“I get paid to belt and shout, but I actually can sing,” Sista Monica Parker quips in the living room of her Mountain House home prior to a Wednesday night rehearsal with her new Acoustic Honey band.
Since the Gary, Indiana, native became a professional singer 20 year ago, she’s been knocking out audiences at festivals, clubs and blues cruises throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Turkey with her electric band and big, brassy, church-hewn contralto pipes.
She has recorded 11 CDs for her own Mo Muscle label, most of them focused on blues. Two are devoted to gospel music, the most recent of which is 2010’s “Singin’ in the Spirit” featuring guests Linda Tillery, Deanna Bogart and Bishop Yvette Flunder.
With Acoustic Honey, comprising pianist Danny Beconcini, tenor saxophonist Danny Sandoval, drummer Leon Joyce Jr. and onetime Charles Brown side person Ruth Davies on upright bass, Parker plans to present a softer sound and a broader repertoire.
The group will make its debut, beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, at Piedmont Piano Company, 1728 San Pablo Ave. in Oakland. Two shows are booked for the following Saturday at Kuumbwa Jazz in Santa Cruz.
“It’s gonna be a mix of roots music, blues, gospel and jazz,” Parker says before breaking into the opening line of “What a Diffr’rence a Day Makes.” “”We’ll be doing some standards and we’ll be doing some popular songs, and then we’ll be doing some Sista Monica.
“The band will not be able to overpower me, which sometimes bands do when they can plug in and turn up. Although my band rarely does that because we talk a lot about dynamics, the truth is when we’re on the festival scene, sometimes it just gets that way.”
Parker recently left her day job as a freelance corporate headhunter in order to devote more time to her music. She served as a Marine Corps recruiter during her three-years of service in the late ‘70s, then worked for more than three decades for such companies as Hewlett Packard, Apple, Yahoo, Sun Microsystems and Dolby Laboratories.
“I meditate and I write songs,” Parker says of her new-found free time. “I’m studying my craft a lot more. I’m going into the history of Etta James and Koko Taylor and Ruth Brown and Katie Webster — the older girls who preceded me – so I can learn how they developed their craft and got to where they are.”
Parker began singing in a Baptist church in Gary when she was 7 and later developed an affinity for blues after attending the Chicago Blues Festival. “Blues has some of the same rhythms and chord changes that gospel does,” he vocalist plans to travel to Memphis in May to attend the Blues Foundation’s 34th Blues Music Awards ceremony. She, along with Barbara Carr, Denise LaSalle, Dorothy Moore and Irma Thomas, are nominated for this year’s award in the organization’s Soul Blues Female Artist category.