|Montgomery News “The Ticket”
Deb Callahan brings ‘Grace & Grit’ to Chaplin’s
December 17, 2008
Thomas D. McGlinchey
You can ask Deb Callahan of the Deb Callahan Band many questions, but just don’t ask her to pick you up at 3 a.m. because the answer’s no. If you call Callahan now, her machine says, “Hi, this is Deb, please leave me a message. If you’re looking for a taxi, you’ve got the wrong number.” The blues singer’s strange outgoing message on her mobile phone is understandable, though, considering the fact that she receives dozens of calls from folks asking her to pick them up during all hours of the day and night. The constant requests for a lift inspired the song “No Taxi Driver” on her latest album, “Grace and Grit,” which hit the shelves and online music stores in September.
“Grace and Grit,” Callahan’s third album, is a must-buy; it’s upbeat, cheeky, heavy and honest, all at once. Only in the realm of blues can a down-in-the-dumps composition of chords be meshed with humorous lyrics, and work.Callahan’s brilliant, straight-to-the-gut voice and witty lyrics shine through on the 15-song blues-based CD that encompasses elements of gospel, soul, rock and rock. In the world of instant and disposable singles, “Grace and Grit” is a breath of fresh air because there was an actual concept behind the album. “The ‘Grit’ is about several things,” wrote Callahan in an e-mail. “Living in an urban setting, having to be tough and dig in, to keep pushing forward to reach goals even though it’s very tough (I relate to this a lot as a musician), having perseverance… The ‘Grace’ is about just relaxing into things, accepting things and situations that are hard or can’t be changed, keeping your center, staying true to your soul, noticing the beauty and having humility and striving for wisdom in the process.” It’s not by accident that Callahan has been compared to legendary singers like Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin; it’s not an exaggeration either. What sets the Mt. Airy resident’s third project apart from her highly praised debut CD “If the Blue Had Wings” and sophomore effort “The Blue Pearl”? It’s live. “I was really wanting to move in the direction of capturing as much of the live sound as I could without performing on a stage in front of an audience so we could do retakes and that kind of stuff,” said Callahan whose road-tested band performs about 130 shows a year.
In the song “Food on the Table,” Callahan sings about the struggles of single mothers. As a part-time social worker in Philadelphia, she’s seen firsthand the everyday challenges that single moms go through.”I was really thinking about single mothers that I’ve known, either personally or professionally,” said Callahan. “Sometimes how hard it is and what they’ll do and what they think they have to do given the economy and lack of health insurance and support. I also think it’s a song about a lot of my friends who aren’t single parents, who are fathers and mothers who can relate to that too. Just the idea of having to put food on the table.”One of the lines is basically about a person in the song getting a job that makes minimum wage, but since minimum can’t really support a family, she goes to the strip club so she can really make some pay. I think that’s a very realistic kind of thing I see all the time.”
“The Obstacle of Love” is one of Callahan’s more playful songs. In this piece, she creatively sings about the challenges of being in a relationship with someone when they’re a complete opposite. Callahan also covers Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I Love Him So” and sings a capella snippets from songs of three of her favorite female artists: Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin. “Grace and Grit” has been played on blues radio stations nationwide and in Europe and Canada and the Deb Callahan Band has shared the stage with big names like Buddy Guy and Billy Preston. The Deb Callahan Band is currently on tour and will be playing at Chaplin’s: The Music CafÃ©’s Holidays Blues Bash with Blue Bidness on Dec. 20. Callahan and band mates Allen James, guitar, Gary Lee, bass, and Tom Walling, drums, will also be performing on 88.5 WXPN’s World Cafe Live on March 25.
Deb Callahan Band
Saturday, Dec. 20, 8 p.m.