Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sunny Crownover Is Right Here Right Now

Boston based vocalist Sunny Crownover has come to attention of music listeners through several swing-oriented albums produced by Duke Robillard. Now Duke has recorded her first contemporary blues album, Right Here Right Now (Shining Stone Records). In one sense it should not be surprising that they have put together a straight blues recording as Duke first saw her performing with 2120 South Avenue, a Boston based blues band led by Harvard University professor Charles Sawyer. 

Duke on guitar anchors the backing band that includes the keyboards of Bruce Bears, Brad Hallen’s bass and Mark Teixera on drums and percussion. There is a horn section including Doug James present on several songs, while Sugar Ray Norcia’s harmonica enhances several tracks. Songwriter Gary Nicholson collaborated with Duke on a number of songs. There is a strong consistency to the performances throughout.

Having heard Sunny Crownowner more restrained approach from an earlier recording that featured her, I was struck from her opening vocal on the Memphis soul-based Oh Yes I Will! how much more of a presence she displayed singing on this. The material is quite varied and includes some Chicago-style blues with Norcia on harp and one more traditional jazz-blue with the clarinet of Billy Novick. Robillard’s jazzy guitar fills and solo with restrained backing frame her singing on Brenda Burns’ One Woman Man, as she sings “no more love for free, you gotta do some work before you get it from me.” In addition to her soulful vocal on Love Me Right, there is rollicking piano from Bears and strong harmonica from Norcia. Robillard’s trebly guitar, Norcia’s harp and the lazy groove lend a swampy feel to Robillard’s Roll Me Baby. 

Cook In Your Kitchen gets the groove rocking and rolling with Bears outstanding as he channels Johnny Johnson. The strutting horns on Warned take the blues uptown, whereas on Al Basile’s,I Might Just Change My Mind, the horns and buoyant rhythm section sound more in a jump blues vein. Billy Novick’s clarinet on Hi-Heels and Home Cookin’, lends a old-school jazz flavor behind her delightful vocal as she sings about about all that a lady needs to do to keep her man satisfied. Duke’s slide guitar channels Elmore James on Trust Your Lover while Norcia adds his fat tone harp playing while Sunny sings about having to let go of one’s suspicions and trust one’s lover so one doesn’t worry one’s mind. 

A swampy and soulful rendition of Joe Tiven’s Can’t Let Go, is the final selection on this excellent album. Sunny Crownover’s earlier recordings displayed talent and promise. On Right Here, Right Now, she has certainly arrived.

I received my review copy from a publicist.

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