January 1, 2009

Blues Matters


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Blues Matters, Great BritianJan/Feb 2009

Review of Grace & Grit

Written by: Gareth Hayes

Only two albums in a decade of high activity on the mid-atlantic live scene may not be a good return but this album comes in at an hour and, with some fifteen tracks, giving us a great chance to witness the powerhouse that is Deb Callahan. In your face blues with sideshows of gospel and soul, tracks like ‘How Many Times’ and ‘Obstacle to Love’ show off her attitude and range. Think Etta James. Think Bonnie Raitt. Most of the songs are penned by Callahan, or co-written with guitarist Allen James or producer Chris Arms. It’s tight throughout and engages like a live album. Standout track, right in the middle, and right in the middle of the eyes, is ‘Guilty’, one of those eight minute ‘rather-go-blind’ anthems that you immediately want to play again once it’s over. To compensate for the draining and scorching, she slots in three tracks that come in at less than a minute. Each a nod to, as she puts in her sleevenotes “Nina, Ray, Aretha, Joni,” which is fair enough but really just an opportunity for us to draw breath. She goes funky and funny on ‘No Taxi Driver’ without losing pace and pulse before slowing it right down for what she does best, a soaring blues-gospel hope-filled anthem, ‘Big wide space’. A terrific album, where the title itself is the best description of the content.