Based in Houston, the Keeshea Pratt Band was the winner of the Blues Foundation's 2018 International Blues Challenge. In addition to the ear-grabbing vocals of Ms. Pratt, a Mississippi native, this band consists of Music Director, Bassist and Vocals, Shawn Allen; Brian Sowell (Lead Guitar & Vocals); Dan Carpenter (Saxophone); Misaki Nishidate (Trumpet); James Williams III (Trumpet); and Nick Fishman (Drums), while Kid Andersen, Bob Welsh and Little Terry Rogers are among those present.
Pratt really is a terrific singer with a big voice but also her phrasing and her sense of dynamics sets her apart from many singers today. "Make It Good" opens this marvelous album and the horns help lend her pleading vocal a classic soul vibe, "Have a Good Time Y'al" is a joyous reworking of "Let the Good Times Roll," followed by Shawn Allen's "I'm in the Mood," where she is in the mood to sing the blues as she works so hard during the day and now it is the time to play. The music here employs the arrangement B.B. King employed for "The Thrill Is Gone." Again she sings sensationally with the band providing first-rate support and there is a nice guitar solo.
"Its Too Late" is a terrific slow blues again with the horns adding brassy punctuation before her emphatic singing about wanting a real man but getting herself a boy. There is a nice understated piano solo on this. After the New Orleans second line groove of "Shake Off These Blues," with some shattering trumpet, as well as some hot sax and piano solos, there is a rollicking shuffle "Home To Mississippi," with acoustic slide guitar and down home harmonica as Pratt sings about going to the place she first calls home and where folks sing the blues from the king of the blues to the king of rock and roll.
"Monkey See, Monkey Do" is a superb slow blues with the horns adding emphasis and she tells her lover, every time you go creeping, Keeshea goes sees a friend and while her lover hangs with Jane she is with Tarzan. She delivers another powerful vocal on this strong original song with guitarist Sowell adding his instrumental voice along with the horns. The title track opens with electric slide and then the horns before she sings the lyric about believing in one's dreams and if one is going to believe in anything, believe in oneself. It is simply a commanding performance on a recording full of them.
Other songs include a soulfully sung blues ballad, "Can't Stop Now," before another superb slow blues "So Bad Blues," that was recorded live, concludes this outstanding debut recording. Keeshea Pratt is a superb singer, with an excellent band, and they have produced an exceptional recording that is as good as any recent contemporary blues recording this writer has recently heard.
I received a review copy from a publicist. This review has appeared in the July-August 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379). Here is the Keeshea Pratt Band at the International Blues Challenge.
I have been letting this blog slide for a bit, but pleased to return to activity with a review of a CD that really impressed me as you will have read.