Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Sharon Lewis & Texas Fire - Grown Ass Woman

Sharon Lewis & Texas Fire
Grown Ass Woman
Delmark Records

When some artists seem to be releasing new recordings at least annually, it has been 5 years since Sharon Lewis last recorded her impressive "The Real Deal." She returns here with her band Texas Fire for her latest release "Grown Ass Woman," with her fine band of guitarist Stephen Bramer, keyboardist Roosevelt Purifoy, bassist Andre Howard and drummer Tony Dale. Guests on various tracks include guitarist Joanna Connor, harmonica wizards Sugar Blue and Steve Bell, and the horns of Kenny Anderson, Hank Ford and Jerry DiMuzio. Both Lewis and Bramer each contribute 6 originals and there are two covers on the performances here.

The late Washington, D.C. street singer Flora Molton referred to her gospel-rooted music as "Truth Music." Similarly, Sharon Lewis is quoted in David Whiteis' liner notes, "The blues tells stories about life. This was part of our oral history. The blues is about struggle - about surviving and overcoming." It is also celebrating good times as well as well. In any case, Lewis' powerful, nuanced vocals, the strong backing and excellent material make for  solid listening starting with the opening "Can't Do It Like We Do," a celebration of blues as Black expression where she notes of the imitators she sees touring the world "can't shuffle like Billy Branch, slow blues like Magic Sam," and if you think she's being a snob well she proudly says she is and notes you can't fully learn it because it is more than learning books. Sugar Blue adds magic with his backing and soaring harmonica solo. It is notable that one of the covers here is a fervent rendition of the B.B. King- Dave Clark classic "Why I Sing The Blues."

Lewis certainly knows how to party with the blues ("we ain't gonna play no rock and roll") on the horn driven "Hell Yeah," while she then tells a story about a woman born and raised on mean streets and a big city girl, "Chicago Woman" who won't be denied as she is an independent bitch. This is set against a somewhat heavy backing with blues-rock flavored slide. While this listener was not enamored with the backing here, Lewis still sings powerfully. "They're Lying" is a marvelous original with a southern soul styled vocal. Bramer's "Don't Try To Judge Me" is melodically reminiscent of Johnny Winter's "Don't Take Advantage of Me," as Lewis sings that she don't intend to play the game of those who want to judge her. There is a terrific organ solo from Purifoy here.

Steve Bell's harmonica enlivens the Earl Hooker styled 'galloping horses" groove on a marvelous take on a vintage blues theme "Old Man's Baby." She rather be wined and dined than be a young man's fool. The title track is a celebration of Black Women, delivered with plenty of sass as well as panache. "Walk With Me" (if you're going my way) again shows her soulful manner and followed by Bramer's topical number "Freedom" with its references to violence directed against Blacks with a refrain freedom can't be freedom unless its freedom for everyone" Joanna Connor's slide guitar adds to the atmosphere here.

The album closes with a moving interpretation of Warren Hayne's modern classic number, "Soul Shine" which she opens saying she wants to reach out and touch the listener's hearts. That she does here and throughout. Lewis is a powerful, expressive singer, and her vocals are full of conviction, warmth and humor. She certainly is a "Grown Ass Woman," and with the mostly excellent backing has produced another fabulous recording.

I received my review copy from Delmark Records. Here is Sharon Lewis performing.


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