Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Kirsten Thien's Blues and Soul Infused Pop

Singer- songwriter Kirsten Thien caught the R&B and blues bug while a student at Georgetown University, and after relocating to New York City, found she preferred the thrill of performing in public and abandoned a potentially lucrative career in banking and investment for a creative one in singing and songwriting. She formed a band and issued an album in 2001, then woodshedding on guitar and songwriting, issued a second recording. Now she has issued a third CD, Delicious (Screen Door Records), which has her backed by producer Erik Boyd on bass with the core being her road band of David Patterson (guitar), Johnny Pisano (bass) and Dylan Wissing (drums). Also present are session cats from her 2006 recording, Steve Holley (drums), Tommy Mandel (keyboard and Hammond organ), Kent Smith (trumpet), Andy Snitzer (saxophone) and Mike Freeman (vibraphone). Spice is added by the addition of Arthur Neilson (guitar), Billy Gibson (harmonica) and Hubert Sumlin (guitar) on some of the 11 selections here, eight or which she wrote or collaborated on.

Listening to this CD, I have mixed reactions. Musically there is plenty to like. There is a good mix of blues and blues-infused material and the band is pretty strong. Arthur Neilson is fine as usual and Sumlin lens his distinctive guitar. However, I am ambivalent about Thien as a singer. Not that there is anything forced about her performances. It is that her vocals sound sort of like how Olivia Newton John might have sounded like as a blues-oriented singer. One example is listening to enunciate that her man’s love is ‘delicious’ on the title track. To these ears it is similar to listening to cajun french sung with a Bronx accident. Even on the attractive opening truck, where Neilson and Sumlin trade riffs, “Love That’s Made to Share,” her phrasing is of a pop-oriented vocalist who also imparts plenty of passion in her singing. 

Nobody's Ever Loved Me Like You Do is a lovely rendered soulful ballad. Please Drive, with a nice stop-time groove, benefits from Sumlin’s distinct, quirky guitar as she affects a sultriness in her raspy, whispering styling here. Taxi Love, penned by Charlie Feldman and Jon Tiven, is a soul-infused number about getting it on in a yellow cab followed by the pop-oriented title track with its lyric about “eve came to adam with an apple and tempted him to take a little bite.” Ain’t That the Truth,” is a very attractive soul ballad and love song, followed the driving rendition of Treat ‘im Like a Man, has a pretty interesting lyric about treating her man with respect and as her best her friend as opposed to controlling his every move.

Ida Cox’s
Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues, is done as a duet with harmonica Billy Gibbons’ harmonica accompaniment in addition to Thien’s vocal and acoustic guitar. There is a folkiness in the performance, but also the vocal might have benefited if Thien kept her vocal delivery relaxed throughout. A fresh arrangement graces her rendition of Willie Dixon’s I Ain’t Superstitious, and Neilson lays down a hot solo, although her vocal doesn’t sound convincing to these ears. Her ballad A Woman Knows, has an appealing country flavor while Get Out The Funk, Get Into the Groove, is a funk, dance number. The CD concludes with radio edited versions of Taxi Love and Treat ‘im Like a Man.

An attractive sounding recording of blues and blues-soul infused songs that has a definite appeal to it if not compelling as viewed as blues.

I received a review copy from a publicist for this release.

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