Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nora Jean Is Going Back to Mississippi

The following review originally appeared in the October 2004 DC Blues Calendar as well as the November-December 2004 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 271). I have made a few stylistic changes since the original review. I likely received a review copy from Severn Records and it is available. She has a new recording Good Blues from 2011 which I have not heard but will have to check out. Nora Jean is now Nora Jean Wallace and her website is website is

I recently reviewed a cd from Nora Jean Bruso, a Chicago based blues singer, who really impressed many at this year’s Pocono Blues Festival. That cd was comprised of interpretations of some well known and lesser known blues. Severn has just issued a new album by her, Going Back to Mississippi (Severn Records), which is comprised solely of originals, so she is presenting her own “musical vision of the blues, rather than interpreting the vision of others.” 
Nora Jean Bruso at 2004 Pocono Blues Festival
Photo © Ron Weinstock

She has a strong backing band that include Carl Weathersby or Dave Spector on lead guitar, Rob Waters on keyboards, Ron Graham on saxophone, Harlan Terson on bass and Marty Binder on drums. Bruso’s powerful vocals will suggest Koko Taylor to many (Koko is her idol). She does have a similar background, as she, like Taylor, moved to Chicago after having deep southern roots (Bruso grew up in Mississippi).  Her roots are lyrically expressed in the title track, a shuffle where she talks about going back because that’s where her baby is as well as Miss Mae’s Juke Joint, that celebrates the juke her grandmother operated. 

She gets down in the alley on a superb slow blues, All My Life, with some nice sax in the accompaniment, while sings in a more relaxed manner on Broken Heart, with its caribbean-flavored groove. She takes us to New Orleans on the rhumba, I’ve Got Two Men, (one of whom has to go) with a nice solo break from Dave Spector. Don’t You Remember is a slow blues that evokes Someone Loan Me a Dime, with Bruso telling her baby how sweet their love used to be and how their relationship changed. Carl Weathersby is particularly impressive here in his instrumental responses to Bruso’s vocal and his solo. 

With this new release she has gone beyond the promise shown on her earlier disc and has shown herself as among those who will carry on and follow Koko Taylor and keep “this great music alive and vital.” 

Here she is singing Going Back to Mississippi

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