Getting’ Kinda Rough
Grana’ Louise has a big voice and an even bigger on stage presence. She won the Windy City IBC in 2009and has now released her first CD for Delmark Records. She has two prior releases (from 1999 and 2003) but this is her first release for a big blues label. She is not afraid to get down and dirty, both figuratively and lyrically. She belts out tunes with some vey blues lyrics with the best of them.
Her big voice and charisma really carry her through her efforts. She blasts out her vocals in a gripping manner- she grabs you by the ears and makes you listen to her. Delmark offers up a mix of her studio and live performances on this CD. The first seven tracks were recorded in the studio; one through six at Riverside Studio in 2009 and seven by Bill Syniar last year. These were the highlights of the CD for me, as I will explain later. Tracks eight through twelve were done live at Blue Chicago on Clarke Street last year.
Louise offers us some new stuff; four of the seven studio cuts were written by her. She also growls and shouts out some classic blues, from the standards to pre-WWII stuff. She is an emerging presence that the blues world will have to stand up and take notice of!
She begins with the traditional “Stagger Lee”, giving us a great rendition of this old tune. Perhaps an overdone song, but Louise kept me listening! “Where You Been?” is a kitschy and fun old tune that Louise delivers quite convincingly. Eddie Vinson’s “Back Door Blues” gets royal treatment as does “Queen Bee”. “Back Door Blues” features some mean and greasy guitar from Carlos Showers in addition to Grana’s big time vocals on this quintessential slow blues. Originals like “Lead Foot Mama”, “Gonna Get ‘Cha”, “Bang Bang Ba-Bang, Bang Bang Bang!” give some fresh tunes and give us some fun lyrics. The innuendo of going to get some of the “tall trees bending in the wind but not breaking” in the cut “Big Dick, Mississippi” is probably well beyond innuendo and just bluntly dirty. Louise gives us some old style, traditional”blue” blues in this original cut. Guitar by Tom Holland on this and in all the 2009 studio cuts is impeccable.
Where I fault the CD is with the live production. The five tracks recorded at Blue Chicago are technically somewhat flawed. Overall the sound is somewhat muffled; Louise is miked up to sound way behind the guitar and bass to start, and the overall sound throughout is a little deep with the high end sounds clipped. Grana’s performances are very solid as are the bands, but the technical challenges by system, engineer, venue, or whatever it is detracts from the enjoyment of this woman’s marvelous talent. At a minimum it sounds like a club with bad acoustics, which was a bad choice.
But enough of that; what we have here are a dozen tracks by a relatively new to the big time blues scene vocalist who has a tight band and a big and beautiful voice. If you like traditional female blues vocals done right, this is a CD you need to buy. Louise is a powerful singer who we will be hearing a lot from in the coming years!
Reviewed by Steve Jones