Chicago blues singer Karen Carroll was 39 when Delmark issued her second album for the label in 1997, “Talk to the Hand,” which has been just re-released by the label. She is the daughter of vocalist Jeanne Carroll and goddaughter of guitarist George Freeman. She was associated with the late Professor Eddie Lusk and a major influence on her was Donny Hathaway. She was backed on this session by a band including the keyboards of Russell Purifoy and Walter Scott’s guitar on a program of originals and some covers ranging for less obvious choices like Left Dizz’s “Ain’t It Nice,” to the overly familiar, “Sweet Home Chicago.”
She is more of a moaner than a shouter as on the opening West Side blues by Lefty Dizz, although Walter Scott’s buzz saw guitar here grates. Her original, “I’m Glad,” with nice punchy horns, is much better as she delivers the vocal with an appropriate bittersweet delivery and Scott’s guitar is much more palatable here with fleet, jazzy phrasing. Another Carroll original, “Don’t Make Me Wait,” is a soulful ballad in the vein of such seventies artists as Hathaway with nice piano from Purifoy. “Tired of Being Mistreated,” is a rocking gospel-based rave with backing vocal as she sings about her man mistreating her. I am not sure who J. Williams, the composer of “Can’t Fight the Blues” is, but Carroll conveys the desolation the lyrics (set to a melody similar to Ray Charles “I Believe”) convey. Hathaway sounds like an inspiration on “I Need a Friend,” while the title track (melodically evoking “Someday Baby”), tells the man he can talk to the hand but the face does not understand, with short effective solos from Scott and Purifoy. Carroll is able to capture the sassy, sultriness of Nina Simone’s “Do I Move You,” while able to handle the wistful melancholy of Dorothy Moore’s smash, “Misty Blue.” She added little to the overly recorded, “Sweet Home Chicago,” but her reworking of “How Blue Can You Get,” does show her interpretative powers. Still the most interesting selection is her original, “Neked J Blues.” This long talking blues showcases her storytelling ability as she talks about herself and some of the things she did to help spark things at the home front, including buying a negligee (Neked J)) and getting the bed ready for when her man gets home. The closing “Please Come Back Home,” closes this disc with an unexpected country twist.
This writer may have reviewed this when it first came out, but those reviews may be on the pages of a dusky blues society newsletter. there is a definite low-key feel to much of this and while there are a few missteps, this is an enjoyable disc worthy of re-release.
For FTC regulations purposes, this was sent to me by Delmark.