Mary McBride Finds Home In Prisons, Shelters, Nightclubs

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On her current tour in support of her new CD The Way Home, soul/folk singer-songwriter Mary McBride - best known for the touching "No One's Gonna Love You Like Me" from the of the movie Brokeback Mountain soundtrack - has given herself a challenge: in addition to each club date she will be making at all promotional stops, she will also be performing at senior centers, prisons, community centers and homeless shelters, starting at the (in)famous Angola prison in Louisiana. The reason is the theme of the disc, which centers around its title. What exactly does home mean to you and me, and what does it mean to other people? That is the question that she poses to all of us and to herself. Rocks Off caught up with McBride by phone late last month, where she spoke of the new album and her inspiration for some highlighted songs. She also commented on New York Times nuptials columnist Lois Smith Brady's assessment of her voice in that newspaper's "Vows" section. Rocks Off: The decision to play in places like Angola prison and the Houston Area Women's Center - where did that come from? Mary McBride: I've always tried to do tours that in some way reflect the making of the record. After 9/11, I did a record that was all about New York, so I did a tour of all five boroughs and when I was writing this record, "Home" was the first song that I wrote in this collection of songs, and I wanted to tour in a way that reflected on what home means to me. RO: What does home mean to you? MM: I think we are going to find out - it's a difficult question, really, and that is the question that we're posing. I read this quote that said "I feel at home wherever I find myself," and I realized that when you're traveling and playing where people live, the idea of home has a lot of different meanings. We are going to play everywhere from the Houston Area Women's Center, which is a wonderful organization that provides shelter for women in the Houston area to a housing community in Galveston. We're gonna be playing for the HVA hospital in California, for the elderly in Washington. Our audiences in the places that we're going are varied, but my real hope is that the tour will provide fun for the people.

RO: Of these places you are playing - with the exception of Angola - will the public have access?

MM: Some of the shows will be open to the public. The Houston show is not open to the public, just for the people that they serve and the people who work there, because there are some issues dealing with security, but we are doing open shows during the tour, and our Web site will identify which shows are open and which aren't. But when we're in a city and we're playing a private show we'll try to make other shows open to the public, so in Houston we'll definitely have a club date.

RO: About the songs on the record: What inspired you to write "That Thing You Do To Me" and "Good To Me," the tunes where you seem to be singing from deep inside in comparison to the others?

MM: Well thank, you. I am a really a big fan of those old R&B/Stax albums, and for this record I really wanted to switch things around and cover a wide variety of styles, and definitely wanted to have more of a soul sound on much of these tracks. "That Thing You Do To Me," I wrote the lyrics before I got into the studio and then I worked with my producer (Lou Whitney) and the band on all of the songs. We had a great guy in the studio with us, Charlie Chalmers. He is a horn arranger, and he did arrangements for Aretha Franklin and Jerry Lee Lewis, and actually played on the original "Mustang Sally." He was influential for us in coming up with the arrangements and coming up with the songs.

RO: In your wedding announcement in The New York Times, author Lois Smith Brady describes your voice as "part angel, part truck driver." How do you interpret this - how do these two personas coexist?

MM: I think I have a lot different styles, and that is probably what she's saying, that I definitely love doing rock and roll shows and love coming out with a full band and I'm really comfortable playing for a small group of people. What is so great about this tour is that every show is different, sometimes with a full band and some more intimate, with different arrangements for each song.

With the Stone River Boys, 9 p.m. Saturday, June 5 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main 713-529-9899 or www.continentalclub.com/Houston.html. Also private show at Houston Area Women's Center Monday, June 7.

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