Review: Fiona Boyes – Blues Woman YDR 1653
Posted on: Thursday, Jul 16, 2009
(Yellow Dog Records: YDR 1653)
Australian guitarist Fiona Boyes has seen her profile increase rapidly since first arriving in America in 2003, and, as a solo performer, won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, whilst representing the Melbourne Blues Society. Following on from her Yellow Dog debut, the electric “Lucky 13”, and the trio release, “Live From Bluesville”, comes this very impressive new release, “Blues Woman” – with a generous 15 tracks covering a myriad of blues styles – all self-written, bar three songs.
Recorded in Austin, Texas, producer Mark “Kaz” Kazanoff has surrounded Boyes with a superb band, including Derek O’Brien (guitar), Ronnie James (bass) and Jimi Bott (drums) – and it’s a measure of her standing that the release includes cameo appearances from the likes of Marcia Ball, Watermelon Slim and Pinetop Perkins – heady guests indeed. As the lady herself says, “I wanted to make a really muscular, exciting electric guitar driven album” . . . and she has certainly achieved that in some style.
Proceedings start with a funky guitar riff on “Woman Ain’t A Mule”, with some tasty Hammond B-3 from Nick Connolly, and Boyes gutsy vocal. She takes a trip to the North Mississippi Hill Country for the lowdown “Howlin’ At Your Door” . . . just her and Derek O’Brien’s guitars and Jimi Bott’s kicking drums . . . together the trio kick up a storm on this. She turns to acoustic guitar for JB Lenoir’s “I Want To Go” . . . some nice picking, and incredibly, Jimi Bott on small plastic trash can and bongos!
Producer Kaz Kazanoff and Al Gomez provide some punch brass on the rolling “Train To Hopesville”, with piano from the first lady of Texas blues piano, Marcia Ball. The following “Look Out Love!” was written by fellow Australian, Chris Wilson, and is a mid-paced shuffle, with her own guitar fleshed out by Watermelon Slim’s Dobro.
Watermelon Slim makes another appearance on “The Barrelhouse Funeral”, both as a narrator in a Southern preacher-type role, and also on harmonica . . . this rollicking gospel-flavoured beauty also sees some more sparkling piano from Marcia Ball, with Boyes herself excelling on vocals and resonator guitar . . . a definite album highlight.
“Place Of Milk And Honey” doffs a cap to the legendary ‘Mississippi’ Fred McDowell, riding on a ragged acoustic slide riff, with the versatile Jimi Bott on washboard as well as his usual drums. The soulful “Waiting For Some Good News” is a song dating back a few years and written in Melbourne, with producer Kazanoff blowing some mighty fine harmonica. “Precious Time” switches again, with a nice electric groove . . . and some wry lyrics about relationships – of a professional and personal nature . . . with the superb rhythm section of Ronnie James and Jimi Bott behind Boyes and Derek O’Brien’s guitars.
Eleswhere, “Fishing Hole”, is indirectly inspired by a Bobby Rush song called “Night Fishin’”, and as Fiona Boyes says in her notes, “What can I say? I am very impressionable.” I think we get the picture on this one – fine piano from Nick Connolly on the track. She takes us down to the Delta on the stomping acoustic blues, “Juke Joint On Moses Lane” – an ode to the Bradfordville Blues Club, on the outskirts of Tallahassee, with the closing sassy “Old Time Ways” featuring the legendary, 96 years young Pinetop Perkins on customary piano and vocals . . . and sounding just fine . . . a most fitting way to end this lovely album from a most talented singer/writer/guitarist.
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