Imagine history’s great female singers up on a stage. All genres. Look! Renee Fleming, Bonnie Raitt, Lucinda Williams, Joan Baez, Billie Holliday, Ella, Sarah, Dinah. Your own personal favorites. Up on that stage. Ready to sing.
And then you see a woman you don’t recognize. If you are not from 200-mile radius of Chicago, you have no clue why she’s on that stage. Somebody in the crowd of greats, maybe Maria Callas or Janis Joplin, walks over to the woman you don’t recognize and says,
“Hi Bonnie Koloc. Glad you’re here!”
Bonnie Koloc, perhaps the greatest living vocalist you have most likely never heard of, has gone into the studio for the first time since 1988. And she has released a CD, “Rediscovered” in much the same way one imagines Rembrandt finishing a painting.
But that’s where the comparison ends. Koloc’s music feels first like an invitation to sit around her living room and share some songs. Not something hang on a wall.
It’s only later, after repeated listenings---because you’ll want to listen to this true gem a lot—it’s only later that you pick up the full impact of the world-class musicianship that powers the stories on this new masterpiece. Only later that the rare long time listener thinks, “She’s actually gotten better.” Only later that you realize the production value of this CD would make a Nashville Session man tip his cowboy hat or an LA Session guy or gal coolly nod “yes.” All that only happens later. Because right now, all you want to do is listen.
Listen to Koloc share songs. Songs built around this theme of "Rediscovered."
Not something you think about every day. Being “rediscovered.”
Being discovered. That’s an easy idea. You are found! Celebrated! Rich. Famous. Whatever it is you want.
But being Rediscovered is different. If it comes, it’s a longer, deeper journey.
Rediscovered means another chance.
Like a golden thread of hope that connects us all. Another chance. And the musical stories here mark a way for anyone who enjoys music at its best, to wander down their own path to rediscovery.
The path Koloc charts is grounded in her early years with two songs in loving memory of her brother Jim. “Two Black Guitars” brings The Everly Brothers, and in some ways all of music itself, into the story along with a melody capable of comforting anyone in those times of deepest grief. “Kentucky Dreams,” speaks to the notion that in remembering something or someone, there are always more stories. “Stories” she sings, that “only me and my Mama know.” And in that line, a respect for the stories comes through strong.
“Lie Down By Me’ will waft out of your speakers like the warmest of summer winds. If the pressures of real life get in the way of your “rediscovery” journey, listen to this song immediately! When Koloc sings, “Let’s think about right now,” you do.
Segue that summer wind into the bass line of the old blues singer Lil Green’s “In the Dark,” and one really doesn’t need to say anything else about grown up love. Because the song says it all. And says it clearly.
“Children’s Blues” is a fascinating piece of work. Written by Koloc, the song does the seemingly impossible. It makes the story of a child into the blues. Real blues.
“Sunday Morning Movies” is about grown up fantasies, missed connections; wishful thinking and above all the human need to just keep going. It’s a song that will make you raise your hand and say, “Been there!”
Heroes are part of any journey of rediscovery. And "Elis" is a song to the Brazilian superstar Elis Regina. Clearly a hero of Koloc’s. The haunting Spanish guitar, accordion of faraway places and brilliant bass line as Koloc offers up a tribute will send more than one listener to You Tube to see who Koloc is singing about. And it’s a trip that’s worthwhile. Elis Regina is very much up on that stage of music royalty.
The last three songs on this shimmering collection of music are Tom Rush’s “Wind on The Water,” Jackson Browne’s Colors of the Sun” and finally John Prine’s masterpiece “Angel From Montgomery.”
And it’s in these three songs that this magnificent vocalist, who calls herself a “saloon singer”, offers up perhaps the most profound message of rediscovery.
All three of these songs come from Koloc’s early days. They come from the time when she was first “discovered” playing alongside Prine and Steve Goodman at Chicago’s Earl of Old Town.
But listening to these songs again, those who have grown up listening to Bonnie Koloc, and those who have never heard of her, all get something that wasn’t there the first time. The soaring talent, the ferocious drive for perfection, knowing which songs to sing; that was always there. And it’s still here.
But this time there is more. Along with musicianship and production value brought to a new level, there is something else.
This time there is wisdom in the work. The hard fought wisdom of the years. To rediscover, one must remember where they came from. But they’ve also got to keep changing. And with this major piece of work, she has.
Bonnie Koloc has always been one of the greats. If you've never heard her, you're missing something major.
Because now she’s even better.
“Rediscovered” can be found here: