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'Comfort' and Joy: Meshell Ndegeocello
by Gregg Shapiro

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Ndegeocello @ House of Blues, (312) 923-2000, Oct. 18

Anyone who opens their album with a song titled 'Love Song #1' (hinting at more love songs to come) and then follows it up with 'Come Smoke My Herb,' such as Meshell Ndegeocello does, must be feeling pretty good. Comfort Woman (Maverick), Ndegeocello's fifth album, is a bong hit of dub beats and sexy bass lines, especially on all three 'Love' songs, 'Good Intentions,' the aforementioned lungful of '…Herb,' and 'Body.' Ndegeocello also bares her spiritual side on a few tracks, and, like any intelligent person, isn't afraid to ask important, if unpopular, questions about religion and beliefs.

I recently spoke to Meshell Ndegeocello about Comfort Woman and some of her more interesting recent side projects. Here is what she had to say.

Gregg Shapiro: I'd like to begin by talking about two forthcoming projects with which you are involved—the first is the two songs, 'Right Here's The Spot' and 'Feels Like Home,' which you contributed to Kish Kash, the new album by Basement Jaxx. What was it like to work with Simon (Ratcliffe) and Felix (Buxton) of Basement Jaxx?

MN: It was good. I had a great time and I enjoyed it very much. It was nice to work with different people. I always enjoy the experience of making music with people.

GS: It sounds like you were having a lot of fun on 'Right Here's The Spot.'

MN: (Laughs) I go out (to night clubs) myself and I love that particular genre of music. It was fun.

GS: You also did a cover of 'Two Doors Down' on the Dolly Parton tribute Just Because I'm A Woman. Why did you select that song to interpret?

MN: I remember that song growing up. It was one of my favorites. I'm a huge Dolly Parton fan. I think she's an amazing songwriter. I was very grateful to even be approached about it. That was a lot of fun.

GS: You have described your new album, Comfort Woman, as a 'love record.' Fittingly, there are three songs on the disc with the titles 'Love Song #1,' 'Love Song #2,' and 'Love Song #3.' Why was it important to you to make a 'love record' at this time?

MN: It wasn't important; it's just where I am. That's just the frequency that I'm trying to get on (laugh). It was just important to me to really be conscious of what energy I was putting out into the world.

GS: You raise some interesting questions on the 'Fellowship,' beginning with 'Would you walk a righteous path/without the promise of heaven, paradise, streets paved with gold?' Do you think people would behave differently if they weren't following the laws of their faiths?

MN: That's a difficult question, what do you think?

GS: I think that those laws keep people in check. But I have to wonder if there isn't some kind of inner set of laws that say, 'Hurting someone is a bad idea. I shouldn't do this.'

MN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what we all hope. The most revolutionary thing a person can do is parent their child and make them aware of those choices and have a conscience that works that way.

GS: You also ask, in the song, 'If you believe that your God is better than another man's/how you going to end all your suffering?.' That question comes at a time when there is a lot of suffering and lot of things being done in the name of religion. Do you think that there will come a time when all the religions of the world will co-exist in harmony?

MN: I'm not Nostradamus, I can't really say. Hopefully, whatever's supposed to happen will happen. I'm just questioning the fact that these things that are supposed to soothe us and ease our suffering are used in so many ways. That's what I'm really trying to say with that particular lyric. How can you say that this is something that comforts you and it also causes you to act out monstrosities on the world?

GS: The subject of a struggle with faith can also be found in the song 'Thankful.' What inspired you to write about this topic?

MN: The inspiration is the experience of having doubts sometimes. Not (being) sure if I'm making the right decisions. I ask myself, in that song, 'Should I lie, should I cheat?' Sometimes you struggle with your desires. Or you spend your life trying to accumulate things. That's what inspired that.

GS: There is an audible reggae influence on the songs 'Love Song #1,' 'Body,' and 'Good Intentions.' Why is that style of music so prevalent on this disc?

MN: I listen to all kinds of music. After Sept. 11, I became very aware of what I wanted to have in my mind. I listened to a lot of Bob Marley and a lot of dub music. I just like the vibration of it. The beats are soothing.

GS: Speaking of soothing, the sensuous and seductive nature of your songs also remains in force on Comfort Woman in songs such as 'Herb' and 'River,' to name a few. There are people who compile lists of the 'Ten Best Songs To Make Love To;' would you like to be on one of those lists?

MN: Yeah, sure (laughs). I'd definitely want to be on somebody's mix tape.

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