|Times-Union/First Coast Community, Jacksonville, Florida
March 31, 2005
“Deb Callahan, Woman of blues, to play fest”
Singer-songwriter Deb Callahan could be on her way to becoming one of the great women of the blues. The Philadelphia-based artist has attracted attention and regional popularity for her contemporary mix of blues, funk, soul and gospel, including a hot review from “Blues Revue Magazine” for her debut release “If The Blues Had Wings”
Callahan is often compared to greats including Bonnie Raitt, Aretha Franklin and Etta James because her music resonates with passion, longing, sadness and joy. Beaches area residents can make their own comparisons when Callahan performs Sunday at the Springing Teh Blues Festival Stage at The Seawalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach.
“So many people compare me to Bonnie Raitt and that is such a compliment.” Callahan said during a telephone interview from her Philadelphia-area home. “I really respect what she has done. It’s amazing.” Critics respect Callahan for her gutsy, powerful vocals as well as her thoughtful and emotional lyrics. She collaborates on most of her songs and like most other blues artists, her life experiences bring an interesting perspective to her music.
The Boston native grew up in a family environment that cultivated multi-ethnic and multicultural lessons that most people don’t experience. While Callahan was growing up, her parents adopted two African American children and worked hard to expose their children to both black and white cultures. Callahan moved to Philadelphia to complete her education, she earned a master’s degree there in social work. Music remained a hobby – she played in her first band at age 19. She also studied painting. With social work as a profession. she has assisted many in the Philadelphia area and also travelled to India.
Callahan said her experiences are much like other authentic blues performers. Although she decided to shift her focus to music as a profession about 8 years ago, Callahan continues to work part-time at women centers and youth centers. “Music is where my heart is. You could say that as a social worker I take in the blues during the day.”
The people Callahan connects with at the shelters often inspire her music. She plans to perform many songs from “If the Blues Had Wings” as well as some new material from her upcoming release “The Blue Pearl”. Callahan says she’ll also include a few cover songs that people will recognize, perhaps Ray Charles’ “What’d I say”.
Although Callahan plays guitar, she rarely plays live. Instead she leaves the music to her band, Allen James on guitar, Gary Lee on bass and Doug Masters on drums.