Archive for the ‘Blues’ Tag

Barbara Blue- Fish in Dirty H2O review   Leave a comment

FishInDirtyH20Barbara Blue Fish in Dirty H2O Big Blue Records www.BarbaraBlue.com

Barbara Blue’s music simmers: she isn’t flashing, and she sure as hell isn’t going to allow wailing guitars to overwhelm the mood she establishes with each song. Rather, Barbara Blue does a slow burn across this hour-long testament to the power of soulful Memphis blues.

A 21-year residence at Beale Street’s Silky O’Sullivan’s has provided Blue with an authenticity grounded in plain truth: folks ain’t comin’ back if you don’t give them something to keep them comin’ back. With Fish in Dirty H2O, the Reigning Queen of Beale Street grabs us by the ear and pulls us into her house.

Sultry and passionate, Blue doesn’t just growl and roar, although she does some of that on “Accidental Theft” and “My Heart Belongs to the Blues”. She may sing of “Wild Women,” but hers is a more nuanced, experienced approach. With the spiritual-sounding “Walk Away,” one of several songs co-written with Mark Narmore, she takes us to a place where there is no choice but to recognize truth: “there’s not enough money or time, to spend this life unhappy.” Al Green couldn’t express things with more clarity than Blue.

Not everything is heavy. She sings the praises of her “BBQ Man”—he’s “got the rotisserie rollin’,” she claims—with more than a little sauce drippin’ within her innuendo, and embraces life by “soppin’ up” the “Gravy Train.” Plenty of horns, keys, and B3 add flavour with a heap of the familiar Memphis feel. “Meet Me in Memphis,” indeed: with her voice alone, Blue could carry a song, but augmented as she is by a stellar band, including a rhythm section that never loses their groove—Bernard “Pretty” Purdie (drums) and Dave Smith (bass)—one is essentially forced to just hold on.

Songs like “That’s Working For Me” and “Johnny Lee” reveal a confident, powerful performer who isn’t about to allow herself to be limited: Barbara Blue presents herself with a commanding authority that will brook no argument to the contrary.

With recent releases from Rory Block, Trudy Lynn, Joyann Parker, and Suzie Vinnick, Barbara Blue further supports my assertion: the ladies are where one should look to find the most emotionally charged, exciting, and soulful blues being created today.

Her amazing rendition of “Drunken Angel,” not included on this album:

 

 

Advertisements

Posted 2018 October 1 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

Trudy Lynn- Blues Keep Knockin’ review   1 comment

trudy-lynn-blues-keep-knockin-hi-res-coverTrudy Lynn Blues Keep Rockin’ Conner Ray Music www.TrudyLynn.com

In the last six months, an abundance of blues have been sent my way. Most of it has left me cold: with all due respect to the PR folks, labels, and musicians—I don’t need to hear any more guitar noodlers. Each and every one leaves me bored.

What doesn’t? Albums produced by singers like Trudy Lynn.

I have heard and written about some great blues singers this year: Suzie Vinnick, Rory Block, Joyann Parker, Samantha Martin, Sue Foley, Crystal Shawanda…and I am guessing you are seeing what they have in common: they groove, they get deep, and they sing with soul. Beautiful recordings all.

Add Houston legend Trudy Lynn’s latest to the list. A member of the Houston Music Hall of Fame, Trudy Lynn knows her stuff. There is no little bit of R&B in her music, and she twists her one-of-a-kind voice around each and every song included on Blues Keep Knockin’.

Covering a Hoyt Axton/Three Dog Night song is always a fine way to get my attention, and Trudy Lynn’s mid-set, organ-embellished rendition of “I’ve Never Been to Spain” did the trick. Sultry and intimate, without over-reaching, this version is one to remember. “Blues Ain’t Nothin” and “Blues Keep Knocking” are powerful showpieces for this veteran of the circuit who has been nominated for Living Blues awards.

I sure don’t want to get on the wrong side of a woman declaring her devotion, “It’s tit-for-tit, tat-for-tat: you kill by dog, I’ll kill your cat…” as she does on “It’s Alright,” a sharp piano-based song that is as scary as it is powerful. Steve Krase’s harmonica is prominently positioned on this number, as well as throughout the album. “When I Been Drinkin'” is a no-nonsense declaration of a woman’s needs, and Dan Carpenter’s sax is just the punctuation the song requires, while Trudy Lynn lays things plain within “I Sing the Blues.” “Pitiful” features some fiery guitar from Bob Lanza, but it doesn’t detract from Ms Trudy’s  soul-drenched performance.

