‘A monster singer’: Michelle Garibay-Carey, daughter of a San Antonio legend, makes a soulful statement of her own – San Antonio Express-News

Arts & Entertainment // Music & Stage

Singer Michelle Garibay-Carey describes herself unapologetically as a “super homegirl.”

Blessed with a gorgeous voice that oozes soul and sophistication, Garibay-Carey is a musical gem who rarely performs outside of San Antonio.

She’s ripe for discovery.

A new, first-time collaboration with record producers EC3 and Tyrone Jackson — they connected on social media — for her debut solo album, “Love Dance,” is sure to expand her audience.

“I’m really happy with it,” said Garibay-Carey, who fronts jazzy band PM Soul and cowrote six of its songs with husband, bassist Pat Carey. “I wanted to make San Antonio proud.”

“Love Dance” was recorded in Springfield, Virginia, at Bias Studios. Its executive producer is restauranteur and concert promoter Stanley Shropshire, owner of The Big Bib.

As she closed in on her 50th birthday, Garibay-Carey said she knew it was time to make a solo musical statement. And Shropshire agreed.

“He made the dream happen,” she said.

It’s easy to believe in Garibay-Carey.

She’s the daughter of a legend, the late Chicano bluesman Randy Garibay who made his bones in the 1960s on the West Coast and in Las Vegas with the Dell-Kings and Los Blues.

Garibay-Carey was born in Vegas during the days when Los Blues played until the wee hours every night in the lounge at the Sahara Hotel. Little wonder she could sing “Love Train” by the time she was three.

Randy Garibay, whose impact on the SA sound dates to the doo-wop days of the Pharaohs, died in May 2002. The new record is dedicated to him and his brother, soul singer Ernie Garibay, who died in 2019.

A few weeks before he died, an ailing Randy Garibay summoned the energy to see his daughter perform one last time.

It came as a complete surprise to everyone in his inner circle. His cancer had progressed to the point where he relied on a wheelchair inside his home. Not this night.

Garibay-Carey was onstage singing with Planet Soul at El Jarro de Arturo when she noticed the frail figure in the fedora being helped through the crowded Mexican restaurant in spring 2002.

“I had a hard time keeping it together,” she recalled. “He needed to be home resting. Everyone was watching over him to make sure that he was OK.”

She can’t remember what song she was singing when he walked in, though she said it’s likely that she would have sung Etta James’ “At Last,” which was one of her father’s favorites.

What she does remember — and cherish — are the words her father said when she came over to his table: “You knocked it out of the park, mija.”

She still chokes up thinking about that night. It was as close to a passing of the torch as she would see.

“It was surreal. I was, like, ‘What is he doing here?’ But it was awesome,” she said.

That family lineage is sometimes a weighty thing. Her brother, musician Randy Garibay Jr., has said the same thing.

“I think it was always about people comparing me (to him),” she said. “Those expectations.”

She was always a little shy and nervous singing around her father, her mother Cecilia Garibay remembers. But not that last time. Everyone was aware of the moment.

“It was a natural born thing,” Cecilia Garibay said. “She was so happy that he made such an effort to go see her.”

“Love Dance” is “categorized as jazz,” said J.J. Lopez, general manager of 91.7 KRTU, “but it’s just a great modern soul record.”

The Trinity University radio station has given “Love Dance” lots of spins.

“It really shows the power of her voice,” Lopez said. “It’s an original voice, rooted in soul and gospel. I don’t think she sounds like anyone else.”

Musician and educator Jim Waller played in Los Blues and has known Michelle her entire life. He calls her “the Mexican American Aretha Franklin.”

“She’s stellar, a monster singer, Waller said. “She shares that with her father.”

Hector Saldaña is curator of the Texas Music Collection at The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University in San Marcos