After The Fall
BluesWax Rating: 7 out of 10
Rebounding From Adversity
The blues is about nothing if not rebounding from adversity, and with her latest release guitar maven Debbie Davies puts her personal emphasis on that hoary theme.
An adept guitarist, Davies was an acolyte of the late, great Albert Collins. Since leaving her three-year stint with the Collins band in 1991, she has produced multiple noteworthy albums, garnered many well-deserved awards, and collaborated with just about everyone on the contemporary electric blues scene. Her sizzling 2007 Blues Blast collaboration with Tab Benoit, Coco Montoya, and Charlie Musselwhite was succeeded by the all-instrumental Holdin’ Court in 2009, and gigs on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and with its traveling Revue.
Then hard times struck, with the untimely death in 2011 of her friend and collaborator, singer Robin Rogers, and the misfortune of a broken arm.
Happily, Davies is back. After the Fall chronicles her hard times with eleven tunes, six of them penned by Davies alone or with her long-time drummer, Don Castagno. Make no mistake, though: this CD is no extended dirge. Prepare to be moved, and also to have a good time as Davies and her colleagues sample several blues sub-genres.
“Don’t Put the Blame” opens the show with a mid-tempo blues rocker excoriating an ex-lover for lack of accountability. It’s followed by “The Fall,” where a drum intro segues into a duet between Debbie’s vocal and guitar, and the song’s cautionary message is not to be smug in the face of the ever-present possibility of pain and loss. “True Blue Fool” is a 1950s-style slow lament notable for a brief but pithy guitar solo, and it’s followed by a lament for hard times, “I Done Sold Everything,” a propulsive tune driven by Davies’ lead guitar, Dave Gross‘ second lead, and the solid rhythm section evident throughout the album.
Then we’re back to some temporary pensiveness with “Little Broken Wing,” a disquisition on the recent arm fracture, featuring a guitar lead reminiscent of none other than Jimi Hendrix in one of his cogitative moods. “All My Forgiveness” is a sashaying Latino-flavored number highlighting Bruce Katz on the Hammond B3 organ; Katz then switches to piano for the irresistible opening of “Going to a Gaggle,” a lighthearted party song.
Shifting gears again (Davies is versatile!), we get “I’ll Feel Much Better When You Cry,” a bitter tirade at a former paramour with another great guitar solo. “Down Home Girl” is Davies’ tribute to the departed Robin Rogers, and she makes us feel the painful loss of her friend. We don’t grieve too long, though as “R.R. Boogie” got me up and dancing immediately; you’ll only stay seated if you’re tied down. The novelty number “Google Me Baby” closes the album; its theme seems somewhat incongruous, but the jazzy guitar solo is fine.
The songs share similar structures, each with a central guitar solo, and every such solo is impressive. Davies can really play that ax, never pretentious or solipsistic but always inventive. The band is exemplary throughout, and Katz shines on the keyboard. Davies’ singing gets the job done, although she lacks the power and range of star chanteuses. The variety of songs rather than a unifying theme is a positive or negative characteristic of the album, depending on your personal point of view.
Steve Daniels is a contributing writer at BluesWax.
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