This queen of blue-eyed rock n' soul grew up loving equally the sweetness of a Memphis horn line and the raunch of an electric guitar riff, whether played by Muddy Waters, Keith Richards, or Pop Staples.
Christine Ohlman teased her blonde hair into a beehive in honor of Ronnie Spector and never looked back, picking up a guitar and forging a career as a songwriter in the process. She’s the current, long-time vocalist with the Saturday Night Live Band, who sang at SNL’s 25th Anniversary telecast, Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary bash at The Garden, and the Central Park Summerstage Tribute To Janis Joplin; appears on Grammy nominees A Tribute To Howlin' Wolf (with Taj Mahal and Lucinda Williams) and Charlie Musselwhite’s One Night In America; worked on a musical with Cy Coleman (who maintained her sense of timing is not unlike Peggy Lee's); duets live whenever possible with blues legends Eddie Kirkland and Hubert Sumlin; collaborated with Marshall Crenshaw on a critically-acclaimed track for Labour Of Love: The Music of Nick Lowe and Big Al Anderson on Pawn Shop Guitars, as well as with Ian Hunter on his latest, Shrunken Heads; edited Andrew Loog Oldham’s autobiography 2Stoned; worked with Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder & others on the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Awards - all the while continuing to torch clubs up and down the Eastern Seaboard in support of her recordings (Strip, The Hard Way, Radio Queen, Wicked Time, and two new recordings, a 2008 career retrospective entitled Re-hive and, in early 2009, The Deep End, her first CD of original material in five years, featuring special guests Ian Hunter, Dion DiMucci, Levon Helm, GE Smith, Marshall Crenshaw, Big Al Anderson, Andy York and Eric Ambel) with her band Rebel Montez (Michael Colbath-bass; Cliff Goodwin-guitar; Larry Donahue-drums).
"I've come here tonight to set your souls on fire," she'll tell an audience. And she will.
ELMORE MAGAZINE: The Beehive Queen Of Blue-Eyed Soul
Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez January, 2009
Re-Hive (HMG Records)
The blue-eyed soul of the beehived soul queen Christine Ohlman astounds any live audience lucky enough to be in her presence. As a veteran and featured vocalist of the SNL band, her finely tuned pipes are often heard, not seen; a huge misfortune for the late night viewer as her charisma onstage is one of a kind. Few singers today are truly versed, like Ohlman, in all things soul. But her encyclopedic knowledge of the genre has only helped refine her powerful voice and enrich her catalog of staple covers. Though she sings Ann Peebles' "I Can’t Stand the Rain," as if the song burst forth from her inner being, few know that Ohlman is a seasoned songwriter herself.
Re-Hive retrospectively showcases some of her best original tunes from four previous releases along with some alternate takes, live cuts and unreleased tracks. If the "True Grit" and "Truth Telling" soul queens have a common descendant, it is Christine Ohlman. Tough and raw around the edges, Ohlman belts with a voice steeped in the heritage of this musical tradition. Even when not singing soul songs, she embodies the power and masked vulnerability essential to the genre.
Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez suffered the loss of long-time friend and producer Doc Cavalier in 2005. Re-Hive is appropriately dedicated to Cavalier. As Christine says, "The four CDs we cut together were Doc's babies as surely as they were mine." This collection is a great primer for new Ohlman fans curious about this in-demand lady whose guest spots and collaborations form a daunting list that's the stuff of musical legend. Look for her first release of original material in five years, The Deep End, due out in early 2009.
- Ali Green
The All-Music Guide Review by Hal Horowitz November, 2008
Re-Hive Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez
As its title infers, this 18-track collection is a recap of the recorded career of soulful rocking singer Christine Ohlman, aka the Beehive Queen. A handful of tracks is sampled from each of her three studio releases (1996's The Hard Way, 2000's Wicked Time, and Strip from 2003), but the real fun comes courtesy of the smattering of live, demo, and alternate takes along with two newly recorded blues covers, all debuting here. Ohlman never sings a tune halfway. She injects soul and inspiration through every note, wringing the last drop of emotion out of material tailored for her husky voice. Her tough, urban approach to originals swaggers like a street punk looking for a rumble on the rough side of town. She's the distaff side of Willy DeVille, strutting down the avenue with a sassy attitude hiding a heart of gold. Her rugged Rebel Montez band is primed for its supporting role, acting as the swampy rock heart that pumps blood into the veins of songs that never overstay their welcome. Versions of Dan Penn's "It Tears Me Up," Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor," and John Lee Hooker's "Dimples" highlight the blues influences underpinning Ohlman's originals, which dominate the disc. She's the leader of the pack, and if the Shangri-Las were making rock music in the '90s, it would likely sound something like "Sugar Melts," a sexed-up story that exudes all the spunk of Mary Weiss in cougar mode. Throaty ballads such as the Springsteen-styled "The Hard Way" don't lessen the tension, either, even if the guitars lay back a bit more. Why the public never caught on to Ohlman's albums is hard to say, but this generous compilation is a terrific introduction to a singer/songwriter who owns everything she touches.
New Haven Advocate 12/25/08 By Christopher Arnott and Vivian Nereim
Christine Ohlman & Rebel Montez, Re-Hive (HMG Records)
Here's a retrospective that's been done for all the right reasons. It's a sterling tribute to the life and work of spare-yet-flashy Rebel Montez guitarist Eric Fletcher, who died in 2006. It's well-timed to ride the coattails of the resurgence of interest in TV's "Saturday Night Live," which Ohlman has served as house band vocalist for decades. Most of all, it documents the revered Beehive Queen's remarkable consistency as an R&B vocalist over the years and validates her choice to scale down from her regional party band days (with the legendary Scratch Band) to this eccentric blues-schooled roots-rockin' ensemble. The selections from previous CO&RM CDs (dating back to '95) are bolstered by previously unreleased tracks (including a charmingly vulnerable demo of "It Tears Me Up") or alternate tracks (a chatty live version of "And God Created Woman") that serve to prove that this is a band that labors hard and cuts loose with style.