Leading from the Heart

Shelly Rudolph and a World Filled with Soul

by Brett Leigh Dicks

While music can transport a listener to far off places emotionally, spiritually, and even geographically, it also leads its creators on an equally tantalizing journey. In presenting her evocative variety of soul, Portland-based musician Shelly Rudolph has traversed the breadth of our nation. From Los Angeles to New York, she has fed her musical muse with the experiences of life. And those experiences have not only invigoratingly worked their way into her sound, but have molded and shaped her heart and soul.

Yet the location that has imparted perhaps the most significant influence on Rudolph’s music has been Santa Barbara. It was here Rudolph crossed paths with musician Joe Woodard (the guitar-playing author of, among other things, The Indy’s Fringe Beat column), engaged herself with Tom Lackner’s Tompound Studios, and recorded her newly released album Water in My Hand, which navigates a rhythmic landscape just as wide ranging as her journeys. Lush in both feeling and tone, Rudolph seamlessly blends her rich palette into a sound that she affectionately calls “world soul.”

“I actually made that up myself,” enthused Ruldoph. “I was just trying to find where I fitted in and ‘world soul’ just popped into my head. Even though I have traveled a lot, one thing I realized is that, no matter where I am in the world, I am still me. I’m still experiencing everything through my ‘Shelly’ way of feeling things. The phrase seems to cover the world and how we’re all connected to one intimate place so well.”

Despite her nomadic adventures, Rudolph has recently carved herself quite an inspiring creative niche in Oregon. It takes something special to lure her away from Portland’s natural beauty and artistic inspiration that nurtures both her music and spirit, but the chance to once again join forces with the musicians who helped craft her album is the perfect opportunity. With Woodard, Lackner, and Ken Stange in tow, Rudolph is about to set forth upon a tour of Southern California.

The tour will not only offer Rudolph the opportunity to reacquaint herself with her collaborators, but her performance at SOhO will also let her revisit the town that played such a significant role in the album’s evolution, something of a musical homecoming for the songs. One might suspect that bearing your heart and soul to a roomful of listeners is a rather daunting prospect, and something such an emotive musician might be conscious of.

“Now I am, for sure!” laughed Rudolph when posed that question. “I do a lot of jazz and blues standards and when I started adding a couple of the songs from my album to the set I can feel my heart start pounding. It is amazing how different it feels. No matter how much I feel someone else’s words, it is much more scary to be speaking with my own. It is very exciting, but it also gives me a very vulnerable feeling, too. But I am not really in charge of it at all anyway. The songs just come out and an album takes its own direction. I just go wherever the music leads me.”

4•1•1 Shelly Rudolph plays a CD release party at SOhO on Monday, April 10, at 8 p.m. Call 962-7776 or see

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