Monday, February 15, 2010

Celebrating the Blues But Speaking the Musical Language of Rock?

The Laurie Morvan Band was co-winner of The Blues Foundation’s Best Self-Produced CD awarded at the 2010 International Blues Challenge for her album “Fire It Up,” (Screaming Lizard Records). It is odd that the opening song on this 'blues' album that celebrates playing “Nothing the Blues,” sounds like a southern rock anthem and aurally be quite at home on modern country music radio. This is not to diminish the music of Laurie Morvan and her band, but it raises a question of what is contemporary blues.

More rock influences can also be heard on Morvan's “Come On Over To My BBQ,” with its amusing and bawdy lyrics relating to the culinary treats she has to offer leaving little to the imagination. “Good Girls, Bad Girls,” showcases her songwriting as well as her robust vocals. The hook here “I think that good girls are just bad girls that ain’t been caught,” but again this is again blues-rock not blues. “Lay Your hands,” has a soulful tone, while “I Speak the Blues,” is a solid blues-rock number, with some nifty guitar and a vocal that does get a bit over the top when she sings “i speak the blues, the only words I understand.” “Livin’ in A Man’s World” is a blues with a pounding rhythm as she bellows out that one should not feel sorry for her being a guitar playing girl in a man’s world. In contrast “Let Me Carry Your Trouble,” is a nice country-flavored ballad. Gospel styled harmonies support her vocal on “You Don’t Know About Me,” a rocking number with a lyric about being in love with someone who is essentially oblivious to her and a nifty guitar solos. “Skinny Woman” is an amusing counter to songs about big legged woman but when one kicks their kicks, not forget about skinny chicks.

Listening to “Fire It Up,” this reviewer hears in Ms Morvan's music few blues roots, compared to evident hard rock, country-rock and blues-rock roots. Some (maybe many) will consider this blues. These same folk might point to this as an example of how the blues is being extended. Extended would suggest that there is something musically new here. I cannot here anything musically innovative as far as some considers innovative rebadging blues-rock and blues tinged rock as contemporary blues.

Categorizing this recording as blues-rock does establish whether this is a good or bad recording. Laurie Morgan certainly is a forceful and expressive singer and guitarist and she writes very interesting songs. There is much to like about this recording, but one's subjective reaction likely will depend on one's musical tastes. But writing and singing about speaking the language of the blues is not the same thing as producing music in the language of the blues as opposed to the language of southern rock and blues-rock.

I received this record from a publicity firm handling this recording and originally intended to write this review for Jazz & Blues Report. They ran another's review prior to my writing this although I had scribbled notes on the performances earlier. That review appeared in the October 15-December 1 2009 issue (Number 321) on page 15. You can download the issue at

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