I had the privilege of seeing Lady Alma, one of my favorite soul-dance divas, usher in the year 2012 at D.C.’s legendary Blues Alley. Throughout her career, she has proven herself to be a bridge between several musical cultures, moving effortlessly between soul, jazz, broken-beat, house, and hip-hop; all with the intent to move us either physically or spiritually (she usually ends up doing both simultaneously). This versatility was put on full display and lended itself perfectly to Blues Alley’s intimate vibe.
Her band, A Black Tie Affair, set the mood and tone with a soulfully ambient instrumental number, after which Lady Alma got right down to business. She started off with Silhouette Brown’s “Bitter Pills and Butterflies” and eased into Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “Can’t Hide Love.” Her version was so mellow that she invited the audience to “lean wit’ it, and rock wit’ it,” but by the time she and her background singers got through with the closing harmonics, she had unleashed the Philly beast with big roaring vocals that threatened to blow the roof off!
From that point, Blues Alley had been transformed into Lady Alma’s Living Room. She peppered most of her performance with witty asides, at one point thanking the audience for coming out on such a cold night, but promised that she would surely warm us up “just like a bowl of Campbell’s soup…cuz I’m Mmmm Mmmm good!!!” She made herself at home and pulled out an extra-tender version of Andre 3000’s “Prototype” from her bag of tricks, which ended up morphing into Bob Marley’s “Waiting In Vain.” The show reached a fever pitch when she closed with her broken-beat anthem, “Hold It Down.”
I found myself gaining a new-found respect for Lady Alma as she shared with us that she was having serious bouts of depression that she is receiving help for. After the show, she went into more detail with me about what was going on in that dark period of her life. In 2010, she had attempted suicide and had to be hospitalized for a week. While in the hospital, she decided that she had to live. “After seeing the hopelessness of some of the other people that were in the hospital, I realized that I was trying to take the easy way out. I realized that I have a job to do.” She also noted that she uses her audience as her therapy, and by being so open about her situation, wants them to know that she is just like them.
This year looks to be shaping up to be the year of Lady Alma, as she revealed that she will be featured in a new documentary that will be filming her for six months in Amsterdam capturing life through an independent artist’s eyes. Around April or May, she will also be releasing her long-awaited full-length album titled, “Lady Alma: Get To Know Me,” which she has had a big hand in producing and writing.
Lady Alma confirms for me that even through life’s toughest tests, one can truly prevail and continue to grow and inspire others. The energy that she brought to Blues Alley was a reflection of this thought as she demonstrated that in order to walk the path of fearlessness, sometimes you have to cross through the intersections of pain and vulnerability. Her strength lies in the fact that she is still here, entertaining the masses and spreading love, peace, and positivity for those who are truly in need.