By Laura Latzko, April 2016 Web Exclusive.
When Lila Sherman and Rochelle Raya, former members of Sistah Blue, played together at a wedding two years ago, it felt natural to them.
Sherman, a vocalist, had been working on solo projects and Raya, a harmonica player, had played with the DelRayz.
However, the wedding gig led to the creation of Sistahs Too, a new blues group with a similar energy to Sistah Blue. However, Sistahs Too has one distinct difference: a mix of female and male members, which includes guitarist James Robertson, drummer Ricky Lockhart, rhythm guitarist Mike Howard and bass guitarist Rocky Heyer.
As part of this year’s Phoenix Pride festival, the five-member blues band will perform at the Bistro Stage from 3 to 3:45 p.m. April 3
According to Sherman, Sistahs Too has provided her and Raya the chance to introduce a whole new generation to their brand of blues music.
“Something is not letting us stop” Sherman said. “We’re not done yet. We still have music to share, a story to tell”.
Part of that story, Raya and Sherman said, is playing original music that was written for, but never performed by, their original band.
Although Sistahs Too is a different group, Raya said it has many of the same elements as Sistah Blue.
“I don’t think you can change Lila’s voice, and you can’t change my harmonica playing, and there’s just a magic that happens with the music that we create,” Raya said.
After all these years, Sherman and Raya agreed that they still have the same connection onstage.
“It just works. We’ve always had that chemistry musically,” Sherman said.
Although they come from very different backgrounds, music has been a big part in the lives of Raya and Sherman since their childhoods
Growing up in Phoenix, Raya said she listened to records and then played her favorite Motown and R&B songs on her harmonica. She described herself as a self-taught musician with a “good ear for music”
Raised in Brooklyn, Sherman sang in church and school choirs and performed in school musicals from a young age. She also went to college on a partial music scholarship.
Raya describes her “street music” style and Sherman’s “finesse” as opposite yet complementary.
During its time, Sistah Blue had to work hard to gain support and respect from audiences and other musicians as one of the only all-female groups in the Valley
“All of these women came together musically, all different ethnicities and backgrounds” Sherman said.”Not everyone in the band was lesbian, but it wasn’t even about that. It was just women getting together to do music.”
In a male-dominated music industry, members of Sistah Blue had to pay their dues.“In the genre, we really had to prove the musicality” Sherman said.”We really had to prove that women could play just as intense and be just as true to the music.”
Two members of the group, Raya and Nancy Dalessandro, have been inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame“It really was a solid band of really accomplished musicians and that really came off onstage,” Raya said.Sistah Blue was a result of a competition for all-female blues bands at the Rhythm Room. After 13 years together, Sistah Blue disbanded on a positive note in 2008.For more information on Sistahs Too, like them on Facebook.com/Sistahs-Too