Aretha Franklin earned the title "Queen of Soul" after releasing several critically acclaimed timeless recordings that showcase remarkable talent in the soul genre. It’s a debatable topic, for sure, since the pinnacle of any genre can be based on several factors such as popularity, talent, reviews or legendary staying power. Aretha is hard to beat in each of those categories since she is still well respected today, as are many artists in her league like Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Beyonce. The list of R&B/Soul artists in Sacramento is somewhat obscure since there are not that many venues in town that showcase the music despite being one of America’s all time most popular genres.
Carla Fleming deserves the title "Queen of Sac Soul" for now for several reasons, until more emphasis on R&B develops in the local live entertainment scene. Harlow’s has been one venue open to R&B acts and there have been others, but it appears most night clubs in town focus on every popular style but R&B, although jazz and blues, which are closely related to R&B in an historical sense, get plenty of support. Ironically, some of Sacramento’s all time most popular radio stations in history, such as KSFM (102.5), KDND (107.9 The End) and The Bomb, now called Hot 103.5, have done very well programming R&B and hip hop. "Old school" soul station V101 recently dropped its Sunday night "Home Grown Soul" show hosted by Akil, who has given airplay to Carla Fleming and many other local acts.
This week an exclusive video interview series with Carla Fleming is featured on SacTV.com, which continues to explore the best of the Sacramento music scene and various aspects of local culture. A big reason Carla deserves recognition for her recordings, videos and live shows is that she is an authentic artist with a commercial sound that rivals national acts. The best place to find local acts of any genre, including R&B, these days is ReverbNation.com. The site now has close to three million independent artists from all over the world. Part of the site’s appeal is that it has charts for multiple genres in every region of the world. Carla Fleming, for example, is ranked in the top five on the Citrus Heights R&B chart. Other high ranking regional R&B artists include Nevada Breeze, Ava Lemert, Eric EQ Young, Thai Nicole and Odayaka. Each of these artists also deserve honorable titles for their contributions to the local soul scene.
The music of Carla Fleming is particularly special because it is message-driven by a mix of emotional matters of the heart, social commentary and creative themes. She writes music and collaborates with other local musicians including Elk Grove jazz artist Garrett Perkins. Their latest project is called "Weapons Down," which was written and recorded as a tribute to victims following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut last December 14. The message of the song and video is anti-violent and encourages people to adopt a deeper commitment to love and respect for fellow human beings, much like the USA For Africa project. Several artists contributed to the recording and video, as they plan to do a benefit show in May.
Carla was born in Chicago and moved to Sacramento in her youth, attending Grant Union High School, which she describes as having a family atmosphere. Her songwriting grew out of an evolution from writing essays then poems, which transformed into lyrics set to music. Since the early nineties she has been working on musical projects while learning about the recording process. The videos she makes have been outstanding, working with local filmmaker Nick Leisure. The video to her song "Heartbreaker" can be seen on YouTube, where it has had over 4,000 views, which is a very high number for a local artist. The song adds humorous variety to her repertoire, teaching males who cheat on their female partners to at least think twice about it.
A more serious song by Carla is called "Rise Again," which has a very warm and positive message about overcoming life’s struggles. She believes that people are naturally positive and peaceful and that music can enhance that power. One of her favorite songs for positive inspiration is the 1990 national top ten hit "Feels Good" by Tony! Toni! Tone!, who are based in the Bay Area and have recorded in Sacramento. Other R&B artists who have come from or through Sacramento before or after their national success have included Jay King’s Club Nouveau, Wayman Tisdale, DRS, C. Webb and Karyn White. The R&B genre has a huge audience who could help the local scene grow if they had more opportunites to see live entertainment. Our SacTV interview was recorded March 2 at Sac State, where Carla has performed. Her music can be found on her website, YouTube, iTunes, CDBaby and ReverbNation.