One of the Great Voices of the Black Hills

by delarue

Singer Elisabeth Hunstad makes her living on the road throughout the northern plains states. She’s best known for her searing, powerful high soprano – just listen to her blast through Respect, where she manages not only to hold her own with the Aretha original, but also to put her own grit and defiance into it. Every woman who’s ever picked up a mic has tried that song; most give up.

Hunstad’s voice is chameleonic yet completely original. She can bring to mind Aretha one minute, Dolly Parton the next. She comes out of a jazz background, but has drifted further toward soul music in the last couple of years. Her piano work is similarly eclectic, ranging from gospel and soul to jazz and blues, with an emphatic attack that reflects her percussionist alter ego.

There isn’t a ton of her music online, but it validates her reputation as someone who can literally sing anything, with soul. Her music page has Memphis-inspired sounds, a Lou Reed-flavored tune, a big cascading piano ballad, some slinky funk and that blazing Aretha cover. And some sleuthing turned up an electrifying version of Stormy Monday where she starts out misty and rises to a peak that will give you goosebumps (fast forward to about the 40 minute mark after the interview for the song).

Hunstad picked the right part of the world for a home base: her gig schedule has not slowed down since the horrible events of March 2020 and subsequently. She’s at R Wine Bar, 322 E 8th St. in Sioux Falls at 6 PM on Sept 25, then she has another hometown show at Severance Brewing Co., 701 N Phillips Ave. on Sept 28 at 7.

Longtime readers of this blog may wonder why, after years of advocating for performances by New York artists, there would be coverage of such a faraway place as South Dakota here.

Being one of the free states, South Dakota does not have a dictator weaponizing venues to enforce evil apartheid policies against customers who don’t use city-approved spyware. Until New York gets back to normal – and that means no apartheid – you may be seeing a lot more interesting artists from unexpected places here.