Let's Just Be Real
811 Gold Records
Texas born vocalist Laura Tate has a resume that goes way beyond the blues and soul rooted music on this recording. She is an actress who performed in musicals and other theatrical productions, as well as television shows like "Dallas: and HBO's "First and Ten," as well as engaging in film production and directing music videos, commercials and documentaries. As far as her vocal influences, she states "I grew up listening to everything from rock and roll and Motown to show tunes, and soulful ballads. I loved Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and other greats from the past along with the Beatles, James Brown, Bonnie Raitt, Carole King, and Linda Ronstadt. I have been singing their songs ever since." Her vocals on this is supported by a terrific studio band including the producer, arranger and engineer, Terry Wilson on bass guitar; Billy Watts on guitars; Jeff Paris on keyboards and mandolin; Tony Braunagel on drums; Lee Thornberg on brass; and Paulie Cerra on saxophones. Leslie Smith adds percussion and Teresa James on backing vocals.
This is a wonderfully recorded album full of fresh songs, most in a classic rhythm & blues vein and even the covers are not your typical standards including a wonderful reworking of a Thin Lizzy favorite, "Boys Are Back In Town." Tate is a soulful singer with a relaxed, unforced delivery that gets one's attention with the opening "Nobody Gets Hurt," that has hints of classic Hi Records as well as the easy rocking groove of "If That Ain't Love." She is quite good, if not quite on the level of Irma Thomas, whose Allen Toussaint penned "Hitting on Nothing" she does a nice cover of. The studio band captures the feel of the 1963 original and includes a nice tenor sax solo.
After a jazz-tinged late night blue ballad "Can't Say No," Tate reworks "Boys Are Back In Town," into a reflective lament for an outstanding performance, "Still Got the Blues" is a superb urban blues with a relaxed vocal and Watts playing strongly on guitar. "I Need a Man" is another solid blues performance with a vocal that might be described as Peggy Lee crossed with Etta Jones. It has a fine piano solo from Paris. The title track is another lovely ballad marvelously played and followed by the swampy, southern-rock blues, "I Know You Live." Watts contributes both slide guitar backing and a tremolo laced background riff while Paris takes a brief solo on the his. The Stephen Bruton penned "Big Top Hat," evokes Louis Jordan while Tate sings the lyrics with plenty of sass.
"Wildest Dreams," is a solid country-rock performance in the vein of seventies Linda Ronstadt that is the final track on a first-rate recording by a fine singer that is wonderfully backed throughout.
I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is a video of her performing.