I have heard Grana Louise as part of a collection of Chicago blues women, but her new Delmark CD, Gettin' Kinda Rough!,"is one to certainly bring her to the attention of more folk. The Columbus, Ohio native has been building up her reputation in the Windy City for more than a decade and was the Windy City Blues Society's representative at the International Blues Challenge June 2009.
Not living in Chicago, I have not had the opportunity to see her perform at Blues Chicago or Buddy Guy's Legends, but a really good guitarist, Tom Holland keeps his Facebook friends informed when and where he is playing with her. Holland, who regularly tours with James Cotton, is guitarist on the entire disc which includes seven studio performances and 5 live performances. Bill Hargrave plays the bass on this while Clarence 'Curfew' Scott is on drums. Bill Syniar plays all the instruments on one track, "Gonna Get 'Cha", while Carlos Showers joins Holland on guitar on the five live tracks that were recorded at Blue Chicago.
The disc opens up with studio tracks including a unusual choice to interpret Staggerlee. Ms. Louise delivers a solid performance based on Lloyd Price’s hit and Holland shines on guitar here taking a nice solo. She observes that she is a Lead Foot Mama, but doesn’t mean to be but just is how she is. She has a strong, but relaxed delivery and once again Holland shows why he is so highly regarded. Her rendition of Denise LaSalle’s Learning How To Cheat On You” is a standout on a lyric using the Someone is Stepping Out/Down Home Blues melody.
Big Dick M’isipi is a number about being out in the country where she knows where to get some of what she wants, with her amusing double entendre of deep rooted southern trees that grow tall and unlike pretty northern trees don’t break easily. This performance is definitely not radio friendly. Bang Bang Ba-Bang Bang Bang Bang has a nice funk groove and a spirited Holland solo as she knows her man may be out with Grana’s best friend, but when he holds her tight and they start making love, the fireworks begin. Bill Syniar’s multi-tracked keys, guitar and drum track works well on the shuffle,Gonna Get ‘Cha.
Her personality is even more evident on the live performances here. Wet Match is a Denise LaSalle styled song directed against men able to deliver the goods when needed and have as much love-making skills as a wet match can light a fire. Queen Bee” from the late Koko Taylor’s repertoire is delivered in a fiery performance as she is looking for her young and able king. Back Door Blues is a lengthy slow blues performance that she warns at the beginning, “We got some folks in here who embarrass easily. You better leave now,” before launching into a traditionally rooted lyric of taking the front door in but taking the back door out. She really tears into the song and its a first rate vocal performance that she really belts out with the guitarists shining here as well. The disc closes with an unusual choice for a cover, Hey Joe, and is an interesting performance.
Grana Louise is a singer that many will take note of from her impressive performances here. She certainly has a powerful voice but she has a delivery and a way of relating to her audience that is evident listening to this.
My review copy was sent by Delmark records.