London, Great Britian | March 2009
Reviewed by Kit Packham
Opening with an attention-grabbing funky declamation of the struggles of a single mother to care for her family (“Food On The Table”) Ms Callahan brings passion to songs about determination to succeed, wrong numbers, insomnia, alcoholism, and numerous aspects of love. She has written 11 of the 12 full tracks here, in partnership with several different co-writers but mainly Allen James who also plays guitars throughout the album. There are also 3 “excerpt” tracks – unaccompanied short vocal passages of songs associated with Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin, all of whom Callahan cites as influences. Ray Charles also gets paid tribute with a cover of “Hallelujah, I Love Her So”.
After several plays, I realised that Charles’ vocal style is the principal model for Callahan’s own. Imagine Brother Ray singing any of these songs and the phrasing could be almost identical. Drop the pitch a fifth or so and even the tone would be close to his. The guitar takes most of the solo action but all the supporting musicians play well and blend together nicely. “Happy Hour Girl” was my favourite track with its evocation of a bar with the juke box playing “Ella and Louis duetting with such taste and glamour // as the stars, they fell on Alabama”. This magazine told me Deb Callahan was a name to watch a couple of years ago. I can only agree!
Rating: 8 – Kit Packham