Kate St. John's Soothing Touch
Various Artists, Every Woman's Blues: Best of the New Generation (Shanachie 1998) - For this collection, Shanachie has gathered performances from 14 contemporary blues performers. These ladies leave no question that the blues are in good hands.
Highlights of Every Woman's Blues include Texan Sue Foley ("Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is") and guitar/vocalist Debbie Davies, whose sharp style is featured on "Livin' on Lies."
(By the way, Sue Foley has a fine new release called Ten Days in November, featuring Sue's outstanding guitar work. Review to follow.)
Also included is Rory Block ("Gone Woman Blues"), Deanna Bogart ("Checks and Love Letters"), and Lucinda Williams (best known for writing Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Passionate Kisses") on "Going Back Home."
My favorite cut is Sara Brown's reading of "Devil's Best Disguise." "Devil's Best Disguise" is a late night, smokey blues song with a walking baseline that won't quit.
For an earful of the blues from the ladies side, try Every Woman's Blues.
Joe Grushecky & The House Rockers, Coming Home (Viceroy 1998) - Hailing from Pittsburgh (also known as the "Iron City"), Joe Grushecky plays straight-ahead bar rock. Now nearly 20 years removed from his first release (1979's Love's So Tough), Grushecky continues to craft traditional blue collar rock with classic R & B of the 60's in the vein made most popular by Bruce Springsteen.
Which is no surprise, as Springsteen co-wrote four of the songs on Coming Home. Grushecky (on vocals, guitar and harp) is backed by his ace band, which includes Art Nardini on bass, Bill Toms on guitars, mandolin, and backing vocals, Joe Pelesky on keyboards and backing vocals, Jeffrey "Joffo" Simmons on drums, and Bernie Herr on percussion.
With songs like "Soul Survivor," "Cheap Motel," and "Innocence is Beautiful," the 11 tracks on Coming Home are a solid mix of roots-rock and blues, spinning vignettes of hard work, aching love, and good times.
By favorite track is "Feeling Better Now," an uptempo rocker with a boogie beat that brings to mind Southside Johnny & The Asbury Dukes.
Which is to say, Joe Grushecky plays classic American bar rock. I've heard that the band will knock your socks off in a live show. Coming Home is a solid slice from this talented bunch, and deserves to be heard.
Kate St. John, Second Sight (Thirsty Ear Records 1997) - Back with her second solo release is Kate St. John, a skilled woodwind player and Continental charmer. With its delicate European stylings, Second Sight is a welcome break from the pop mainstream.
Kate is a highly sought-after session player, and has performed with the Ravishing Beauties, the Dream Academy, and Van Morrison's band. In addition, Kate has collaborated vocally on several albums with Roger Eno. Her first solo release, Indescribable Night, was a lullaby-like treat based on the French "Chanson" of the 1920s cabaret era.
With Second Sight, Kate continues her sophisticated and intimate arrangements. On songs like "Where the Warm Winds Blow" and "A Foolish Dance," Kate brings to mind visions of romance amid French cafes.
Explains label president Peter Gordon, "Your ear needs to become accustomed to Kate's orientation, but when you do, you realize the breadth and depth of what she has accomplished here. It's so intricate you can almost be fooled - but at the same time, it's very soothing. People just need to listen to it a few times."
Soothing and gentle is a fair description for Second Sight. If you're looking for something contemporary, yet out of the pop mainstream, try Second Sight.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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