Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Artist: Karen Lovely
Title: Still the Rain
Perhaps it was her showcase in Memphis at the International Blues Competition last January…or maybe it the cool night breeze blowing in the car window that created the proper listening setting…but whatever it was Karen Lovely’s second album, ‘Still the Rain’ totally captured my ear. In a seemingly endless cycle of average blues CDs, Lovely’s new album is the brightest spot on the horizon and a good bet to make many’a Top Blues Album list this year.
Like many recording vocalists Lovely does not necessarily have the “perfect” voice however she is self-aware enough to choose selections that compliment her strengths and she pursues them with vigor. Lovely edges away from the well trodden “shouter” and the overused octave gospel slides: instead she mixes a speaking-singing style that is empowered by strong supporting instrumentation. And credit must be given to a band that underplays so tastefully to use space and serve the song. On the track ‘Other Plans’ Lovely presents the listener with a ‘simmering’ blues replete with a soft, lilting sax line played by Michael Vannice.
The unrushed tempo of the songs, the mile wide textures and intelligent, sensitive lyrics come together to present a near perfect independent blues release that belies the maturity of an artist releasing her second album. ‘Full Time Job’ is a solid blues song with a lush piano arrangement that for whatever reason reminds me of those (priceless) early Charlie Rich Sun Recordings. ‘Glad Your Gone’ opens with a B. B. King-like guitar intro that is at once comfortable yet fresh and new.
Lovely is fortunate to front the ‘Dawwg House Rhythm Section consisting of; Lee Spath, Drums; Richard Cousins, bass; Jim Pugh, Piano & B3 and Alan Mirikitani, guitar. The songs of Producer Dennis Walker and co-writer, co-producer Alan Mirikitani give Lovely the vehicles that separate this album from others.
‘Still the Rain’ is a magnificent album that burns ever so slowly embodying a perfect balance of showcase, songwriting, and professional musicianship. Imagine a subtle Diane Schuur fronting a mid-period Ray Charles in a very intimate, very dark night club setting. Radio programmers will find that the up tempo ‘Cold Man Cold’ is a nice entry to an album.