In some ways, singer Toshi Reagon is a throwback to classic R & B artists, like Stevie Wonder or Prince, or old school rock group like Led Zeppelin; she can take any style, update it, and make it her own with incredible ease. Despite (or because of) her genre-bending, Toshi fits comfortably on a stage at Carnegie Hall, or in a dirty rock club. Toshi is an artist who’s known for energetic performances and a exemplary gift for writing engaging songs that provoke listeners to think and have fun at the same time.
A seasoned live performer, Toshi jumped into the spotlight when she dropped out of college after Lenny Kravitz tapped her to open for him on his first world tour. And Toshi hasn’t stopped earning the respect of musicians, the praise of critics and the love of fans since then. Just ask Elvis Costello, who was hooked after one high-energy evening in NYC—he even invited Toshi and her band, BIGLovely, to back him up on a ”Late Show with David Letterman” appearance.
Supporting her earthy tenor and amazing ability to bend the guitar strings are a few members of her live band BigLovely; Fred Cash on bass, Robert “Chicken” Burke on drums, Adam Widoff on guitar, and Catherine Russell on mandolin and vocals. Among the list of guest artists you’ll find Marc Anthony Thompson of Chocolate Genius who adds harmonica and vocals to the sultry, groove-driven “22 Hours”. “I’m a huge groupie—when I heard one of his CD’s I tracked him down just to tell him I love him; he will be on every record I make for the rest of my life,” Toshi explains.With her all-star players behind her and producer Craig Street (Me’Shell NdegeOcello, kd lang, Joe Henry, Cassandra Wilson) and mixer Elliot Mazer (Santana, Neil Young) at the helm, Have You Heard drives deep into your soul.
Says Street,“She is one of the most talented singer/guitarist/drummer/songwriters that I’ve ever had the pleasure of collaborating with, and for me falls into that category of anytime, anyplace. When Toshi calls, I am available.”
From her rock platform Toshi easily jumps from funk to country, spirituals to folk, taking any style, updating it and making it her own with ease. Genre bending is her specialty—take the gospel-tinged fingerpicking melody “Have You Heard” or the soft balladry of “You,” the funky “OOH WEE” or the original interpretation of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel”. As the New York Times raves,“Ms. Reagon’s music originates in her love of mixing things up…[her] vocal style ranges from a dirty blues moan to a gospel shout to an ethereal croon.”
An uncompromising brew of artistic exuberance and exceptional musical talent, Have You Heard can work as the soundtrack to a house party or an introspective walk in the park. It’s been 15 years since Toshi Reagon broke on the NYC music scene with her debut album and her latest is proof that her star is still rising.