Top Norwegian vocalist records gospel in Clarksdale with locals


   CLARKSDALE – Returning to the Delta for her fifth visit, Scandinavian blues diva Rita Engedalen expanded her Mississippi fan base here recording inspirational gospel music and afterward raising the roof at Red’s as a guest with Big Jack Johnson’s Band, the Cornlickers.

   A Grammy winner, Engedalen was presented the International Notodden Blues Festival’s Most Outstanding Musician Prize in 2013.   She tours Europe, has recorded five albums, and has performed during the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival.

   Notodden and the Sunflower have been blues sister festivals since 1996.

   Engedalen’s composition, Mississippi Prayers, was recorded at Gary Vincent’s Studio in Clarksdale.

   It features the voices of Chapel Hill Baptist Church’s legendary choir soloist Myra Turner, a cousin of Ike Turner,  and two members of Coahoma Community College’s concert choir: Kiare Robinson of Clarksdale and Shanekqua McAbee of Indianola singing with Engedalen.

   CCC choir director Kelvin Towers assisted with the recording that will be released in August.

   During her stay, Engedalen attended Sunday church services and applauded the gospel choir at Liberty Missionary Baptist Church in Lyon, home church of Big Jack Johnson who is being honored at the 2014 Sunflower River Blues Festival.

   Engedalen met Big Jack Johnson years ago when he played the Notodden Festival in Norway.

   During the Sunday jam session finale of the Juke Joint Festival, she performed at Red’s, and also at Monday’s video recording with Anthony Sherrod and Big Jack’s Band.

 Preparing for Sunday night’s jam session at Red’s, Rita Engedalen plays acoustic guitar and sings for members of the Big Jack Johnson Band including (from left) Dale Wise, drummer; Bobby Gentilo, guitarist, both of Harrisburg, Pa.; Jukka Siikaluoma of Norway and others.

 Visiting following Sunday church services at Liberty Church are (from left) Dale Wise, drummer and leader of the Big Jack Johnson Band/the Cornlickers; Angenette Johnson, wife of the late Clarksdale bluesman; Etta Turner; Rita Engedalen and Jukka Siikaluoma, both of Norway.

 Taking a break during the recording session at the Gary Vincent Production Studio in Clarksdale are (from left) Coahoma Community College student and choir member Kiare Robinson of Clarksdale; Myra Turner, soloist with the Chapel Hill Baptist Church choir; Rita Engedalen; Gary Vincent, studio owner; Shanekqua McAbee of Indianola, CCC choir member; and Kelvin Towers, director of the CCC choir and choral music department.