October 15, 2004

The Asbury Park Press: Jersey Alive!


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The Asbury Park Press: Jersey Alive! Asbury Park, NJ

October 15, 2004

Feeling the Intensity, Deb Callahan taps into the Power of the Blues

Philadelphia based roots-rock and blues chanteuse Deb Callahan, who describes herself as a bit of an intellectualized person,” says she likes the raw, emotional intensity of the blues and the way it frees her mind.

“I could have ended up a sensitive Joni Mitchell type singer-songwriter but what appealed to me about the blues was that I wanted to get away from my head and get to my emotional side, as opposed to my rational and intellectual side”, said Callahan   who also admires the work of John Prine.

Callahan, 37 says she was raised in Beverly, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb.   As a child, she loved singing and took piano lessons but gave it up after a few months.

Growing up, she explored various genres of music, but it wasn’t until she attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine that she really came to appreciate the blues.   It was while majoring in political science and art at Bowdoin that she began singing in various blues bands as well as seeing the music performed live in nearby Portland.

I like the rawness and the intensity and power of the blues’, she says and I think it’s a very sexual music and you can express a lot of emotions.   “It’s a very present medium.   And sometimes lyrically I think of something that a brassy blues guy might say, like Muddy Waters”

Like many songwriters, Callahan, who works part time at a women’s crisis center in Philadelphia, often draws from personal experience when composing tunes.

“Given my background as a social worker, I’m interested in people and what makes them do what they do, so I tend to write songs about what I see”, she says.

On the album “If The Blues Had Wings” Callahan’s creativity and fresh approach as a songwriter comes through on songs like the double entendre of “The Coffee Grind” as well as “Broken Down Man”.   The latter is her own version of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery”, a song she’s often requested to sing at club performances.

Not surprisingly, she has several dozen unrecorded songs and plenty of new material for a new album, and while a small label in Boston is interested in releasing her band’s second CD, that may or may not come to fruition, she said.   In the meantime, she continues working at the women’s crisis center and performing with longtime band members Allen James on guitar, Robberrtto Rickards on bass and Doug Masters on drums.

I love the feeling of singing with and playing with a band said Callahan.   “I take in people’s emotions at my job and probably channel some of them out at my shows.”