December 1, 2008

Living Blues Magazine


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Living Blues Magazine

December 2008

Review of Grace & Grit

Ellie Campbell

Anyone who has done social work in Philadelphia should know plenty about the blues; Deb Callahan does and she proves it on her third independent release. Grace & Grit delivers on the promise of its title, combining blues, soul, jazz and rock into a fine background for her strong voice and songwriting skills. Callahan wrote or co-write all of the tracks on the album except for Ray Charles’ Hallelujah I Love Him So and a few short clips.

Her big, sultry voice, reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt, shines on her a capella snippets of the songs of her heroes, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin & Joni Mitchell. Callahan’s band more than matches the excellence of her voice; the core players include Allen James on guitar, Garry Lee on bass and Tom Walling on drums, who are all veterans of the Philadelphia music scene. The record expands on her basic sound to include piano, organ and the occasional horn part. James and Chris Arms co-wrote several tracks with Callahan. Callahan tackles a wide range of topics, including love, heartbreak and insomnia, as well as the plight of a single mother’s American Dream in Food on The Table. Callahan excels on uptempo numbers like Obstacle to Love and Hallelujah I Love Him So, ballads like Carry Me and Big Wide Space and the jazzy Insomniac Blues. The band is tight and rocking, the production flawless, and Callahan’s voice carries the show.