July 1, 2006

Real Blues Magazine


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Real Blues Magazine, Victoria BC, Canada

July 2006


This is an Independent release coming from Pennsylvania’s Deb Callahan and it’s very much a throwback (in a very positive sense) offering-up a tasty recipe that Connoisseurs of Real Music will relish. Callahan has a strong voice and it’s more than bearable – it’s actually enjoyable, which separates her from 90% of the screaming/shrieking hordes of female vocalists. She also has song writing skills that are first-rate. Add to that a tight, tough little band and her ‘Ace’ of a producer Chris Arms , a multidimensional and talented creative mind who certainly knows arrangements that work. Having a Producer who obviously respects, enjoys and knows the Artist (Callahan) they’re working with ensured these recordings would be polished and as ‘urgent’ as they could be. Categorizing this disc is both hard and easy; Genre-wise, it’s a seamless fusion of great Rock, hard Blues, and a bit of Gospel (akin to Etta James’ 1970s albums). Callahan handles lead vocals throughout and acoustic guitar on “Benny’s Song”, Allen James plays lead/rhythm guitar throughout, Chris Arms contributes banjo, slide, wah-wah and acoustic guitar, Gary Lee plays bass (except on 2 tunes where Dave Arms plays), Doug Masters is on drums/percussion). Steve Achenbach delivers keyboards along with Reggie Johnson while Mikey Jr. gives us really fine countrified harmonica on several tracks. “Blue Pearl Moon” opens up the disc and it’s got a Cubano-New Orleans groove to it evoking a Hot Summer Night. Nice guitar work. “Land of Promise” is a broken dreams lament from the streets, while “Livin’ Loud” is Southern-styled rockin’ Blues with plenty of Soulful delivery from Deb. “Fat Cat” is my favorite as it’s obviously about one of the thousands of Ugly Americans in suits/sunglasses who treat this World with contempt making rules that suit their selfish ends: “He’s got all those toys and gadgets, got the latest technology, thinks he’s in control of everything he sees…” Yes, they are certainly control freaks. “Never Fly” is a sad Love Song, a lament and a Goodbye. Callahan can sing and she can put feelings into songs with the best of them. “Bull In A China Shop” is a nice guitar-driven ditty, while “Ray Ray” is pure Rural South Voodoo Blues. Great atmosphere. “Credit Card Blues” deserves to be a standard/Hit as it scores Big in the Truth Blues dept. with cynical humour dripping from it (“Why save for tomorrow when you can charge it up today.”) “Leave The Blues Behind” is a funky number that has a Love message. Excellent playing by all. Two beautifully crafted numbers; “Demons” and “Benny’s Song” close up the originals and then we’re into fine, funkified and modernized “Lovin’ Cup”, a pseudo-classic from Paul Butterfield . Excellent guitar work from Allen James and Arms (?) and fine rhumba-rhythm drumming from Masters. Easily the best reworking I’ve ever heard of this classic ditty. Again Callahan shows unusual taste, restraint and heaps of nuances. Far too often, White vocalists are lacking in dimensions and restraint, but Callahan is in that small, exclusive group of vocalists who have both an understanding and Soulful foundation. She uses her voice the way a great guitarist ( Steve Cropper, Hubert Sumlin ) adds color, fire and identity to a recording; she doesn’t try to overpower or ‘hotdog’, preferring instead to say “My voice is part of the picture we paint”. Still, it’s a voice that’s memorable and REAL. 5 bottles of vintage wine for one of the better independent releases of the last year. Deb Callahan deserves to be much better known and this is a disc that has big ‘crossover’ power. A Griggs