Sarah Webster Fabio: Sweet Songs + Alchemy Of the Blues
From Jujus/Alchemy of the Blues (Folkways, 1976)
I learned about Fabio two ways: Cool Chris put me up on this album probably as early as 2000 or so and then another one of her albums showed up at KALX in Berkeley where I still had my radio show back then. Fabio was a renown poet and educator who actually lived in my backyard (uh, not literally) for many years, teaching and working in Berkeley and Oakland. Though her fame as a poet coming out of the Black Arts Movement was never as visible as others such as June Jordan or Nikki Giovanni, Fabio was prolific in her own right and just like Giovanni, recorded many of her works, especially for the Folkways label, run out of the Smithsonian.
I’d love to say that all her albums are like Jujus/Alchemy Of the Blues but this LP – wouldn’t you know it? – is rather unique amongst her catalog. She had a previous album called Boss Soul which is an awesome name at the very least but musically speaking, it’s purportedly nowhere near as good as Jujus. This LP has, as you can well hear, an incredible rhythm section that keeps things slick and funky on a few of the stand-out songs. Interspersed in the songs themselves are examples of Fabio and her family’s poems. I know some of you might shake in the face of having to listen to spoken word but when you’re backed with that level of funkitude, believe me: you’ll deal. Plus, any song (such as on “Sweet Songs”) where people shout out their zodiac sign is fine by me.
What’s good to know is that the Smithsonian actively keeps many, if not most, of its Folkways titles still in CD circulation even though the vinyl for Fabio’s albums are notoriously expensive.