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Sanders brings Janis Joplin back to life

by Galveston County The Daily News

Kozmic Pearl presents "The Ultimate Janis Joplin Experience" at the Old Acustic Cafe at 9 p.m. today at 413 20th St. in Galveston.

Few artists have defined an era of music. But then again, few artists can compare to Janis Joplin.

While many of her female peers in the 1960s were dabbling in folk and jazz-influenced styles, the brash, fiery vocalist from Port Arthur, was following the lead of British male vocalists such as Mick Jagger and Eric Burdon, who fronted bands that were putting their own spin on the sound of African-American blues artists and introducing that sound to a mainstream white audience.

Drawn to the blues sounds of the likes of Big Mama Thornton and Bessie Smith, Joplin developed her own raw vocal style and, along with Grace Slick, helped define the psychedelic San Francisco sound of the late 1960s when she fronted Big Brother and the Holding Co., Kozmic Blues Band, and, finally, the Full Tilt Boogie Band until her untimely death in 1970.

Joplin's style of clothing and her trademark accessories, including beads, boas and feathers, refusal to wear makeup, her outspoken political views and opinions regarding female sexuality and her no-nonsense manner of speaking, along with her from-the-gut vocals set her apart from the pack. Those attributes made her not only an icon for her time, but, for generations of female singers to come, all the way to the 21st century with pop singer Pink citing Joplin as a key influence and including Joplin songs in her set.

Fittingly, it's taken another Texas singer to push the vocal envelope and create an award-winning Janis Joplin concert tribute — Kozmic Pearl: The Ultimate Janis Joplin Experience — with a three-man backing group that has left audience members marveling at her ability to re-create Joplin's San Francisco sound when she reached her peak in 1969.

Myrna Sanders, a Houston singer who has recorded her own original music and has been part of that city's scene for more than 20 years, has put together a two-hour set list that includes many rare performances and the kind of bluesy material that defined the Joplin sound.

Sanders performs as Joplin; Paul Nussbaum plays lead guitar; Greg Barr plays bass guitar and sings vocals; and Dave Thomas plays the drums.

To be sure, Kozmic Pearl: The Ultimate Janis Joplin Experience concerts include all of the singer's hits, such as "Piece of My Heart," "Me & Bobby McGee," "Summertime," "Move Over" and "Ball & Chain," the song that put Joplin on the musical map when she blew away the audience at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

But it also features lesser-known songs such as "Misery'N," "Raise Your Hands," "Women is Losers" and "Intruder" that showcase the high-octane range of Joplin's style.

"I've always had the greatest respect for Janis Joplin's decision to follow her own path," Sanders said. "I had no idea how much her music inspired me throughout my career until I pulled together this musical concert tribute. I'm hoping we can reach not only her long-time fans but turn on a new generation to her ground-breaking contribution to rock."


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