The album closes with a guitar-rich interpretation of Etta James’ “Would It Make Any Difference to You,” which features Carolyn Wonderland laying out lively, nuanced notes.

Trudy Lynn has been making music for a long time, and Blues Keep Knockin’ is her thirteenth album. This is a damn fine blues record. Seek it out.

 

Posted 2018 September 16 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Rory Block- A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith review   2 comments

Rory Block

Rory Block A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith Stony Plain Records

What was the name of the Maria Muldaur album a decade or so ago? Naughty, Bawdy, & Blue, that’s it.

That would also work for this new set from Rory Block, the latest in her ongoing mission tracing the historical importance and continuing influence of the blues masters.

While the previous six volumes of her Mentor Series honoured “founding fathers of the blues” she encountered as a teenager, Block has now turned her vision to the ladies with the “Power Women of the Blues.” No better singer to feature on the initial set than Bessie Smith, the Empress of the Blues.

This is how I like my blues. Entirely acoustic with multi-tracked accompaniment (Block also offers unconventional percussion from hat boxes, guitar bongos, plastic tubs, and wooden spoons to go along with her gorgeous, masterful guitar playing) allowing the character of the music to reverberate internally. Stripped of any finery, we are left with the essentials: guitar, bass, voice, and fervent passion.

There is no shortage of double entendre across these ten songs including “Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl,” “Do Your Duty,” and “Kitchen Man.” Other songs offer additional vital relationship insight. “Black Mountain Blues” suggests a razor and a gun, while advising “the bullet will get you if you start your dodging too late.” Little highbrow here with “Gimme a Pigfoot and A Bottle of Beer” and an extended and groovy “Empty Bed Blues” receiving relaxed but riveting, powerful performances. Within “Empty Bed Blues,” Block reveals the ache and hunger of the protagonist in every note she sings.

As appealing as those songs are, and Block’s execution is stellar, I find greater interest in songs like “Weeping Willow Blues” and “I’m Down In The Dumps.” While there is much to dissect within the ‘naughty, bawdy, and blue’ songs—culturally, socially, even politically—when Block presents a more nuanced song, she is at her strongest. Of course, no one advocates wrapping chains around oneself and jumping into the river over the loss of a man, but Block plums the emotional depths of these songs so effectively they sound inspirational. Naturally, Block’s “On Revival Day” is uplifting and heartening.

Bessie Smith was a prolific artist, and volumes have been written of her influence on twentieth century music. That continues today with prominent performers like Rory Block (and Bonnie Raitt and Muldaur) doing their duty in keeping this vibrant music relevant ninety-five years after Smith’s first recording session.

 

Favourite Roots Albums of 2018, so far   1 comment

It’s July 1. The year is half over and during the past six months some terrific music has been released. While I have heard my share of the roots music that has come out, I haven’t heard it all. I do have my favourites and that is what I share today: Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots releases of 2018, so far. In no particular order…

GauthierMary Gauthier- Rifles & Rosary Beads An ambitious undertaking that has received its fair share of attention. Co-writing with American veterans and their families, Gauthier has created a piece of art greater than its parts. Of course, none of it would be as significant if the songs themselves were weak or if Gauthier faltered in their delivery. No worries. Gauthier’s indomitable performances bridge the gap between those of us who have never considered serving in the military, and those whose lives have inalterably changed because of their sacrifices. Key tracks: “Got Your Six” “The War After the War” “Brothers” (purchased download)

JohnnyCash-ForeverWordsVarious Artists- Johnny Cash Forever Words: The Music Excepting the typically overwrought Elvis Costello track (When he sang—prior to about 2000—there were few who had greater regard for him, but he lost me a long time ago—his voice is shot, he mistakes emoting for expression, and has completely lost the plot on what even sounds ‘good’) this collection provides an hour of entertainment and contemplation. Comprised of unrecorded Cash ‘songs’—lyrics, poems, or musings, depending—that were—for the most part—fleshed out by the various performers, one is transported into a series of ethereal collaborations that is very affecting. Again, like the Gauthier album, what matters is more than the process, it’s the music: this album enhances the Cash legacy, unlike some other more exploitive sets that have been released. Key tracks:    Alison Krauss & Union Station’s interpretation of Robert Lee Castleman’s “The Captain’s Daughter” Rosanne Cash’s “The Walking Wounded” Carlene Carter’s “June’s Sundown” Jamey Johnson “Spirit Rider” (purchased CD)

