a look towards our future, too."
Produced by Michael Creber, Looking Back was recorded at Vancouver’s Monarch Studios and Warehouse Studio on classic mics seemingly designed to capture Dalannah’s rich, arresting vox.
The album features a veritable who’s who of the area’s local music scene, including Jim Byrnes, The Sorjourners, Tom Keenleyside, Andreas Schuld, Chris Nordquist, Miles Hill, Olaf de Shield, Brian Newcombe, and Rob Becker.
“We could have probably called it ‘How We Spent Our Summer’,” she laughs, recalling the release’s recording process. “We more or less missed hitting the beach, but our studio tans looked great!
“And wait ‘till you hear what we put down.”