Soulkiss: The House Band at Valda’s Restaurant and Cafe

Below, Soulkiss covering the Nona Hendryx penned “Going Down Makes Me Shiver,” which appeared on LaBelle’s 1976 album, “Chameleon.” But can a song appear? Patti and the girls do it no better. But it is not a competition. These boys are LaBelle’s progeny, and Laura Nyro’s as well. A dream of unity realized. What would have moved Mrs. Vreeland as I called Valda in particular: the black man in the kilt and baseball cap, retreating halfway through the set, overwhelmed by the lead singer’s understanding and grace, not to mention the boy in the green shirt who resembles our departed friend, Carlos Arevalo, himself a singer. And what can one say about the lead singer that he does not say himself out of his own deep feeling and understanding for Nona’s writing, “Shiver,” being a (barely disguised, for gays at least) pean to lesbian love, now, in Soukiss’ collective voice, a kind of anthem to queer love in all its manifestations. And then there are their bodies: not standard show business shapes housing/protecting each member of Soulkiss from their monumental sensitivity. Squinting the eye of one’s mind, one can imagine each of the singers as little boys standing in the middle of their respective bedrooms, holding a hairbrush, as they sang, hoping their homo dreams did not get out and would out as Patti-love and their own emotions coursed through their difference. Scrolling through Youtube further (which is how I found this truly exceptional group) I found them singing another bit of Nona’s reporting about women’s bodies in love: “You Turn Me On,” from LaBelle’s 1974 “Nightbirds.” What the boys will learn, and are learning from Patti, Nona, and Sarah: to treat the songs as monologues, to act, and let the voice breathe meaning in between the lyrics. Soulkiss: I will be certain to have Mrs. Vreeland follow their music anywhere. And I hope she asks me to go along. As Gertrude Stein once said: “You can leave, but only if you take me with you.”

LaBelle “You Turn Me On”