Born: January 30, 1958 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Karen Carroll, singer, songwriter, musician, Chicago native, started singing in church at 6. She was taught singing theory by master Robert Allen and Nate Griffin was her vocal coach. Karen worked with Lonnie Brooks, Albert King and The Freeman Bros very early in her career. It goes without saying that all along her career, she has been supported by her mother Jeanne Carroll (respected, world wide Jazz artist), with whom she had her first professional gig. Since the early 80’s she has appeared with Katie Webster, Albert King, Carey and Lurrie Bell, Rudy Rotta, Otis Grand, Willie Kent, Steve “Big Man” Clayton, Alvin Lee, Mongo Jerry, Mississippi Heat, Buddy Guy, Deitra Farr, Bonnie Lee, Eddie Clearwater, Sammie Fender, Eddie Shaw, Angela Brown, Billy Branch, Melvin Taylor, Lonnie Brooks, Byther Smith, Johnny B. Moore, Sugar Blue, Buddy Miles, Zora Young and many more musical wonders. Singing gospel since her childhood she is an authentic performer of The Great American Deep Blues. Appearing twice at The Chicago Blues Festival; in 2008 at the request of blues master B.B. King. Karen turned to Europe in 1998, touring with many different bands, creating and leading some. Today she works solo or with different groups, always provokeing a stormy applause from the audience.
Works include Son of a Gun, “Had My Fun”, “Talk To The Hand”, “Professors Strutt”, “Women of Blue Chicago”, “Chicago’s Finest Blues Ladies” Delmarks 50th Anniversary and “Stock Yard Strutt”. In Europe Karen created “Be My Guest”, “Live in Coburg”, “Live in Olesnica”, Evolution Revolution and “Ghetto Love” (all her originals) keeping her in the limelight. She also appears on many compilation Cd’s of Blues, Jazz and Gospel.
She lives quietly in Germany near her mother who is still touring at the grand age of 80. Karen loves Koolaid, old fashion candy, reading, collecting books and computer games. Making time to visit her family and friends in the U.S. during down time. Karen is now a grandmother of 6 who keep her funk and spirit, fresh and hip. Putting God first and serving family, friends and fans, keep her pumping out that soulful groove. There is only one Karen Carroll, a true, free loving spirit that will forever be a musical legand.
Carroll is today working on a new CD, showcasing a combination of blues, jazz, gospel and inspirational tracks, all her own creations. She wrote, produced, played, sings, holds all copy-writes and will publish this production herself. She’s one busy OG who will always have and be the blues.
Karen, absolutely magnificent! Soulful, perfectly delictable, and masterfully performed. A voice that reaches to your center - and bam! Sends chills right up and down my spine!! -Mike Huntingford , Showcase Your Music (May 28, 2011)
Then, at about 8:20 it was time for Karen Carroll and Mississippi Grave Diggers. The band was great, there were alot of serious musicians onstage, the music was a mixture of traditional blues and soul-funk-jazzy stuff, they even have an electric violin, which fits in surprisingly well, and Karen's singing was outstanding. They played for an hour and a half, and made a very good overall impression on audience -Alvin Lee, Alvin Lee Blog (Sep 28, 2010)
A Sunday brunch show with Willie Kent and the Gents. Willie Davis, guitar player with Kent, plays some great raw Chicago blues guitar in a style that it is hard to get enough of. Both Karen Carroll and Bonnie Lee joined the band for some hard core blues singing. At the brunch that morning were Johnny B. Moore, who played later, Jimmie Lee Robinson and Frank Scott. -Ray M. Stiles, Blues OnStage
Delmark has re-released blues diva Karen Carroll's popular, out-of-print CD from 1997, which demonstrates her strong pipes and unique sense of style. Backed by Sir Walter Scott, The Madhatter, and Vamp Samuels, Karen runs through a series of slow and mid-tempo blues. Her song Neked J Blues is a nine-minute monologue that will make you laugh so hard that you will cry. Willie Henderson leads the all-star horn section of Kenny Anderson, Hank Ford and Sonny Seals. -Hambone, Hambone's Top 5 Spins
Lady Is Lonely Karen Carroll is one of the few women left in the blues. What's happened to all of the women in the blues? Despite the key role played by Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Ida Cox in the 1920s, contemporary blues remains largely a man's domain in terms of both musicians and fans. Carroll's own blues pedigree flows from her mother, Jeanne Carroll, a noted Chicago musician who performed with Muddy Waters. She didn't want me playing music because it was too hard, says Carroll, who sneaked into South Side clubs anyway without her mother's approval. When Carroll was 17, her godmother, the late blues belter Bonnie Lee, coaxed the teen onstage to sing. -Rosalind Cummings-Yeates, ChicagoMag.com
