Like Gil Scott-Heron and a handful of others, Sweet Honey in the Rock prove that music can be soulful, funky, emotionally satisfying, and still pack a potent political message. They combine centuries of African-American musical tradition–spirituals, folk songs, blues, acoustic variations on contemporary motifs–and lace it with an up-to-the-minute theme of liberation that’s permeated with joy and optimism. Don’t be misled, though; there’s none of that starry-eyed mythologizing of heroic proletarian virtues that gets so tiresome in folkies. These women sing in powerful, confident voices of the lives, struggles, and victories of people (especially, but not only, women of color) in a way that transcends genre and generations, but they temper their gospel-tinged optimism with a deeply felt acknowledgment of pain and despair that are as inherent to the human condition as valorous struggle. The crystalline purity of their a cappella harmonies is a musical wonder, and the spirit of their performance will leave you refreshed and exhilarated for days. Tonight, 8 PM, Peoples Church, 941 W. Lawrence; 784-6633.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Roland L. Freeman.