BluesWax Rating: 10 out of 10
A Perfect Debut
The Blues Broads self-titled debut CD, recorded in November 2011 at the Throckmorton Theatre in Marin County, California, finds these gals in fine form, rollicking and frolicking, seeming to be having a good ‘ol time, as they mix and match on lead and backing vocals.
Tracy Nelson and Angela Strehli share the lead on the upbeat opener, “Livin’ the Blues,” a feelin’ bad, don’t wanna feel better blues number. This leads to visiting “the funkiest bar on the funkiest street” - drinking doubles, while repeatedly playing the saddest song on the jukebox. Like many blues songs, the lyrics on this one belie the party atmosphere. Deanna Bogart and Mike Emerson join the fun on keyboards.
Strehli again shares the vocals with Nelson on “Blue Highway,” a drawly, loping tune about the tough life on the road where, Strehli sings, “from New York City to New Orleans, can’t tell you all of the things I’ve seen, from the Jack of Diamonds to the voodoo man, from Muddy Waters to Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland,” giving the listener a tempting peek into her world.. Guitarist Gary Vogensen takes her out, riding off into the sunset.
Strehli, raised in Texas, takes a solo on “a true story,” she says, with her original, “Two Bit Texas Town,” about first hearing the classic blues greats, “back when radio could turn your life around” and how that “made us want to learn what they weren’t teaching in school.” “It scared me death,” she sings, before closing with a polite howl.
Nelson recorded her first album with Charlie Musselwhite in Chicago, in the mid-1960s, before moving on to the band Mother Earth in California, then relocating to Nashville, where she received two Grammy nominations. Here, she shows her voice has lost nothing, with a slow blues about the heartache and pain of a three-way love affair. “Day after day is getting so hard to bear,” she sings, and even crying doesn’t help, but the listener will enjoy her emotive phrasings, underscored by the work of Vogensen and Emerson. Steve Ehrmann and Paul Revelli complete the lineup on bass and drums respectively.
Deanna Bogart, an Honorary Broad, is dominant on boogie-woogie piano and vocals, as the ladies rock out on the frenetic “It Won’t Be Long,” about a woman who refers to herself as “a lonesome hen,” and is waiting at the railroad tracks for the arrival of her man on the 5:03.
Annie Sampson’s man is “out there having too much fun” without her, on the retro-soul number “Bring Me Your Love.” Her background includes playing one of the leads in the original San Francisco production of Hair, and co-founding the band Stoneground. Dorothy Morrison leads on a track in a similar musical vein, this time about the ongoing search for a “Mighty Love.”
Morrison, lead singer on the Edwin Hawkins Singers recording, “Oh Happy Day,” the biggest selling gospel song ever, reprises that for this CD’s finale.
There’s not a weak link in this chain of songs. A powerful Sampson solo on Bob Dylan’s chillingly apocalyptic, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” with outstanding saxophone work by Bogart, is unfortunately available on the included DVD only.
Robert Feuer is a contributing writer at BluesWax and Blues Revue.
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