Soulkiss Live: Revival Beyond Religion

by Elizabeth Cunningham

For me the experience that is Soulkiss begins as soon as I walk into the venue, in this case the Triad Theatre, an upstairs cabaret just off Broadway in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Everyone is already smiling. Strangers strike up conversation in line for the bathroom as if they were family at a reunion. And for that evening, they are. The crowd at a Soulkiss concert is always multi-racial and multi-generational, reflecting the diversity of the singers themselves and their ability to create community wherever they go.

The band ready, with the incomparable Ron Gilmore on keys, Soulkiss walks down aisle and takes stage with a Tim Dillinger original “You Take the Clouds Away.” The crowd is with them immediately, clapping, moving, cheering. Tim is in the center with a new hair color, red this time. To his right is David Sosa his long, dark curls tumbling, his face luminous. And Kare Alford to Tim’s left is wearing…a kilt, complete with a sporran, and not just any kilt but a Douglas plaid as a surprise for my husband Douglas who inspired this bold sartorial move.

In case you are wondering, sporran is Gaelic for purse. It hangs from the waist to rest over the man’s groin. It serves as a pocket for the pocketless kilt, but until you have seen Kare Alford perform Bill Wither’s “Use Me” you really don’t know what a sporran is for. He uses it to tremendous comic and erotic advantage. The crowd howls and I bond with the woman sitting next to me, exchanging high fives as she shouts out: “What you got in that purse!” and I holler: “Shake your sporran!”

The singers take turns as lead, each one’s style distinctive. Kare, also an actor, turns his songs into stories, using his face and his body to engage, and well, command the audience. David’s voice has a grace that is both intricate and sounds effortless. His hands and fingers follow all the small notes and the nuance he brings to songs like Rachel Farrell’s “I Gotta Go” and his virtuoso rendition of Burt Bachrach’s “A House is Not a Home.” I don’t have an accurate octave count of Tim’s range, but it is huge, and on full display in Charles Stepney’s “Love has Fallen on Me” made famous by Chaka Khan. A Gospel singer from an early age, Tim knows how to catch the Holy Ghost, as he calls it. He opens himself and goes, and he takes everyone with him.

Part the joy of a Soulkiss concert is the obvious joy the singers take in each other’s talent. The three share a house together and pool all the resources to make the music happen. Rehearsal begins at home and happens every night. One of the thrills of the evening, for which the rowdy audience held its breath, is the trio’s a cappella rendition of The Beatle’s “Yesterday.”

The only bad thing about a Soulkiss concert is that it has to end, but what an ending: LaBelle’s “Going Down Makes Me Shiver.” By this time I have begun to suspect that my fellow enthusiast is none other than Sarah Dash, one of Soulkiss’s “mothers” along with Reba Rambo Rambo McGuire Susaye Greene, Charlene Moore and I am happy to say, me! Sarah has performed this song with LaBelle, and Tim is singing her part. She is transported, and so is everyone else. Everyone in the place joins in on the chorus, singing “going down to your river, going down to your river.” That’s where we are, at the river, the source. With no need to repent, to profess a creed, we are at a revival, souls washed through with song: we are revived.

For more about Soulkiss and about Elizabeth and The Maeve Chronicles.

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Elizabeth Cunningham February 16, 2010 - 10:10 pm

Maeve here. Every week I must add a comment. Surely I am one of Soulkiss's mothers, too! Tim has read all the novels about me way more times than he has octaves in his range. And whenever Soulkiss gathers anywhere to party, they say they are in Temple Magdalen. In fact, they call their house Temple Magdalen South!

Sing on, Soulkiss! love, Maeve

Tim Dillinger February 16, 2010 - 10:33 pm

Yes Maeve…you are! I dyed my hair in homage to you! Mine is Ruby Red…I'd love to know the name of your shade so I can try to match up a little bit better.

Elizabeth–When you shared this with me, I 'caught the holy ghost'. The Spirit of the evening–and the spirit of all that we have drawn from you and our family in High Valley and Temple Magdalen–feels almost tangible in your words.

I've never wanted to be a 'performer' in the traditional sense. Maybe I just have too much church in me, but I have always needed the shows to be experiences…for us and those who come to see us. As a solo artist, I never quite captured that. It took us forming SOULKISS for that experience to manifest in the exact way that you described.

'The River' means so much to us…finding 'that place' with one another and meeting there to share the moment…it is purely and simply a high. Wherever two or three are gathered, the magic can happen.

We are proud to have you as a mother.

Tim Dillinger February 16, 2010 - 11:09 pm

I must add, my mother Reba just read this from Nashville and was adament that she was there as well, if by remote…she maintains…she was still there. Maeve, did you two sit together?

faerian February 16, 2010 - 11:19 pm

i got goosebumps reading this … (and not just about shaking sporrans…) one day i will come and see you and i shall wear a sequinned bustier to celebrate!

Anonymous February 17, 2010 - 2:11 pm

Thank you for letting us soar with Soulkiss and with you! Food for our hungry souls, indeed, and a tribute to the magic of Spirit-in-song.

Kare February 17, 2010 - 8:29 pm

I don't even know what to say to this…I mean this is probably one of the most biggest and best compliments/reviews I think I have ever read. Elizabeth I am here in tears. thank you for believing in us and being the mother of "SoulKiss" you mean more to us then you will ever know. We love you

Unknown February 18, 2010 - 2:58 pm

Just so true!

Maybe someday, I'll get a Douglas kilt, too. Mine are Macgregor, I think, and Campbell Argyll.

At least I have a claim to the Campbell.

Soulkiss was a wave that carried me through the whole evening.


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