January 1, 2009

Kentuckiana Blues Society


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Kentuckiana Blues Society

Louisville, Kentucky

Jan 2009

Review of Grace & Grit

Written by Les Reynolds

Inspired and inspiring, anchored by the grace of hope, a beautiful smoky, sometimes breathy voice, excellent musicianship and far better songwriting than in most blues-centered recordings, Deb Callahan’s latest release of mostly originals also provides enough grit to give it plenty of guts–and life. Production skills by Chris Arms keep Callahan’s voice out front where it belongs and make this CD also more melodic than traditional blues fare. The 15-song list begins on an urgent note with “Food on the Table,” written from Callahan’s social-work day-job perspective. Just a short time later, Callahan’s sandpaper & silk voice does a tremendous job paying homage to one of her favorite musical influences with an a cappella excerpt from Nina Simone’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free.” And this is not to imply she does all this totally by herself. Longtime band mates Garry Lee (bass) and lead guitarist Allen James provide superbly crisp and skilled instrumentation for their leader. Some other tunes which showcase these folks, and which bear mentioning anyway, are: the incredibly slow-moving, growly, somber, dirge-like, this-is-real-blues “Guilty”; the sweeping rootsy electric “Carry Me” (with Arms on slide guitar); and the bittersweet jazzy strut of “Happy Hour Girl.” There’s not any glaring weakness on this CD–Callahan’s third– which was released in September 2008 and which debuted in November at the number 16 spot on the Living Blues Radio charts. Look for more national exposure, positive press and even more great songs from Callahan in the future.