Magazine article Newsweek

No Ways Tired

Magazine article Newsweek

No Ways Tired

Article excerpt

The Lord speaks in mysterious ways, and on Jan. 1, 199, he spoke to Fontella Bass through a television commercial. Bass, now 54, was at the lowest ebb in her life. Twenty-five years after her No. 1 R&B single "Rescue Me" had placed her in the permanent hit pantheon, she had no career to speak of Her four children were grown or in college, and she had strayed far from the church where she had started singing gospel as a child. She was broke, tired and cold; the only heat in her house came from the gas stove in the kitchen. "I said a long prayer," Bass recalls. "I said, `I need to see a sign to continue on.' And all of a sudden on the TV I heard. . . Rescue Me'." Unbeknownst to her, American Express was using Bass's song on a TV commercial. "It was if the Lord had stepped right into my world!" she says. "I looked around and got my back royalties. I started to go to church ever-y Sunday. And that's what saved me."

With her new album, "No Ways Tired," released through Nonesuch's acclaimed American Explorer Series, it's Bass's turn to save you. Combining churchly elements like organ and choir with snazzy sax solos and Bass's own barrelhouse blues piano, "No Ways Tired" is the kind of gospel that might seriously convert people: it needs to be believed to be heard. Bass's voice leaps and exults through traditional hymns ("You Don't Know What the Lord Told Me"), bursting with a spirit that couldn't come from this world. Onstage, she gets so carried away that her gaze ascends to a spot above the crowd, her eyes cross slightly and a smile of unfiltered joy covers her face. …

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