Her combination of technical flash and roiling emotionalism can be spellbinding. Solidly grounded in a bedrock sense of swing, she can ascend from an insinuating whisper into a throaty gospel shout in a heartbeat, and on tearjerkers like Misty Blue she seasons herself God given voice with a wide vibrato; alternately dampening her vocals to a teary croon and exploding into audacious melismatic flurries. -Jim Newberry, The Chicago Reader (May 07, 2011)
As both a solo act and with Karen's band, The Mississippi Gravediggers, Carroll has appeared at blues festivals and clubs throughout North America and since 1990 has also appeared overseas, performing in Europe and Scandinavia. From 1998 she spent some time based in Nürnberg, Germany. While never losing sight of the origins of the blues, Carroll incorporates elements of early soul and touches of jazz and, most important of all in distinguishing hersekf from other blues singers, an evident liking for and empathy with gospel music. The eclectic nature of her repertoire has ensured the interest of the younger generation of the audience for the blues. -The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Oldies.com (May 21, 2011)
Chicago blues singer Karen Carroll was 39 when Delmark issued “Talk to the Hand,”. The CD starts with “Ain’t It Nice,” and “Sweet Home Chicago.”. Her original, “I’m Glad,” with nice punchy horns. Another Carroll original, “Don’t Make Me Wait,” is a soulful ballad in the vein of such seventies artists as Donny Hathaway. “Tired of Being Mistreated,” is a rocking gospel-based rave. Hathaway sounds like an inspiration on “I Need a Friend,” while the title track tells the man he can talk to the hand, with short effective solos. Carroll is able to capture the sassy, sultriness of Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You,” while able to handle the wistful melancholy of Dorothy Moore’s smash, “Misty Blue.” Her reworking of “How Blue Can You Get,” does show her interpretative powers. Still the most interesting selection is her original, “Neked J Blues.” This long talking blues showcases her storytelling ability, closing with “Please Come Back Home, -Delmark Records, In A Blue Mood (Apr 07, 2010)
The best musicians transcend styles and techniques. They deliver their hearts and souls, connecting on a primal level, one on one with each and every listener. Karen Carroll is just such an artist and one of the most universal artists to come on the scene. -Azul, The Blues Collective
Delmark Records vocalist Karen Carroll recorded with Lurrie Bell's father, Carey Bell in 1984. Festival-goers will enjoy her gospel/jazz influenced sound, paired with the talents of Charlie Love and special guest Lurrie Bell. -Chicago Blues Festival Guide
Vocalist Karen Carroll who will get your attention. With her rich, booming vocals, innate sense of rhythm, and overall musical prowess, Carroll is the best new female vocalist to hit the R&B/jazz/blues scene since Patti Cathcart (of Tuck and Patti) came to the fore a few years ago. Big claim? Perhaps. But before dismissing it as overblown critical hype, listen to Everything Is You. -Living Blues Magazine
Karen Carroll has plenty of opportunity to strut her stuff on her debut, Had My Fun. Many of the songs are torchy slow blues or down and dirty Chicago blues either way they sound natural and never forced. That's appropriate, since Carroll sings like a natural, caressing the ballads and growling the nastier numbers. Best of all, there's actual grit in the production - four of the songs were recorded live - and that allows Carroll to achieve her full potential. On this impressive debut, she is able to showcase her writing talents and delivers one deep and soulful Cd. -Thom Owens, CD Universe
While her debut Had My Fun featured Carroll's thunderous, gospel-influenced vocals in a live setting, this studio recording also spotlights her songwriting skills. -Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide
Son of a Gun (P-Vine, 1984) (rereleased, 2002)
Professors Blues Review (Delmark, 1989) (rereleased, 2009)
Stock Yards Strut (Delmark, 1993)
Chicago's Finest Blues Ladies (Delmark, 1993
Had My Fun (Delmark, 1995)
Women of Blue Chicago (Delmark, 1996)
Johnny B. Moore-Live at Blue Chicago (Delmark, 1996)
Talk to the Hand (Delmark, 1997) released, 2005)
Delmarks 50th Anniversary Collection (Delmark, 2003)
Wild About Than Thang-Ladies Sing The Blues (Delmark, 2003)
Be My Guest (Indigoteam, 2005)
Live in Coburg (unsigned, 2008)
Ghetto Love (unsigned, 2009)
Karen Carroll Blues Collection (unsignned, 2011)
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