by Scott M. Bock
Crystal Thomas calls herself a country girl. Small town life in Louisiana suits her just fine. But this country girl is out to make a name for herself with her powerful voice and she’s not afraid to get on a plane and take a long trip when there’s a gig.
A few months ago, she found herself recording live and on video with the great Bobby Rush. Recordings keep coming – including an LP released in both the US and Japan. She even cut a 45 record. A couple of years ago she was singing her heart out in Japan and Hong Kong fronting Bloodest Saxophone, a Japanese horn band. And she has an annual gig at the popular Austin, Eastside Kings Festival which wouldn’t be the same without Crystal Thomas.
Crystal got some notice on the southern soul scene -touring for a time with Jeter Jones and capably handling a duet with popular Houston rapper and soul singer, Big Pokey Bear – showing up on one of his CDs. In 2017 she appeared in Austin at famed South by Southwest.
It’s her vocal skills that have her in the spotlight. Not that long ago, it was her trombone. One band she worked with in her early years had her reading the crowd so they knew what song to play next. No matter how it works – she knows music and is having a blast and her fans are, too.
At just about 40, Crystal has developed a relaxed stage presence that comes with kicking off her singing career at age two. She says it was the McDonald’s theme song. ‘Music was taking over me – from the very start’.
Her big, welcoming personality is a relief from the dozens of overdubbed, petulant women singers who make their way to radio these days. Crystal is fun to listen to and her music is contagious.
‘I’m that woman singing her head off at a red light’. Listen for a few minutes and you will know that’s real.
Crystal’s dad played guitar, her grandparents listened to Muddy and Jimmy Reed and her mom had piles of records for Crystal to choose from when their friends came over to play cards. So, it’s always been music.
Crystal earned a scholarship with her trombone at Jackson State where she learned to read and write music which she says helps her today She had a brief stint in the band of her hero, Johnny Taylor. She played the trombone in his band and he finally heard her sing butpassed away too soon to help.
Her release on Austin’s Dialtone Records, Now Dig This, features some tough songs to handle ranging from the heavy blues of Albert King’s Can’t You See What You’re Doing to Me to the rockin’ I’m a Fool for You Baby. No problem brining these jewels back to life.
The band includes the late multi-talented, Lucky Peterson and the Moeller Brothers who both worked with the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Chuck Rainey, bass player on records by Aretha and Barbara Streisand lends a hand as well. Chuck’s reaction after the session, ‘Man, this recording set my soul on fire’.
Maybe to show off just a little, Crystal plays some trombone on the record. She’s not kidding when she says,‘I feel like this world and the lovers of music would be lost without me’.
‘I’m getting gigs. I’ve done the starving musician era. Knowledge, and product – gumption, I can make it happen. My CDs are soul or soul blues. But I’m a rapper. I’m a singer. Everything is wide open right now. I sing mostly around Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi. I’m ready.