Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Blues Blast reviewed by Mark Thompson

Blues Blast
Debbie Davies
Telarc Blues
9 tracks/53:50

It must be nice to be able to get friends like Charlie Musselwhite, Coco Montoya, Tab Benoit and Bruce Katz to come by and help out on your new recording. And one would think that many musicians could easily begin to wonder if they would be able to hold their own in the midst of that talent and experience. If Debbie Davies had her moment of doubt, you'd never know from listening to this smokin' hot new release.

Debbie and Coco come out of the gates firing on "A.C. Strut", a tribute to their old boss Albert Collins. They take turns ripping off one nasty run after another over a churning foundation courtesy of Katz on the Hammond B3. This up-tempo romp lets you know that is won't be any ordinary release.

The pace slows on the second track, "My Time After Awhile", but the intensity level remains high as Davies lays out a pleading vocal turn on this tale of betrayal. Montoya provides support on guitar and sticks around for the third track, which adds Musselwhite's harp to the mix. His inventive harp work reminds listeners that he is truly one of the living masters. Charlie takes the lead vocal on his composition "Movin' & Groovin' ". Davies snaps off some impressive picking before Musselwhite dominates the proceedings with some masterful hard blowing on his harp.

"Crawling King Snake" takes you deep into the swamp with Tab Benoit laying down a taut vocal while trading snarling guitar licks with Davies. One surprise on the disc is the decision to have Debbie handle the vocal on "Howlin' For My Darlin" ". Most versions feature a big, deep voice like Howlin' Wolf's well-known take. Davies refrains from taking that approach and instead uses some sly phrasing to fashion a very credible vocal. The guitar extravaganza continues Davies and Benoit take turns burning up the frets of their guitars.

The steady-rolling groove of "Like You Was Gone " slows the pace a bit and features Musselwhite plus all three guitarists. Montoya sticks around for the Davies original tune, a strong piece with Debbie imploring her man to come home into her arms because that's "Where the Blues Come to Die". Katz fleshes out the performance with his usual dazzling B3 playing. As they do throughout the disc, Rod Carey on bass and Per Hanson on drums provide a solid rhythmic base for everyone.

The closing track is a ten minute instrumental workout. The title, "Sonoma Sunset", might conjure up images of a quiet evening on the beach. Instead, Davies and her fellow guitarist lay down a series of solos that build the intensity level until Musselwhite eases into the mix and blows some gentle tones to calmly lead everyone to the closing.

Davies has put together a very impressive package with phenomenal musicians and a strong, varied track list. Every fan of blues guitar playing is going to want to have this disc. It may be the best work of her career and will be on my personal list of top Blues recordings of the year. What more can I say - get a copy !!!!!

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