Memphis Blue (Sweet, Strong & Tight)
Big Blue Records
Damn Right This Lady Can Sing The Blues and More!
Yet again my friend Peter at Hemifran in Sweden has come up trumps again.
Sadly for you, this album has sat in my ‘to do’ box for nearly 5 weeks now; and although I loved the album cover; hadn’t actually got around to listening to it until yesterday. More fool me!
What little I can find about this young lady is that she formed her first band in 1989 (presumably when she was still at school), eventually moving to Memphis in 97 where her heart lived anyway; and quickly started playing the bars on and around Beale St. and there she’s remained at Silky O’Sullivan’s; honing her talent 5 or 6 nights a week, somehow finding the time to record 8 previous albums.
That hard apprenticeship comes across in every single note Barbara croons on this album.
From opening track Hands Off! with its swinging horns and a B3 organ that will soothe even the harshest of souls, Barbara Blue and band (all ELEVEN of them; plus assorted guests) don’t hold back an ounce of energy until 800 Mile Blues fades into the sunset 50 minutes and a Helluva Good Time later.
Classics like I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down mingle with cool interpretations of new and old tunes, as well as Barbara’s own songs Memphis Stomp and the rather excellent title track Sweet, Strong and Tight.
It would be remiss of me not to mention some of the uber-cool guests like Bobby Rush, who provides some seriously hot harmonica to three songs including the mighty funky SuperBlues; guitar supremo Ronnie Earl puts his hallmark on three songs too; with Rolling Up On Me being a rare thing of beauty, tucked away in the middle of a supercool album.
As this is a New Orleans album at heart; it’s not just about the Blues; Barbara even gives us a Gospel song Me & Jesus, that is so powerful it had me contemplating going back to church again; but the Methodists don’t do music like this.
No album from Memphis would be complete without a neat shot of Zydeco and that’s exactly what we get with this version of Nancy Apple’s hot and sassy Voodoo Woman; being something of ‘signature tune’ for Ms. Blue; and that weird N’Orleans sound in the background isn’t a jar full of crickets, it is Cody Dickinson on washboard; yes…THAT Cody Dickinson.
As this record arrived via a key European record distributor Barbara Blues glorious voice and classic; from the heart version of the Blues is destined for a lot more homes than if it was just sold to tourists at the end of her Beale St. gigs; and the world will be a better place for it.
Released USA Autumn 2014
Released Europe March 2016