MARINA CROUSE – NEVER TOO SOON
Opera isn’t normally thought of as a path to success in the world of jazz and blues, but it’s the route (with some detours) that Marina Crouse took to become one of the most notable rising talents on the San Francisco/Bay Area music scene. Her early classical training is reflected in her powerful vocal style, and that excitement drives Crouse’s debut album Never Too Soon, which balances blues tradition with contemporary urban funk. Crouse’s volcanic voice echoes the emotional power of such classic R&B divas as Etta James, Koko Taylor and Big Maybelle.
A fourth-generation Chicana blessed with a big, expressive voice early in life, Crouse originally trained for a career in opera, but never really felt at home with the restrictions and formality of the opera world. After an extended hiatus from performing, Crouse—by now a full-time Spanish professor at Diablo Valley College and the single mom of two teenagers—returned to performing in 2014.
Since then, she’s emerged as one of San Francisco’s finest blues singers, exploring the classic material she loves and wowing local club audiences in the process. Backed by a handpicked group of some of the Bay Area’s finest players, Crouse also ventures into jazz material and Spanish tunes. But the blues remains her base and her main inspiration, and now that she’s back in action, she has no intention of stopping.
Never Too Soon finds Crouse applying her distinctive talents to a wide range of material from such diverse sources as Bobby Bland, Syl Johnson, Little Milton and Los Panchos, as well as Spanish-language readings of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and War’s “Cisco Kid,” the latter with Crouse’s new lyrics referencing the proposed Mexican border wall and featuring Little Village Foundation labelmate and blues harmonica sensation Aki Kumar. Never Too Soon also features a guest appearance by labelmates Mariachi Mestizo, who underline Crouse’s fondness for Spanish boleros. Whatever the material, Crouse’s expressive, mellifluous voice consistently cuts deep.
“When I sing,” she says, “I feel like I break myself open and let something come out. I’m reaching out to people and I hope that they can feel what I’m sending out. And when they do, that to me is better than anything else.”