Fans of house music, neo-soul, EDM, R&B and especially rock and soul fusion band Poi Dog Pondering recognize her voice. Now it’s time for everybody who enjoys those genres to remember Carla Prather’s name.
It’s been a long time coming, but the versatile vocalist and songwriter finally steps into the spotlight with her new, full-length solo album Touched on CAUDog Records. Carla Prather and her band, which includes the record’s producer and engineer Ellis Clark, take it to the stage for a CD release show at Underground Wonder Bar in Chicago on January 23.
“Connections are everything for me in the business,” Carla Prather said after a rehearsal for the CD release show.
“I started out singing house music, so that’s really where my roots are,” the Chicago native added. “The person who was managing me was a friend of Frank Orrall of Poi Dog Pondering. At the time, Frank was revamping the band. I came in as a recording artist on “Natural Thing” and then eventually [that] grew into a band membership.”
The Poi Dog connection enhanced her sound, expanded her songwriting with several credits on the 2003 release In Seed Comes Fruit, and took her on tours around the world. Through the band’s horn player Paul Mertens, it led to working with local musician and producer Ellis Clark. Clark enlisted her remarkable vocals for his own material and also on records he produced for other artists. Their collaboration on his 2013 solo debut LP Number One lay the foundation for Touched.
“I wanted to write songs for her, I was just so impressed by her voice.” Clark said. “It’s a 10-song record, and I wrote six brand new songs. I delved back into [my old band] Social Act and some of my other older stuff. We [added] the Beatles’ song “Oh Darling” because we did it live at my record release show and it went over so well that we had to record it.”
The first single from Touched is “Goodbye.” The moving ballad features a sax solo from Mars Williams of the Psychedelic Furs who appears in the video. Poi Dog’s Paul Mertens plays horns on it as well, and also on “Remedy” and two more tracks. Other standout songs include a cover of Social Act’s “God’s in Heaven,” and “I Never Wrote You a Love Song.”
On record and on stage, Carla Prather and her band reflect Chicago’s rich music heritage of gospel, rock, blues, house, soul and so much more. All told, the band is this decade’s Rufus and Chaka Khan, echoing the musical heart and soul of Chicago. Michael Teach, host of original music podcast series Chicago Acoustic Underground and owner of CAUDog Records, is extremely excited about that because it exemplifies his dedication to supporting exciting new music.
“The purpose of CAUDog Records is exactly the same as CAU, we want to give exposure to original artists,” Teach explained. “We have 17 records out there with Carla’s, and they cover a lot of different genres. We are probably the best definition of an indie label.”
This will be an extremely busy year as she balances a rising solo career with ongoing work with Poi Dog Pondering. She will perform with that band in San Francisco on January 29, in New York on February 26 and 27, and at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois on March 4.
“I want people to recognize that music is music,” Prather said. “It’s something that I love, and I don’t want to be put into a box or a category. Rather, I prefer to just play what I want to play, and sing what I want to sing. I’m hoping that people can relate to it. I’m hoping people will become more open minded and more accepting of something new, something different coming from me as an artist.”
CAUDog Records presents Carla Prather and her band with special guest Elle Casazza at the Underground Wonder Bar on Saturday, January 23 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10, and can be purchased day of show at the River North venue located at 710 N Clark Ave. in Chicago.