march 2012
beyond the blue

dragonflyCHRISTINE SANTELLI, Dragonfly--Bleak and austere in the manner of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska; flush with the burnished, poignant, bittersweet persistence of memory fueling Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse; and asserting self-reliance in the Marlene Dietrich style (“good for nothing/men are good for nothing”) even as the last vestiges of dependency linger (think Carmen McRae’s “How Did He Look”), Christine Santelli’s solo acoustic stunner Dragonfly is a complex, coming of age work.

arnoldMAC ARNOLD, Live At The Grey Eagle --Tight and merciless at 10 songs clocking in about six minutes short of an hour, Live at the Grey Eagle is a vivid taste of what it’s like to witness Mac Arnold’s Blues Revival in full-tilt form kicking off the fourth annual Collard Greens and Cornbread Blues Festival. The album has such energy you wish it would just keep on going. So play it again. And again.

chambersSEAN CHAMBERS, Live From the Long Island Blues Warehouse-- Live albums can be hit or miss affairs and are rarely as satisfying as a well thought out studio effort, but in Live From the Long Island Blues Warehouse, the Sean Chambers Band has done a laudable job of survey its past, present and future in a tasty 10-song set that is an emphatic display of Chambers’s stellar blues-rock guitar work and muscular singing, while at the same time showing off his accompanying trio as a tight, aggressive unit (featuring the potent blues harp work of Gary Keith, one of the best out there) perfectly attuned to their leader’s energy.

dixieKENTUCKY HEADHUNTERS, Dixie Lullabies--Right now you’re wondering why no one ever sings anymore about the fiscally responsible, gustatory delights of Boone’s Farm wine. Especially the strawberry flavored kind. Your prayers have been answered: the Kentucky Headhunters have never forgotten the small pleasures and cheap thrills that make life worth living, and so a mere one song into their terrific new album they deliver a deeply informed “Boone’s Farm Boogie,” all churning guitars and croaking, hungover vocals. Forty years into their career, these true sons of the south remain true to themselves and to their distinctive brand of southern rock, presented here at its apex.

millsLISA MILLS, Tempered in Fire--Lisa Mills is her own woman, steeped in the blues, as you might expect of a Mississippi native, and singing with gritty, searing authority--and with nuance, too: she can stomp and swagger with brio through her own funky soul strut “Why Do I Still Love You?” while unabashedly battling her conflicted feelings towards a guy she knows she can’t count on, in a heated, multi-textured reading worthy of Mavis Staples. Amidst all its memorable music, the complexities Mills reveals in her readings on Tempered In Fire speak not only to the quality of the writing but to the depth of her artistry in making the most of the possibilities the songs offer her.

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