GebtryBobbie Gentry- Live At The BBC A Record Store Day release, this 12-track compilation of cuts from 1968 and 1969 are simply a fan’s greatest attainable wish. Performances—excepting “Ode to Billie Joe”—unheard since their original broadcast (so, brand new to most of us) that add to Gentry’s legacy. Her voice is huskier on these numbers, the arrangements sparser, the mood slightly playful: the effect is  even greater intimacy that that expressed through the album versions of the songs. Key tracks: “Papa Won’t You Let Me Go To Town With You” “Recollection” “Nikki Hokey” in a medley with Robert Parker’s “Barefootin'” name-checking Long John Baldry. (purchased vinyl)

Motel MirrorsMotel Mirrors- In The Meantime The second collaboration between Amy LaVere and John Paul Keith is every bit as satisfying as their first, with the added bonus of having folded Will Sexton and Shawn Zorn into the mix to become a genuine band. Americana with a heavy dose of Memphis heart, this is a country-rock album that owes much to the music that influenced it. Key tracks: “Things I Learned” “Do With Me What You Want” “The Man Who Comes Around” (purchased download)

MarielMariel Buckley- Driving In The Dark I would have felt bad had I not been able to include an Alberta artist on this list, and Mariel Buckley doesn’t place out of any obligation. I wasn’t familiar with her until late last year, but she has quickly become a Fervor Coulee favourite. Produced by Leeroy Stagger, these ten songs contain lyrical and instrumental nuances that make them individually appealing and collectively stout. There isn’t much polish herein, just as it should be. I avoid using the word ‘authentic,’ but that is what works here. Straight-forward, modern country (think Kelly Willis) for those of us who live in the past. Key tracks: “Rose Coloured Frames” “Heart Is On Fire” “Pride” (purchased download)

David DavisDavid Davis & the Warrior River Boys- Didn’t He Ramble: The Songs of Charlie Poole A welcome return for one of bluegrass music’s most consistently satisfying bands with a traditional bent (serviced with CD). My full review here. 

DuffeyVarious Artists- Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey A bluegrass legend and innovator gets his due, more than two decades after his passing (Serviced with download). My full review here.

JoyannJoyann Parker- Hard To Love Soulful and blue (serviced with CD). My full review here.

dancing500Gretchen Peters- Dancing With the Beast Americana/folk doesn’t get better than this, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member’s ninth album of original material (purchased CD). My full review here.

HMT-Cover-862x785Hadley McCall Thackston- Hadley McCall Thackston A beautiful, stunning debut: like Venus, she emerges fully realized (serviced with CD). My full review here.

marewakefieldnomad_largeMare Wakefield & Nomad- Time to Fly There is so much good music, we can only hope that the best of it finds its way to us. Sometimes it is up to us to do the work. Search out this Nashville-based duo: they are worth it (serviced with CD). My full review here.

smds-album-cover-768x767Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar- Run To Me Southern Ontario’s soul revue gift to the world- lively, bright, and brassy (serviced with CD). My full review here.

DocWatson_LiveAtClub47_COVER-494x494Doc Watson Live at Club 47 There is no end to the live Doc Watson albums available, and some (Doc Watson On Stage, for one) are definitely more well-rounded than this set. However, this 1963 set recorded in Massachusetts is a welcome and indispensable addition for those of us who just can’t get enough of the deft, affable roots legend. Several of the songs contained here would remain staples of his live and recorded repertoire for the next five decades (“Little Sadie,” “Deep River Blues,” “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”) while others are less frequently encountered (“Little Margaret,” “Hop High Ladies The Cake’s All Dough,” and “Blue Smoke, for example.”) Watson’s connection to his audience would not waver throughout his career, and this early archival recording- coming in at almost 80 minutes- is riveting. (Purchased download)

 I limited myself to a  baker’s dozen albums. Look around Fervor Coulee- I have reviewed a lot of great roots music since January, and many wonderful albums just wouldn’t fit on this list: the latest from Peter Rowan, Sylvia, John Prine, Bob Rea, Sue Foley, The Lynnes, John Paul Keith, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Travelin’ McCourys…

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar- Run To Me review   2 comments

smds-album-cover-768x767

Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar Run to Me Gypsy Soul www.SamanthaMartin.ca

Some of the faces, voices, and instruments have changed since Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar’s debut album of three (really? three!) years ago, but the sound and outlook continues to rain joy and sorrow in equal measure: soulful, animated, and vigorous.

