Grit Grease & Tears
Deb Ryder impresses right off the back with "It Ain't Gonna Be Easy," the opening track of her third album, "Grit Grease & Tears." As she shouts on this hot jumping blues, it ain't gonna be easy but its gonna be a helluva lot of fun, and that is what this album is, a helluva lot of fun. Ryder cites Etta James and Koko Taylor, and she has captured not only the powerful approaches they employed, but also their expressive abilities and nuanced aspects of their singing. Add to this her abilities as a songwriter (she contributed all the songs here) and the production of Tony Braunagel, Johnny Schell's engineering, and a fine studio band including her husband Rick on bass, Braunagel on drums, Schell on guitar, Mike Finnigan on keyboards with Kirk Fletcher adding guitar to half the twelve songs, Albert Lee to one and harp added by Pieter Van Der Pluijm or Bob Corritore, and one has some hard hitting blues and rocking R&B.
Deb Ryder has a presence that the musicians enhance throughout the variations in mood and songs. Sugaray Rayford duets with her on a funky blues "Get a Little Steam Up," while the guitars of Schell and Fletcher and Van Der Pluijm's harmonica create a swampy feel for the powerful title track where she prays for a miracle as "you can't try anymore and I can't cry anymore," as she sings about being "a moth to your flame," with the band adding an insistent backing. It is followed by "Sweet Mary Anne," a song recalling the summer of 1968, and sweet Mary Anne who everyone loved but who wanted to leave that town with crisp, punchy horns from Jim Sublett and Darrell Leonard adding to the flavor of this retro-soul rocker, while "Lord Knows I Do," is a terrific slow blues with some scintillating B.B. King styled guitar set against a stop-time accompaniment. The consistency of the performances here is noteworthy including the "River's Forgiveness," with Schell's guitar and Corritore's harp adding to the flavor of this moody performance contrasting with the frenzied boogie of "Prisoner of War," but even at this tempo, Ryder's vocal does not sound hurried or rushed.
The easy rocking shuffle "Right Side of the Grass" closes this recording. Special kudos to Finnigan's keyboards and Braunagel's solid drumming throughout this strong latest striking effort from Deb Ryder, who certainly has more than fulfilled the promise of her excellent earlier recordings.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the November-December 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 369). Here is a promotional video for this recording.