Lady Alma’s fans run the gamut – from progressive artists like Moby, Kindred the Family Soul, India.Arie, Joan Osborne, Musiq and Les Nubians to regular working-class folk in West London clubs and West Philly barber shops. In cities everywhere from Atlanta and Amsterdam to Toronto and Tokyo, vocal sensation Alma Horton — known to her fans worldwide as LADY ALMA – has become the name to know, deemed “the heart & soul of Philadelphia’s soul scene” and heralded as “the truth in a roomful of lies” among tastemaker’s circles.
Introduced to captive crowds via King Britt’s acclaimed 1998 LP, When The Funk Hits the Fan as part of his groundbreaking Sylk 130 collective, LADY ALMA’s since been catapulted to senior solo status, exemplified by the 20-plus barrage of irresistible songs she’s blessed with her choral magic – among them, Fanatix’ stunning “Higher” and “Gimme That Music” from Masters At Work’s In The House compilation (Osiris); Rednose Distrikt’s “Gotta Make A Move” (Rush Hour), 4Hero’s anthemic “Hold It Down” (Talkin’ Loud) and two highly-anticipated tracks by Japanese superproducer Yukihiro Fukutomi, “Peace” and “Hooked” (File).
One of the most widely-praised songbirds to surface from the ever-fertile City of Brotherly Love, LADY ALMA counts Philadelphia City Paper’s 2002 Best Female Vocalist Award and Temple University’s 2004 Sisters Defining Sisters Award for Artistic Excellence among her recent accolades, arguably due to her amazing vocal dexterity and engagingly gritty live shows. “Even if you’re into something completely different — punk, indie rock, bluegrass — you won’t be able to resist the Power of the Pipes: She just blows you away,” opines the Philadelphia Weekly. “And the more she sings — and scats and wails and whispers — the more excited the audience gets, until you’ve got a full-on revival-style meeting.” “If you’ve never seen LADY ALMA live,” attests Audioglyphix magazine, “she comes correct. If it’s at Black Lily, Afrorikan Vybe, opening for Cee-Lo at the TLA or when she was part of the Sylk 130 tour, LADY ALMA is the real deal.”
“Being on stage feels like sitting at home, relaxing. It’s natural,” Horton says of the high-voltage connection she creates with her audiences. “They give me such positivity, and some give me skepticism – at first. That makes me want to show them, ‘I can do this thing. And you can appreciate it.’ Most of ’em do. I’m blessed to have them receive me so well.”
“Every so often, an angel is sent down to heal us in time of need. Alma is one of these angels,” Britt says of his longtime sister-in-arms. “Her voice and words are what every human being needs to hear, so that we can continue to live and breathe. Her gift to us is timeless.” And it obviously didn’t go unnoticed: PW recently listed When The Funk Hits The Fan as #34 in its “100 Best Philly Albums of All Time” issue, citing “the supreme choice of untapped local luminaries like Vicki Miles, Alma Horton and Alison Crockette belting out an original blend of funk, soul and house.”
Born in San Diego, LADY ALMA found her voice at the age of three, keeping pace with an adult church choir. By the time she was 10, Alma had already toured the country coast to coast, a firm foundation for the extensive musical and vocal instruction gleaned from illustrious Philadelphia institutions such as the Girard Academic Music Program, Settlement Music School and the renowned Freedom Theater, where she also studied theater and dance.
“The best part of that type of creative environment was learning and grasping musical theory, but not just the stodgy kind,” Alma says of her formal-yet-informal training. “We were reading notes and writing songs, but also being taught to be individuals, to find our own unique selves in music. And I learned that, where others walk straight, I’d rather zig-zag. I don’t want to be boxed in.”
She’s put that philosophy into practice over the years, having collaborated with some of music’s best and brightest — Zapp Mama (“Show Me The Way”), DJ Spinna (“Chances”), DKD (“Getaway”), Baby Blak (“Daddy Dearest”), DJ Mitsu The Beats (“Away”) and 4Hero (“Hold It Down” and “Somethin’ But Nothin'”) – but it is her long-awaited debut that illustrates it full force. The album features an impressive roster of globally-revered sonic craftsmen and producers – King Britt, James Poyser, Dego McFarlane, Rich Medina and Cee Knowledge – who, with Alma, helped create its heady blend of mind-blowing vocal arrangements and category-defying musical styles. Internationally-renowned, London-based innovator Mark DeClive-Lowe also contributed four songs to the project, calling LADY ALMA “one of the most deadly and effective singer/songwriters I’ve ever come across.”
Paired in the studio, their dual magic is undeniable, exemplified in the amazing records they made together, among them the urgent soul-stirrer “Running For Nothing,” the frenetic “Keep On Moving,” the sensual “Gotta Be A Way” and “The Pressure,” a grinding reminder in troubling times that “the sun will shine again.” Alma and Mark also created an incredible reworking of the Michael Jackson classic, “I Can’t Help It,” which, while it won’t be featured on LADY ALMA’s debut album, will certainly be causing a stir on dance floors worldwide.
“That’s a great joint,” De Clive-Lowe says of his favorite track on the LP, “Running For Nothing.” “The song’s message is great, I dig the melodies and harmonies, the beats came together nicely, and it’s not quite like anything I’ve ever heard before. As far as ‘I Can’t Help It,’ for both of us, it’s one of our favorite songs of all time. It’s pretty deep to cover a song where you got Stevie [Wonder], Quincy [Jones] and Michael [Jackson] all up in there on the original. They created a classic. We came with a complete flip, though, and I think people are going to be feeling it for sure.”
Armed with critical global acclaim, standing-room-only shows and a discography that rivals the music industry’s heaviest hitters. LADY ALMA is already making an artistic impact that even she can’t yet fathom. And thank God. It’s the effortless mix of fire, humility and poise that serves as the foundation that’s catapulting her to dizzying heights. The sky’s the limit for LADY ALMA, and she’s got the relentless support of her ever-widening circle of friends and fans as the wind in her wings.
“I’m ecstatic about being able to work with so many great people on so many great songs,” Alma says. “You can’t have a closed mind in music. If your mind’s closed, you’re not going to grow. Music’s not just one petal, it’s an entire flower with many petals, many seeds, made up of many sounds and inspirations. Growth comes from inspiration, but in order to be inspired, you have to first inspire yourself.”