October 1, 2004

Blues Revue Magazine


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Blues Revue Magazine, Salem, WV Oct/Nov 2004Hot Debut – Is this Philadelphia Singer the Next Bonnie Raitt?  Maybe if she can find a record deal –   Review of “If the Blues Had Wings”

Since major labels have practically abandoned blues as a viable commercial venture, it’s up to the artists, especially new acts to record, release and promote themselves.  Many deserving performers never advance past regional popularity, but occasionally an artist jumps out of the pack with outstanding talent lurking beneath the surface.  Philly’s Deb Callahan has the pipes, the songs and the raw talent to graduate to the next level.

From the eerie acoustic soul/Delta swamp of “Mama’s Curse, Mama’s Blessing” to the Little Feat Funk of “Can’t watch you bleed (written by keyboardist Walter Runge, who also co-penned eight other tracks), Callahan proves a gutsy, powerful vocalist.  She’s as comfortable with gospel-style ballads (“More Love” and “Broken Down Man” as with angry, blues rocking burners (“Just another victim”).  With absolute control over her voice, she exudes casual authority on even the subtlest material.  But she really projects on the Sexy New Orleans funk of “Coffee Grind”, the sizzling 60’s soul of “Something Bad” and especially the sexually provocative and genuinely funny “If your Man Messes up”, a fiesty duet with Georgie Bonds.  Bond goes to toe with Callahan, playing the hopeful job applicant to her demanding boss.

Snippets of classic tunes from Victoria Spivey, Memphis Minnie and Edith Johnson show that Callahan knows her roots even if her voice is more informed by the contemporary approaches of Bonnie Raitt, Etta James and Aretha Franklin.  That’s fine company to keep and Callahan is very nearly in their league.  She’s a commanding presence – brassy but fragile when hurt, resilient when her man ignores her.  This near-flawless debut signals to the rest of the world what those in her home area know well: Deb Callahan is a major talent.  Hal Horowitz