Samantha Martin’s slightly gravelly voice brings each of the ten included songs to life; she isn’t messing around here: nothing is wasted, no going through the motions. When she demands, “Tell me where you been,” in “All Night Long,” you know she already has the philanderer nailed.

Without doubt, Martin is the focus here, but Delta Sugar gets co-billing for a reason. Vocalists Sherie Marshall and Mwansa Mwansa provide Martin with support and depth that is more than impressive, while the nine-piece band create a substantial sound that is bright and resonant, simultaneously fresh and retro. This is a soul revue with few peers.

At their peak, Gladys Knight or Marilyn McCoo couldn’t sing these bittersweet anthems any better. “Will We Ever Learn,” indeed: “They say, ‘Love is blind;’ I tend to think it’s when lust is on your mind…” This honest distillation of what happens when one goes looking for love in the wrong places—”one of us had to get burned”—simmers over a bed of horns including Andrew Moljgun’s saxophone. “Over You” has a similar 70s sound, mature and bad ass, accepting no sass.

Lyrically, Martin and her various co-writers keep things rather ‘matter of fact.’ “You don’t have to put a ring on it—Baby, just put your back into it,” she sings on “Wanna Be Your Lover” before continuing, “Don’t worry about my heartstrings, You know I don’t feel those feelings—I just want to see what tomorrow brings.” Still, Martin has a sensitive side. “Gonna Find It” and “You’re The Love” find her seeking that which is missing. Echoes of Stax and long-forgotten southern soul sides abound.

With Suzie Vinnick as her writing partner, Martin goes looking for “Good Trouble,” perhaps the album’s most rock ‘n’ roll track. The sing-a-long chorus, “You’re never too young, you’re never too old, to find yourself good trouble; you must find a way, to get in the way, and find yourself good trouble,” is immediately appealing, and Steve Marriner’s organ break raise the stakes a bit higher. Equally engaging, “This Night Is Mine”—one of several songs co-written with guitarist Curtis Chaffey—is loaded with vocal and instrumental hooks, another complete band performance.

Run To Me is an incredible album. Expertly produced by bassist Darcy Yates, and with a running time is 35 minutes, Run To Me is a concise serving of electrifying soul, blues, and roots music.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Drop me a note.

Canadian Blues- three reviews   2 comments

Over the last eight weeks, more than a dozen blues albums have made their way through the system to land in the wee metal box down the road.

Lots of electric blues, some with a Chicago feel, others more southern, many guitar-based and a couple pianocentric albums, quite a few featuring female frontpersons, even more with too many wankering guitar solos, a small number featuring fusion attempts, and one more with a ‘trad.’ acoustic blues foundation. All have been listened to, several only once because that is all they seemed to deserve (sorry!) while others have created my personal soundtrack over the past several weeks.

I enjoy blues music, although not as much as some other forms of roots music, but I don’t actively seek it out on a day-to-day basis. I have favourite contemporary artists—Rory Block, Eric Bibb, Paul Reddick, Sue Foley, Watermelon Slim, Colin James, Crystal Shawanda, Maria Muldaur, to name a few—and the likes of John Lee Hooker, Lead Belly, and Alberta Hunter have been a part of my listening since I was a teenager: I recall one summer (I think— after all, when else would I be watching it?) morning becoming transfixed by Alberta Hunter on Good Morning America. Still, it would take a lot to get me off the couch to attend a blues performance.

Here are my thoughts on three really strong blues albums that have recently come my way.

CD-cover-1440-x-1440

Suzie Vinnick Shake The Love Around SuzieVinnick.com

From Western Canada, Suzie Vinnick is well-familiar to Alberta blues listeners. Now based in the Niagara area of Ontario, Vinnick continues to make her way to the prairies almost annually. Early in the album opening “Happy As Hell,” Vinnick sings,  “I may complain but I know, I am living a charmed life…I got no reason to ever bitch and moan, but I do sometimes…” It appears life is agreeing with the vibrant singer, songwriter, and bandleader, because across the album’s dozen tracks the positive receives greater emphasis than its opposite.

Blessed with a gorgeous voice, throughout Shake The Love Around Vinnick leads her band through terrific songs filled with rich lyrical insights, smooth arrangements, and stunning and near-overwhelming performances. One example would be “Golden Rule” (“It costs nothing to be kind,” she sings) featuring an almost Laurel Canyon vibe with Vinnick handling all guitars—acoustic, electric, bass, and lap steel—to excellent effect. Truly an indie artist, Vinnick has again released an album without label support, produced herself (with Mark Lalama), and done the bulk of the instrumental heavy lifting.

