Its always a pleasure to hear a previously unfamiliar talent and to my delight, I discovered Long Tall Deb with her release Raise Your Hands (VizzTone). A Texas native, but currently based in Ohio, Deb Landolt, is a marvelous singer that can range from a whisper to a scream (to paraphrase an Allen Toussaint song title) and backed by some marvelous musicians including John Popovich on keyboards, Sean Carney and Dave Clo on guitars, Melvin Powe on bass and Jan Roll on drums. To this core band are appearances on various tracks by (amongst others) Damon Fowler, JP Soars, and Jimmy Thackery on guitars, Victor Wainwright and Reese Wynans on organ, Phil Pemberton, Shaun Booker, Big Llou, Nikki Scott, Michelle Swift on vocals and background vocals, and the Roomful of Blues Horns.
This album has its origins in a series of impromptu writing sessions, affectionately referred that began in the fall of 2011. Landolt, John Popovich and bassist Melvin Powe would gather with new song ideas and jam on themes and variations. Often in between his international tour dates, Columbus stalwart Sean Carney joined the fun. These songs would be developed by their collaboration and Nashville producer dave Clo further refined these originals along with two covers, Tom Waits’ New Coat of Paint and Ian Moore’s Muddy Jesus, that comprise Raise Your Hands.
The music here is quite striking. Its wonderfully produced but Deb Landolt is clearly the star who possesses a rich, expressive voice and sings in a natural fashion exhibiting nuance as well as power. The songs are first-rate as well starting with the opening What Would A Good Woman Do, in which Deb sings her complaints about an overbearing husband that wants her to do her bidding and ends in a spirited verbal repartee with Phil Pemberton. A theme of unworthy men also marks Hush Your Mouth, where she basically is telling the fool the best time is when he just shuts up, and Finally Forgot Your Name. These are wonderfully soulful performances but contrast with Let’s Get Lost where she tells her man that they need to get away and just get down to it.
Train To Tucson is a lively celebration of taking the west-bound train to Tucson with some nice slide guitar from Colin John with the band providing a rockabilly feel. The title track is a gospel-tinged song about lifting herself (and listeners) from down times and the efforts of naysayers to cut oneself down. Damon Fowler’s blues-rock guitar and Victor Wainwright’s organ add punch to Ian Moore’s Muddy Jesus which transfers the Christian story from the Middle East to the Rio Grande who gets shot down crossing the river. Colin John’s slide guitar opens To Find His Home with Nikki Scott sharing the lead vocal on a gospel-based plea for tolerance and love of one’s fellow man no matter what their race, nationality or religion (“I see so-called Christian people killing their brothers in your name.”).
This recording closes with Deb, backed just by Popovich’s piano, providing a lovely rendition of Tom Wait’s New Coat of Paint. It is an intimate sounding performance which provides a nice contrast to the varied band performances. Long Tall Deb shows poise and maturity throughout Raise Your Hands. There is plenty of heart and soul exhibited by her and band on this excellent album.