march 2011
beyond the blue

chicagoVARIOUS ARTISTS, Chicago Blues: A Living History—The (R)evolution Continues--What worked so beautifully the first time around does so again, with equal power, on Chicago Blues: A Living History--The (R)evolution Continues. Like its predecessor, the new release contains classic songs by several artists who are no longer with us; but check the title again: A Living History. This is about a spirit, a sound, an aesthetic that never dies, and about a couple of generations of younger blues artists who are not only keeping the music vital, but assuring its longevity so that future generations of musicians and fans can keep the flame burning.

pittmanSHAWN PITTMAN, Edge Of the World--You got your rhythm and you got your blues, and when you put them together as powerfully as Shawn Pittman does on his virtual one-man-band album, Edge Of the World, you have something else: a raw, honest, kickass album of guitar-driven get-down music that gets better with each new listen as the sheer force of Pittman’s soulful performances bowls you over with their go-for-broke, nothing to lose spirit.

wayneKENNY ‘BLUES BOSS’ WAYNE, An Old Rock On a Roll--The artist in question is indeed on a roll, as he proves here and elsewhere, but the “old rock” really sounds like he’s getting younger all the time. Cue up this CD and you too might be similarly transported.

LADIES SING THE BLUES: Four powerhouse blues women have surfaced with new albums of considerable merit, depending on how you want your blues served.

sicilia*GINA SICILIA, Can’t Control Myself--Singing of this order is too real for a mainstream music press fixated on the empty posturings of Beyonce and Lady Gaga, but, in keeping with a sentiment advanced with such authority here, you have to believe an artist as gifted as Gina Sicilia will find her place in the sun.

kights*EG KIGHT, Lip ServiceOn her sixth and arguably best-yet amalgamation of blues and southern soul, EG Kight roams through various textures of the blues while remembering that the blues is about life. In staying focused on the things that matter EG Kight has fashioned a memorable, substantive work of art.

taylor*DEMETRIA TAYLOR, Bad GirlDaughter of famed blues guitarist Eddie Taylor, Chicago belter Demetria Taylor takes the occasion of her debut album to honor the blues she grew up with—unlike the other albums featured in this review, hers contains no original songs but rather mines a rich vein of material from the towering Willie Dixon, Magic Sam, Luther Allison, Jimmy Reed, and her brother, Eddie Taylor, Jr. It’s an impressive start.

sowers*DAVINA SOWERS & THE VAGABONDS, Black Cloud--On Black Cloud, the first of her four albums to feature all-original material, Davina Sowers conjures the feel of old New Orleans, playing piano and fronting the Vagabonds, a tight, highly effective quintet.The resulting album is delightful on every level and a real coming of age for Ms. Sowers as an artist.

piecesTHE STEVEN L. SMITH BAND, Pieces--Upstate New York is the stomping grounds for the Steven L. Smith Band, a quintet whose tough-minded, gritty, straight-ahead rock and country comes out of a blue-collar environment and a populist sensibility. Hardly alone in this regard, the Smith Band has something going for it that separates it from other, similar hard-working outfits toiling in the bars and small clubs throughout the land--it has the songwriting of Steven L. Smith going for it, to be precise.

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