Unlike the previous favourite Me ‘n’ Mabel, the album that made me a fan, which was largely a solo album, Shake The Love Around is a band album. Still naturally tasteful, this time out the approach is a bit more aggressive (“Watch Me,” and “Lean Into The Light.”) An ideal summer listen, the album is abounding with songs that make this listener think of Bobbie Gentry (all evidence to the contrary, not everything I listen to runs through my Gentry filter) including a sweltering cover of John Fogerty’s “A Hundred and Ten In The Shade” and “Crying A River For You,” featuring Colin Linden; to Linden’s and Vinnick’s collaborative credit, each of their guitar parts are discernible and distinctive.

“Beautiful Little Fool” has a playful vibe and Percy Mayfield’s “Danger Zone” allows Vinnick to carry a song—typically performed with horns and all manner of accompaniment—very ably with just her voice and bass: it may be my favourite performance on the album, and is an ideal selection given the album’s theme of spreading positivity while surrounded by darkness. However, the very next song—”Creaking Pines”—is also a favourite, a wisp of a song equally effective—a little seductive, a lot haunting—bringing to mind the legendary Alberta Hunter.

Shake The Love Around is an excellent blues and roots album from Suzie Vinnick. She never disappoints.

Angel

Angel Forrest Electric Love AngelForrest.ca

If Suzie Vinnick is great—and she is—and well-regarded within the Canadian blues industry—and she is, having been crowned as Female Vocalist of the Year six times by the Maple Blues Awards—Angel Forrest is held in similar high esteem.

Forrest is the reigning and five time Maple Blues Female Vocalist of the Year, and on this double live set, she shows why. The Quebec veteran focuses on vocals, and does with considerable gravelly panache, while leading her four-piece band through a set of standards and I presume, originals—at least songs I am not familiar with (songwriting credits must always be provided within an album package)—from a single concert captured last October in St-Hyacinthe, Quebec.

The show opening “All The Way” (a co-write with guitarist Denis Coulombe, I believe) sets the stage for almost an hour and a half of blues-rock. Forrest is at her strongest belting out her own songs including “Hold On Tight, Mr. I’m Alright” “Spoil Me Up,” and “Mother Tongue Blues.” Not much is held back—or left to interpretation—on the brassy “Move On.”

Realizing she has long sung Janis Joplin songs, I find her versions of “Piece Of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee” a little too on the nose—imitation rather than inspiration—although I am confident there are others who will strongly disagree, and I appreciate the guitar work: it isn’t that I didn’t like Forrest’s versions, it is just I feel I have heard these vocal approaches often enough. Her take of “Turtle Blues” is more impressive, and stronger still are her takes of “House of the Rising Sun” and the extended, set-closing jam “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean”/”Hound Dog”/”Whole Lotta Love” which are full of energy and passion.

Angel Forrest has released a number of albums—and I believe this is her third live release—but this is the first to come to my attention: I’ll be keeping my ears open for more. I’m intrigued.

CALLING_ALL_BLUES_FRONT

Sugar Brown It’s A Blues World: Calling All Blues SugarBrownMusic.com

Speaking of intrigued.

When was the last time a Ph. D. released a blues album? Not intriguing enough? Okay, when was the last time a University of Toronto associate professor of East Asian Studies, born in Bowling Green, Ohio into a Japanese-Korean family released a blues album?

That’s what I thought.

Proving that the blues is a force of nurture as much as nature, Sugar Brown has unleashed a powerful blues missive upon an unsuspecting populace.

Man, Sugar Brown plays my kind of blues. Influenced by the Chicago blues, a sound well familiar to Ken Kawashima as that is where he got his start blowing harp in blues bands. Now fronting a band on both guitar and harmonica, Sugar Brown has created thirteen new songs—some of them based around and reinventing familiar songs of various extract—that kept this listener rapt for the entirety of their 48-minute run. Some of his lyrics are hopeful, some are rather darka balance I can certainly appreciate.

Fronting the likes of Michelle Josef (mostly) and Chuck Bucket (three tracks) (drums), Russ Boswell (basses), Minnie Heart and Nichol Robertson (various string instruments), and Julian Fauth (piano and organ), Sugar Brown has captured his blues in a warm and inviting atmosphere utilizing some vintage equipment and a knack for a variety of blues structures. As stated in the accompanying press material, here Brown “mines the various strata of the blues genre.” Taking full advantage of the broad blues palate, no two songs sound too much alike even as they may explore a common thematic spectrum.

