Ladies Edition -Joanne Shaw Taylor, Sue Foley and more
Joanne Shaw Taylor - The Blues Album
English blues artist Joanne Shaw Taylor fulfills a long held desire here; the singer and guitarist usually records mostly songs she writes herself but with The Blues Album she presents a set of well-chosen covers. And while she could rip through standards by the likes of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker just fine, kudos to Taylor for eschewing the chestnuts in favor of cuts like a take on the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac scorcher "Stop Messin' Round" and reimagining the Little Village (John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner) pop song "Don't Go Away Mad" which takes on a blues edge mostly thanks to guest vocals from Joe Bonamassa who also co-produces the record. And while the set features lots of hot guitar playing, clearly the songs were chosen to highlight Joanne's honeyed vocals, and sometimes there's a shot of tabasco in that honey, like on her take on Albert King's "Can't You See What You're Doing to Me" where she also does King proud on guitar. Among other interpretations are Kim Wilson's swinging "Two Time My Lovin'," the Don Covay tearjerker "I Don't Know What You've Got" and the fast Otis Rush shuffle "Keep on Lovin' Me."
Sue Foley - Pinky's Blues
Pinky is Foley's Telecaster and she wastes no time in introducing the pink with paisley print guitar on this album, highlighting her guitar playing talent on the opening cut which is also the title cut. Pinky of course stars throughout as Foley uses it to play a funky strut as she sings about a "Two Bit Texas Town," an Angela Strehli penned cut, boogies like mad on her own "Dallas Man" and romps through the dance floor burner "Boogie Real Low." A take on the Lillie Mae Donley/Kenny James co-write "Think it Over" is the album's slow, hug-your-honey number but the album rocks to an end with Gatemouth Brown's "Okie Dokie Stomp," another instrumental, blues shuffle "Someday" and Willie Dixon's sassy "When the Cat's Gone the Mice Play."
Patti Parks - Whole Nother World
Parks is a working nurse and she knows what's good for what ails ya; a good dose of the blues! And she dishes out just that with her latest album which was produced by blues great Kenny Neal and recorded at his studio in Baton Rouge. Parks has a big bold voice so when she sings "I'm Trouble" you believe her; fortunately for the menfolk of the world the trouble she's talking about is of the amorous kind. Parks turns in a smoldering cover of James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" too, which despite its title acknowledges that the accomplishments of man happen because of a woman. Neal duets with Parks on the slow and harmonica-augmented "Baby Bee" but Parks is back to rockin' with "Stickin' to My Guns;" "Don't Play Me Cheap" is a sexy torch song with piano and sax enhancing Parks' emotional vocals. Parks finishes the album with "No Means No," a warning to over-anxious guys that includes the clever lyric "This ain't no 'help yourself' sign you might think you're seein'!"
Mandy Marylane - Blues Shack
Marylane looks to a disparate group of songwriters for this five-song set of covers, opening the EP with a take on Lonnie Johnson's "Devil's Got the Blues" and honoring the old time blues man's slow and easy arrangement; her vocals are presented in Johnson's style too although she sings with much more power. "High and Dry" is old style, classic country while her take on Fred Neil's "Blues on the Ceiling" has the feel of early Jefferson Airplane. Marylane also covers Bob Wills; not everything Wills did was western swing and her interpretation of Wills' "Drunkard Blues" is haunting. Marylane is joined by multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo throughout; he contributes acoustic and electric guitar, bass, organ, piano and lots more.
Cathy Grier + the Troublemakers - I'm All Burn
With the exception of a country-funk interpretation of Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe," Grier wrote or co-wrote everything else on this generous 16-cut offering. Grier bounces back and forth from R&B numbers like the buoyant "Down on My Knees" to straight blues like the John Lee Hooker-ish "Key to My Survival" and the super bluesy "Backroad Blues" with slide guitar from Greg Koch and harmonica from Steve Cohen; the "blues" in the song's title refers strictly to the song's arrangement as there's nothing to be blue about in the song's subject matter---having sex in the car. "Protecting My Heart" is a funky R&B cut with slinky saxophone riffs tussling with Grier's vocals while "Question of Desire" finds Grier portraying a woman who was just looking for a party but ended up falling in love, set to an earthy groove. Title cut "I'm All Burn" is bright and fun but lyrically it rails against the objectification of women.