Louisville, Kentucky | January 2011
The Newsletter of The Kentuckiana Blues Society, Review of “Tell It Like It Is”
Written by: Les Reynolds
Deb Callahan, who fronts the Philly-based namesake band, has always told it like it is. As a part-time counselor
for runaway and troubled teens in Philadelphia, this blues woman knows when to be as tough as nails and when to be tender. And she does both equally well on this 11-song CD produced by Chris Arms. Not only a wonderfully powerful and emotional vocalist, Callahan also wrote all but two of the tunes on this release. The two “covers” are well chosen, although not necessarily true blues. They are “Funkier Than a Mosquita’s Tweeter”, by Aillene Bullock (Tina Turner’s sister) and “Cold Irons Bound” by none other than Bob Dylan. Showing plenty of urban grit along with smooth grace and vocal urgency, Callahan sometimes glides, sometimes growls through these tunes in a way only she can do. Her husky and smoky voiced delivery is perfect for the material at hand. Well, except…Ironically, one of the CD’s best tunes (“Old Ways”) has Callahan’s voice at her lowest possible register for a few seconds here and there; and it doesn’t work very well in those spots. Yet, on that same tune, her growl complements the heavy beat and guitar in a way that’s just right. Between Callahan and Arms, this resourceful duo made the tune a good one. Other tunes worth extra mention are the dark and bluesy “Sun is Rising” (track two) which features the talented longtime bandmate and co-writer Allen James on lead guitar; the retro jazz-blues club sweet sounding “Sweet Words” (track six), the gospel style “I Feel
the Spirit” (seven); the dark and bluesy “In My Bones,” (again featuring James’ guitar, track eight) and “Throwaway Child” (ten) which brings out the social worker. This is an excellent CD, and it solidly belongs in the blues category. And, as a post-script, perhaps Callahan will also tell it like it is as a parent. In an email, she mentioned to the reviewer she’s five months pregnant and will soon take a brief hiatus from her music until spring of 2011. Congrats, Deb.