Born: November 22, 1945 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Vocalist Angela Strehli is an incredibly gifted singer and songwriter, a Texas blues historian, impresario and fan. Born in Lubbock, Texas, Strehli comes out of the same windswept town that produced Buddy Holly, Joe Ely, Waylon Jennings and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Inspired by the blues and R&B music that she heard on late-night radio, Angela took up the harmonica and bass before becoming a full-time vocalist.
Her blues epiphany came, fittingly enough, in a church. An avid music follower, Strehli had already checked out incarnations of the modern blues scene everywhere from Chicago to San Francisco to Austin. She was involved in music but not totally committed until the soul-stirring passion of a down-home Texas black church service convinced her to follow her heart and lift her voice to testify through the blues.
Angela continued fronting several regional Texas groups during the late 60s, but it was in 1975 when fledging musician/blues aficionado Clifford Antone opened up the first incarnation of his nightclub “Antone’s” in downtown Austin that everything came together. Antone began importing legendary blues artists and often assembled the backing musicians for them. Helping him in this effort, Angela had the opportunity to perform with and get to know many of her blues heroes, in turn receiving many valuable lessons and much support.
Austin soon became the hotbed of the mid-80’s blues and roots-rock revival and Strehli was the reigning queen on the scene (she was voted the city’s best female vocalist six times). A generation of young stars including herself, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Stevie Ray Vaughan matured and gained international reputations. Stevie’s triumphant 1984 Carnegie Hall performance was one of the watershed marks for the 80’s blues explosion and Angela was there as his featured vocalist.
The blues muse has been leading Strehli onward ever since. She’s now appeared on more than a dozen uniformly excellent albums, both as a leader and as a creative collaborator. One special recording was the album “Dreams Come True,” blending Angela’s voice with those of fellow Austin stars Marcia Ball and Lou Ann Barton in a fun-filled R&B romp. Another was the tribute album to Curtis Mayfield; “People Get Ready,” Strehli performed an irresistible duet with classic songwriter Don “Chain of Fools” Covay on the album’s opening track and then returned for a stunningly soulful solo showcase.
The album “Deja Blue” demonstrated a new level of pure blues emotion and musical expertise. (She’s accompanied by her “dream band”, which took some time to assemble after her move to the San Francisco area in the 90’s, and has proven well worth the wait.) It featured classic originals like “A Stand By Your Woman Man”, and it demonstrated the versatility of vocal styles in cuts such as the duet “Too Late” with Doug Sahm and the country gospel “Where The Sun Never Goes Down” (with a compelling, almost possessed, vocal by Strehli).
In 2003, fans of that album and her other solo records, “Stranger Blues,” “Soul Shake” and “Blonde and Blue,” were then treated to: “The Angela Strehli Band Live From Rancho Nicasio,” recorded at Rancho Nicasio, historic roadhouse and family restaurant run by husband, Bob Brown.
Strehli in 2005 released “Blue Highway,” truly a tour de force which contains all of the elements which have forged her unique style. The album kicks off with a tribute she wrote for the documentary film Antones: Austin’s Home of the Blues, and she’s accompanied appropriately by musicians she worked with during her years there. Next comes the title track, “Blue Highway”, an instant classic which features pals Marcia Ball and Maria Muldaur, followed by “Hello My Lover”, originally done by Ernie K-Doe, but transformed here into an irresistible duet with Paul Thorn. Next is a stirring tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, who championed her time and again in his career. Then she lightens the mood with “Slipped, Tripped, and Fell in Love”, followed by a hard- hitting original blues “I Don’t Know Why”. Before you can catch your breath, Strehli launches into Inez Andrew’s “Don’t Move My Mountain” with a commanding performance. Then an unexpected surprise which illuminates her love of all things Mexican, “Headed South”. Finally, a bittersweet ballad, “Always Love You”, brings a soothing moment before the album’s fitting closer from Stevie Ray Vaughan Live At Carnegie Hall, the absolutely smoking “C.O.D.”. Every step of the way, Blue Highway will lead you on a journey you’ll want to take time and time again.