Saturday, May 03, 2014

Cathy Lemons Black Crow

Bay area singer Cathy Lemons brings a rich plate of musical gems including blues and blues-infused rock in a fashion that might suggest Bonnie Raitt. She perhaps a bit more grit in her vocal textures than Raitt, but communicates with perhaps a bit more understated approach and than Raitt. Her no album Black Crow (VizzTone) is a wonderful recording comprised mostly of her thoughtful originals ranging from rocking shuffles Texas Shuffle, strutting funk of I’m a Good Woman to soulful country-laced laments as on Kiernan Kane’s Ain’t Gonna Do It.

Her vocals strike the listener with their natural, relaxed and soulful quality. She is backed by a fine band with co-producer Steve Gurr on guitar, Paul Olguin on bass, D’Mar or Robbie Bean on drums, and Kevin Zufti on keyboards on three tracks. Doug James adds sax on three selections, Volker Strifler plays guitar on two, while Kid Andersen, another co-producer (who also recorded mixed and mastered this), adds organ to one selection and sound effects to another.

The title track is a country-rock number with a evocative lyric and her moving, smokey vocal supported by understated atmospheric backing as she weaves a lyric if a maimed black crow with her relationship to her man with the lament, “You’re my maimed black crow; All I ever wanted was your wings around me; I swear we both got to burn; But I’ll take you with me.” The laid back feel of this performance is followed by the Hip Check Man with  nifty guitar and harmonica from Gurr on a rocker with a driving groove and an understated, almost spoken, vocal. You’re in My Town, a slow blues, has echoes of Boz Scaggs in Gurr's guitar and the backing, as Lemons warns her man to take that woman from out of his eyes, or it will be the last thing he ever does. A gem is her cover of Earl King’s It All Went Down the Drain with the restraint of her vocal and Volker Strifler’s guitar adding to the atmosphere. There is a pleasant cover of James Brown’s The Big Payback with James  on baritone sax followed by another slow blues lament I’m Gonna Try.

Strifler adds a bit muscle to his guitar backing on the rocking Texas Shuffle as Lemons sings about give her an old time Texas Shuffle as she tries to get out of town. The album closes with The Devil Has Blue Eyes, with Gurr’s acoustic guitar and harmonica, is her reworking of Skip James’ Devil Got My Woman. It is a lament about how the devil took her man away, “Heart has no say; The heart has no say; This devil has taken my love away,” It has an austere and haunting quality and completes what is a memorable and recommended recording.

I received my review copy from VizzTone. Here Cathy performs Black Crow.

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