After 7 Years, Seattle Women Still Got Rhythm & Blues

Some projects take on a life of their own.

When Kathy Hart formed Seattle Women in Rhythm and Blues, she had modest goals. Hart figured that bringing some of the Northwest's best female singers together for a couple of special concerts would increase her visibility and, with luck, bookings for herself.

"We were going to do it twice one year," Hart said. "That was seven years ago. It was the show that wouldn't die; it just kept snowballing and snowballing."

This weekend, the snowball rolls on, as Seattle Women perform at two shows in Seattle. A truncated version of the group sings tonight at the Fabulous Mr. Blues club in Belltown; a more complete roster sings tomorrow at the Backstage in Ballard.

The lineup for Seattle Women has always been flexible. Thirteen women sang once; seven or eight is typical.

Accompanied by bass, drums, guitar and keyboards, the women share the stage, taking turns on lead vocals while the others provide backup.

It's essentially an R&B review, Hart says. She sings some of her original music, the other women mostly cover R&B classics that reflect their individual backgrounds in everything from hard blues to gospel.

Hart said the group has been criticized by some women for including men in the band. "I never put this group together to make a political statement," she said. "I really feel it's neat there are men and women in the group. In my opinion, we need to be in this all together."

But as the name suggests, the singers are the heart of the group, and they are a treasure chest of talent.

-- Hart heads the Bluestars and has been singing since the 1960s. She won the 1991 Washington State Blues Awards for best female artist, album and band.

-- Nancy Claire is a member of the Washington State Music Hall of Fame. She sang with the Ventures and toured with Marty Robbins, Mere Travis and the Carter Family.

-- Merilee Rush is famous for her hit song "Angel in the Morning."

-- Patti Allen has sung with such luminaries as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Lou Rawls and B.B. King.

-- Kathi McDonald has sung with Ike and Tina Turner, the Rolling Stones and Delaney and Bonney.

-- L.J. Porter, a recent addition to Seattle Women, tours nationally.

-- Rounding out Saturday's lineup, Nora Michaels has sung with Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Lily Wilde, a frequent singer with Seattle Women, won't be there Saturday. On Friday, the singers will be Hart, McDonald and Porter.

Also at the Backstage will be Portland Women in Rhythm and Blues and the Laura Love Band.