Bobby McFerrin returns with blues, bluegrass and old spirituals from new album

By From page A7 | March 27, 2013

Bobby McFerrin will play Friday, April 5, in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center. Courtesy photo

Bobby McFerrin will play Friday, April 5, in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center. Courtesy photo


Who: Bobby McFerrin in concert

When: 8 p.m. Friday, April 5

Where: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis

Tickets: $35-$82 general, $17.50-$41 students; www.mondaviarts.org, 530-754-2787

Singer-songwriter Bobby McFerrin returns to the Mondavi Center at 8 p.m. Friday, April 5, with his band for a concert that will feature much of the material that will be found on his upcoming album “spirityouall,” a title that sounds a bit like “spiritual.”

The album, scheduled for mid-May release, includes several of what were once known as Negro spirituals,  including “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” and “Glory Glory Halleluja (Lay My Burden Down).”

The album is, in part, a tribute by McFerrin to his father, the late Robert McFerrin, who was a renowned operatic baritone and the first African-American man to be a featured soloist at the Metropolitan Opera. Three of the traditional numbers featured on the new album — the opening track, “Every Time I Feel the Spirit,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and “Fix Me Jesus” — also appeared on the senior McFerrin’s 1957 album “Deep River,” which was released when Bobby was 7.

But where the elder McFerrin recorded these songs in formal classical recital style, accompanied by a pianist, the younger McFerrin does them in a folksy, informal, somewhat loping style, with arrangements that recall bluegrass, the blues and other styles.

“I always thought that someday I’d sing these songs,” Bobby McFerrin said in a news release preceding the album and the current concert tour. “And (I knew) that I’d have to find a way of doing it that was completely different from my father’s approach. I think the idea has been kicking around for at least a couple of decades. And it was finally time.”

The album also features original songs by Bobby McFerrin, including a setting of a text drawn from Psalm 25, a hoedown titled “Rest,” and a polemic anthem titled “Woe.”

While it probably wouldn’t be accurate to call the album a “gospel” recording in the conventional sense, it is based on faith.

“I couldn’t do anything without faith,” McFerrin said in the news release. “I couldn’t open up my eyes, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t sing. What I want everyone to experience at the end of my concerts is … this sense of rejoicing. I want them to have this sense of real joy, from the depths of their being. Then you open up a place where grace can come in.”

Tickets are $35-$82 general, $17.50-$41 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.



Jeff Hudson

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