In David Whiteis’s liner notes to The Real Deal, the new Delmark CD by Sharon Lewis & Texas Fire, there is a perplexing comment about her being annoyed with ‘blues purists.’ I suspect so-called ‘blues purists’ are those most likely to enamored by the powerful performances she performs on this release. She was inspired by seeing Pat Scott and her strong, take no-nonsense approach. Already influenced by the church and Motown and R&B, Scott’s modern soul-blues led her to develop her style and repertoire.
On this, she is supported by a band that includes Roosevelt Purifoy on keyboards; Bruce James on guitar, Melvin Smith on bass and Tony Dale on drums with Billy Branch adding harmonica and Dave Specter guitar on several selections and two tracks have a horn section. She brings originals that strike the listener with the same assertiveness as her vocals opening with the topical What’s Really Going On? and then followed by the title track when she tells like it is that we don’t know what is in her mind so how can anyone say her blues ain’t the real deal. Bruce James takes the nice solo on this as elsewhere, such as on her closing Angel on which Purifoy takes a short solo break as well. On Do Something For Me, Dave Spector takes the guitar solo on a number whose melody will evoke B.B. King’s rendition of The Thrill Is Gone, while her vocal displays her use of dynamics. The late Sam Taylor’s Mother Blues is a “lump-de-lump” styled blues, as fervently delivers Taylor’s lyrics of only the blues can talk to me and tell me how I feel with Purifoy and James outstanding in the backing they provide. I do not mean to slight Smith and Dale who are rock solid throughout this session.
Billy Branch adds his imaginative harmonica to Lewis’ original Blues Train where she invites us to party with her at the party that won’t stop with a melodic and lyrical strain that conjures up “Dancing in the Streets,” as she takes us to Rosa’s and other blues venues, while on Mojo Kings, she has her working in her celebration of her band and how they have that magic king. It is nice to hear new lyrics to Got My Mojo Workin’, a song that has been perhaps covered too bit much, so she makes it sound fresh. Purifoy and James provide a jazzy sophistication behind a low-key vocal on Silver Fox. Indeed, Sharon Lewis may be old school but her love is all we need and she will make it all right. Covers on “The Real Deal” include a soulful rendition of Van Morrison’s Crazy Love, and Wyonna Carr’s fine blues Please Mr. Jailer. Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine benefits from a reggae rhythmic accent while she ably does Don’t Play That Song, but is overshadowed by Aretha’s recording.
Sharon Lewis has been performing world wide and recording over the past two decades including a 2004 album for Sleepy Dog Records and appeared on Dave Spector’s Delmark album Live in Chicago. The Real Deal is a recording that hopefully will lead to her receiving the recognition that her talents merit. This is an impressive talent and recording.
I received my review copy from Delmark Records. Here is a you tube clip of Sharon Lewis performing with organist Jan Korinek and Groove that should give you an idea of how good a singer she is.