march 2011
beyond the blue

dalaDALA, Girls From the North Country: Live in Concert-- Well established, even beloved, in their native Canada, the duo of Amanda Walther and Sheila Carabine, collectively known as Dala, made a move toward greater North American recognition last summer with the PBS airing of their concert Girls From the North Country, from which this CD is drawn. (This is the duo’s fifth album, but its first with a U.S.-based label.) Dala writes terrific original songs and approaches its intelligent covers with respect for the originals and an understanding of how to bring a fresh perspective to the time-honored texts of great songwriters.

jackieJACKIE JOHNSON, Memphis Jewel-- Readers are hereby ordered to add Jackie Johnson to the list of formidable female blues singers emerging with pleasing regularity these days. More so than many of her contemporaries, though, Ms. Johnson’s every phrase resonates with the spirit of the church. Memphis already knows all about her, and has for some time. That Memphis Jewel, her debut album, is a knockout will come as no surprise to anyone at all presently residing in the Bluff City. The tip in this review is to get hip to an artist destined to find her way into the top ranks of the ongoing soul music resurgence. Memphis jewel Jackie Johnson is the real deal.

malcolmLIGHTNIN’ MALCOLM, Renegade-- Blues fans know Malcolm from his work with Cedric Burnside (two albums—Juke Joint Duo, 2 Man Wrecking Crew-- a lot of touring), but Renegade ought to enlarge his following to include those traditional rock ‘n’ roll die-hards who remember when the music was actually blues based and far meatier, lyrically and musically, than what passes for rock ‘n’ roll nowadays, which has abandoned both its blues and gospel roots.

wyldeSUSAN WYLDE, In The Light-- With a classic pop singer’s voice informed by a blues babe’s sensibility, Canada’s Susan Wylde presents intriguing musical possibilities and no small number of persuasive performances of her original songs and well-chosen covers on In The Light. The past couple of years have seen the emergence of big-voiced blues women, but Wylde has a lighter, airier tone with a wistful shadow about it; though she works in a blues style, you can easily here some of her songs reconfigured as cabaret tunes. Or, if you’ve heard her two previous albums (Shambhala and Evolution), you can hear them as jazz or, indeed, pop numbers. This is an artist who works the blues from many sides.

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