Alicia Crowe is a fellow college graduate of mine along with her sister, Alice—with all of us getting degreed at Adelphi University in the mid-1980s. Alicia and Alice are rebel fighters for the ‘Right Thing’ cause (in Spike Lee speak). The posse at Adelphi U are strands in the cultural revolution that platformed the movement of Public Enemy. Fellow classmate such as Bill Stephney PD, while at our legendary and now-defunct (or DE funked) college station WBAU, was the prodigal leader of it all writing for CMJ, also radioing at WLIR, and eventually the president to sign PE at DEF JAM.
Bill was there along with other classmates such as Andre ‘Doctor Dre’ Brown, Harry Allen, Wildman Steve Adams and then my local crew, Spectrum City—Hank and Keith Shocklee, Flavor, Griff, and TerminatorX and so on... Well, the Crowe Sisters, who were from The New City Nyack area of New York State, were a big part of our fighting spirit with their own radio shows, campus protests, and they brought legal fortitude as lawyers for the underserved post graduating AU.
We all were multi-talented while freedom fighting racist, sexist dumb sht and the Crowe Sisterhood was no exception. It’s no surprise that Alicia Crowe has taken on the performance art of The Songs of Alberta Hunter. A free freedom fighter herself, Ms. Hunter’s dexterity and ability to reach and touch any audience across the decades of her long, storied life makes it an enjoyable musical trek—yet a daunting task to cover. In Alicia’s own words, “Ms. Hunter’s career spanned six decades as she overcame obstacles and broke racial barriers to become one of the first African American singers to make the transition from performing in lowly brothels to becoming the “toast of royalty and international society.”
Alicia studied the makeup of Ms. Hunter's life deep enough to convey her sentiment and attitude in the stellar performances of these songs—written almost a century ago. It’s personal too, as Alicia states, “She is how my parents met and started dating before they got married. Alberta worked with both my parents at Gold Water Hospital in the 1950’s when she worked there as a nurse supervisor. My mother, a retired nurse, lived across the hall from her in the nurse’s residence. My father worked in the recreation department… I want people to remember Alberta Hunter’s name, her work, and her legacy. After all, if it weren’t for Alberta Hunter, I would not be here.”
Alicia Crowe not only covers Alberta Hunter as the performer; she captures that ‘time’ as a musical and stage play would. Alberta Hunter’s story of forward, fortitude, fight, fear, frolicking, fighting racist/sexist fckery, and fun* is documented in the film, Wild Women Sing The Blues. The trek and trip of her life colored and styled the songs so well. As with “My Handy Man’s” wit and triple-double entendres, and the storied, “Downhearted Blues” which had its own long tail beyond the wind itself, and of course the title track “My Castle’s Rockin” which intros and outros this cultural cabaret of 9 craft-fully selected tunes.
Alicia Crowe’s solo show, “Come on up... My Castle’s Rockin... A Tribute to Alberta Hunter,” well-captured the vibe and was recorded at the Triad Theater to a packed audience one cold Wednesday on November 14th of 2018. Backed by a stellar group of musicians: Takakki Otomo on piano, Noriko Ueda on bass, and George Gray on the drums along with a special appearance by Rome Neal.
Lastly, to answer “why this recording project?” Fellow partner and President of The SpitSlam Record Label Group David CDoc Snyder shares the same vision in really honing the essence of record labels past by capturing a diverse artist’s sound, fine art photography, video recording, and esthetic. Yes, the core of our label is licensing—publishing perhaps—but our artistic ‘collectible capture’ is for our next decade (right on down to these liner notes on the back of this record doing my Creed Taylor Leonard Feather Thing). It’s an honor just to be pressing vinyl and printing CDs on this, and thus proudly telling you, Reader, to listen and visualize along with the sounds of Alicia Crowe at the bandstand singing “Come on up... My Castle’s Rockin...” A Tribute to Alberta Hunter”
The SpitSlam Record Label Group