April 1, 2006

Blues Revue Magazine


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Blues Revue Magazine – Salem, West Virginia

April/May 2006

The Blue Pearl – CD Review  

Firmly in the tough-but-tender- voiced category currently dominated by Susan Tedeschi, Philadelphia’s Deb Callahan applies her pipes to another diverse offering.  On her sophomore release, the singer serves up 12 impressive originals and a scorching cover of the Butterfield’s blues band’s “Lovin Cup” that nearly bests even Butterfield’s version.  Working within a diverse set of genres that includes funk, rock, r & B, gospel and blues, Callahan shifts mood but maintains a tough intensity.  She even goes acoustic on the Delta style “Credit Card Blues”, putting a contemporary lyrical spin in the country blues idiom.

Ballads outweigh rockers here, and they show how powerful Callahan’s voice can be as she slow-burns through “Benny’s song”, “Demons” and “We Can get along”.  Starting with an album of original material where the song-writing is already above the ordinary, Callahan further elevates the songs through effortless control and dynamics.  She simmers, even speaks, when she needs to, saving the fire for the correct moment.

The subtle call and response of “Leave the Blues Behind” emphasizes the religious underpinnings that made 60’s soul so memorable, while “Bull in a China Shop” brings to mind Bonnie Bramletts’s gutsy pipes.  Listeners whose record collections and memories goe back to the mid-70’s will recognize debts to Maggie Bell, Genya Raven, Lydia Pense, Tracy Nelson and to a lesser extent, Janis Joplin.  These women all had the potential to belt out every song but they all understood the importance of control and mood, tempering any impulse to oversing.

Based on her two albums, Callahan has what it take to join these icons.  She needs only to expand her touring and distribution to broaden her reach – Hal Horowitz