Baltimore based singer Ultra Nate had a concession of hits throughout the 1990s.
Ever since Ultra released the internationally renowned deep house classic It’s Over Now with the esteemed Basement Boys in the late 80s, which led to her equally eminent debut album Blue Notes in the Basement, Ultra has been a perennial force in dance music. Considering the ephemeral nature of dance music, Naté’s endurance attests to her musical acumen. She attributes solid song-writing skills to her longevity. “I’m a songwriter. I’ve written about 95 percent of my material,” Naté explains. “In that music, there’s a very specific personality that comes across which really transcends the dance-floor moment and becomes a part of people’s lives.
1991’s Blue Notes in the Basement kicked off Naté’s career as an artist who could deliver albums as opposed to a string of singles; songs like Deeper Love and Rejoicing became instant DJ staples. Her follow-up Warner Bros album, One Woman’s Insanity, also garnered critical praise thanks to its club smashes How Long, Joy and Show Me. Ultra’s following two albums, Situation Critical and Stranger Than Fiction, were released on the venerable Strictly Rhythm label, both of which solidified her reputation as an enduring songstress and a platinum selling artist with radio, video and club favourites such as the now-classic Free, Found A Cure, Desire, Twisted and Divine Love.
Next to her instantly recognizable husky voice, her sheer versatility serves as a high trump card. On Grime, Silk & Thunder she covers the waterfront of pop, club and DJ culture, ranging from glittery, anthemic, crystal ball swirling gems like Give It All You Got, Star and the classic Scandal, to Automatic, Falling, Feel Love, This House and an inspired makeover of her breakthrough single It’s Over Now. Ultra admirably channels early 80s club reggae on Love’s The Only Drug, Lethal Shot and Slow Grind as well as effortlessly channels vintage Philadelphia international soul with the Teddy Pendergrass’ inspired Getaway.
With all its stylistic variety, Grime, Silk & Thunder proceeds like a bona fide album versus a collection of unrelated singles. Naté and long-time manager and co-producer Bill Coleman also made a conscientious decision to ensure that each song showcased Ultra’s distinct and varied personalities, and suitable to the dance-floor. “I definitely wanted it to be a DJ-oriented record, because people are really checking for the DJ-ready songs. There’s a possibility to play every track on the album in various club atmospheres or on the radio,” she says.
The 14-track album features contributions from the likes of Eric Kupper, Quentin Harris, Dajae, Andre Levin, Mood II Swing, N’Dea Davenport, Morgan Page, GoodandEvil, The MuthaFunkaz and many more. The legendary Stonebridge not only produced the infectious international club and Top 10 pop hit Freak On but also mixed the entire album. When asked about the new disc’s provocative title, Ultra again illustrates her enormous musical swath by mentioning the heroic 90s grunge band Nirvana: “The idea came from a Rolling Stone magazine article about Nirvana,” she says. “They said Nevermind was a great mix of grime, silk and thunder.”
Rocking the decks for over five years at Sugar in her hometown Baltimore, Ultra has secured gigs in Australia, Montreal, Brazil, UK and France where she drops a regular radio mix on the respected dance station, Radio FG. On the production tip, Ultra owns the imprint Blufire and the Deep Sugar Music label, an imprint which is released under the Strictly Rhythm umbrella. Over the last sixteen years, Ultra has had the fortune of working with an array of acclaimed and varied producers, collaborators and visual artists including such luminaries as Nellee Hooper, Masters At Work, David Lachapelle, Lenny Kravitz, Deee-lite, Murlyn Music, Blaze, Eric Johnson, Armand Van Helden.
The sparkling Grime, Silk & Thunder, Naté’s fifth album, and now Alchemy, amount to another benchmark in that it’s released in partnership with Tommy Boy Records on her own boutique imprint Blufire. In an era of 15-minute divas, the album is an apt and passionate portrait of a remarkable, versatile singer, songwriter and producer who has survived the cutthroat music business by being resilient, regal and real.