Highlights include the finger-picking grounded “Hard to Love” and “Lousy Dine,” a song built around the adroit lyric “everybody’s scrambling for the same lousy dime.” “It’s A Blues World” is a song for the times, an old-timey sounding lamentation with a bit of “The House of the Rising Sun” in its foundation.

For an album rich in reflection, Sugar Brown doesn’t let the listener soak in misery for too long. Numbers including “Dew On The Grass,” “Out Of The Frying Pan”, and “Those Things You Said” are lighter and livelier. “Sure As The Stars” is a sassy, kiss-off piece, while “Tide Blues” reminds me of something Doc Watson might have played around with on the porch with Merle or grandson Richard. By the time we reach the closing “Brothers,” we have been fully immersed in a fully satisfying blues session.

From its striking, etched cover art through to the clarity of the recording itself and the strength of the songs, Sugar Brown has created a memorable album. When he wants to, he puts a fine growl in his voice, while elsewhere his approach is pure, natural, and clear (“Love Me Twice.”)

It’s A Blues World: Calling All Blues is my introduction to Sugar Brown. I’ll be hearing more.

 

 

Joyann Parker- Hard To Love review   3 comments

Joyann

Joyann Parker Hard To Love Hopeless Romantics Records

When I reflect on the joys writing about roots music bring me, I can itemize many elements that inject pleasure in my life. Among them, and perhaps in the Top 3, is that in writing about music in the way I do—off the mainstream grid, without the day-to-day constrictions more widely read writers must traverse—I am exposed to musicians doing their thing within similar circumstances.

In this way and over the last two decades I have been exposed to ‘local heroes’ I might never have heard otherwise, be they John Paul Keith, Jay Clark, Brigitte DeMeyer, Jeffrey Halford, James Reams, Murder Murder, Diana Jones, and too many more to mention. Along the way, my definition of roots music has expanded to include more than ‘fools on stools,’ roots rock, and bluegrass.

So after a few hundred newspaper columns, dozens of bluegrass radio broadcasts, and likely a thousand or so reviews and posted ramblings, Joyann Parker comes to my attention.

The immense, propulsive bass notes that open the album are the first hint that we are in for a treat with Hard To Love, the Minneapolis singer’s second album. Promising that, “By the time I get to Memphis, you’ll be gone,” Parker (producer, guitar, piano, and trumpet) wastes no time establishing her power as a vocalist and bandleader. Her blend of blues and roots includes plenty of Memphis-Muscle Shoals spirited soul, and with just a hint of country in her voice, Joyann Parker is perfect for those of us who have come to appreciate music originating from the south. “I got to keep on rolling on down,” she sing as a bridge to the album’s opening track, “Memphis” and for the next forty-five minutes, she doesn’t let up.

If that wasn’t enough, she next slides into “Envy,” a slick and sassy Dusty Springfield/Marlena Shaw styled workout: Parker is taking no prisoners. Buoyed by a killer-tight band—Mark Lamoine (co-producer, guitar, and background vox), Tim Wick (piano and organ), Michael Carvale (co-producer and bass), and Alec Tackmann (drums and percussion), Parker asks the eternal question: “Do you love her like you love me?” One gets the sense the answer isn’t going to much matter: she is moving on!

Like the best soul-enriched blues, Hard To Love contains tales of trouble, misplaced devotion, and broken vows and shattered hearts. Some songs simmer with desire (“Jigsaw Heart” and “Home”) while other songs shade their passions behind a danceable beat that few this side the late Sharon Jones can manage (“Dizzy”, for example). Like the best of songwriters, Parker takes her experiences and threads them through those of others, creating relatable songs containing universal truths.

And, you can dance to it! Without attempting to sound retro, Parker brings to mind rarely encountered Stax artists including Barbara Stephens and Linda Lyndell on groovers such as “Who What When Where Why” and “What Happened To Me,” while “Bluer Than You,” “Hard To Love,” and “Evil Hearted” take more subtle tracts. New Orleans sounds are explored in the free-spirted “Ray” and the lively “Your Mama.”

Alongside other ‘big voices’ such as Ann Vriend, Erin Costelo, and Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar (speaking of local heroes) Joyann Parker has become an immediate Fervor Coulee favourite. Love it!