If you have to ‘pay your dues, to sing the blues’, then Dana Fuchs has paid in spades. Yet despite so many family tragedies and life seemingly skewering her at every turn, she continues to use these experiences to colour and inform her music and, hopefully cathartically, feed the emotions into such striking blues and soul music, which we lucky listeners benefit from. They are not all heart wrenching; they are always filled with hope and love. Dana explains it thus: “The lyrics are always written by me and always come from a deeply personal place. But this (latest) album really cut to my core through the deep reflection of so much family loss, the birth of my son and especially the years of road-life; getting to know all of you, all of your pain, loss and lust for life and the joy of us sharing that on and off the stage. This time I had so much more to say”.
Her first album after leaving Ruf Records, Love Lives On is released on her own label, Get Along Records. “Having fulfilled my contractual obligation with Ruf Records, to whom I am eternally grateful to for giving me my first real record deal and believing in me and my music, I decided to shop the album around to see what kind of reaction it would get. For the first time in my career, I found myself in uncharted territory, a handful of labels coming to me and actually vying for it. Through that reaffirmation, I realized I had something really special here. Of course, every album to me is special”.
Categorising this lady is difficult but, if you insist on labels, I would say a blues blend, with a heap of Memphis soul wrapped up in rock and roll: perhaps Stereophile Magazine said it better than I did: “Imagine a sultry, more emotive Janis Joplin, backed by a higher energy version of the late 60s Rolling Stones… Rock n’ Roll doesn’t get any better.”
Please note that in my comments on each track you can safely assume that each one is appended by “Dana’s voice is superb, and is so emotive and expressive; you will fall in love with her intonation, clarity and lyrical abilities”
Once again the supremely talented Jon Diamond is on guitar(s) and joins her as a co-writer. Jon is my kind of guitarist; he can drench his playing with emotions to equal Dana’s lyrical messages, be they happy or sad, and he knows how not to overplay too.
The album opens with Backstreet Baby, and this sets out the stall for the whole recording. The clarity of production, the musicianship and that voice grab your heart and mind, pull you in and, graciously, don’t let go. It is an instantly memorable song, with a glorious riff and horn backing, setting it all up for Dana’s voice to entrance; it’s got a great chorus too and a guitar solo out of anyone’s top drawer.
The cover of the Otis Redding standard Nobody’s Fault But Mine is pretty faithful but with the added advantage of that voice taking the original and wringing its neck and there’s more: Jon’s playing. The subtle strumming is good enough, but the solo is outstanding and reminds me so much of Blackmore’s playing on the Bullfrog Sessions release. Callin’ Angels is next and, although the subject matter is sad, the song is a mid-paced soul song of the highest order. The horns are almost jaunty, the B3 burbles gently in the background before treating us to a clever solo, which keeps the central melody as its backbone. Sittin’ On is a soul/funk piece which is saved from being too familiar by yet another inspired (but too short) solo which uses the volume control as much as the pick. The title track is a lament with a bluesy soul base, which is all about the musicians backing the vocals as the story unfolds. Sad Solution is another strong soul/funk blend with yes, another too short solo utilising such subtle string bends, and you wish it could last forever. Faithful Sinner has an organ intro, which Dana sings over before the rest of the band join in. Vocally, this is my favourite because of the emotion, the drama and the lyrical content. I really know what she means as, although it is her personal story, I can relate in so many ways: few lyricists can achieve that so effortlessly. Sedative is a change of tone and pace as it has a delightfully dirty feel as the horns insert so much expression in so few notes. The guitar solo is so sparse it’s brilliant (and too short, again!) The lyrics on the next track are about personal triumph rather than reflecting on sadness: this is the hope that exorcises Dana’s other tribulations. Ready To Rise, therefore, lifts you on a rock riff after a gentle opening and a fretboard covering (too short) rock solo. Fight My Way is a country acoustic, telling of her climb back to the daylight. Eric Lewis provides suitable backing on this one. Battle Lines takes us back into a standard soul template with its slow-paced sadness pulling you in. The instrumentation is balanced and meaningful as the B3 does its job and Jon provides the punctuation on harmonica in a way that echoes his guitar playing with just the right amount of notes. Same Sunlight ups the pace with good old horn and guitar rock ‘n’ roll. Rearrange these words… solo, is, short, too, damned, the! Echoes of the Bullfrog Sessions again here…which is a very good thing. The whole experience is wrapped up with a cover of Johnny Cash’s classic Ring Of Fire. This was never a song I particularly liked, but I may have to change that for this version. Acoustic backed by pedal steel gives it an atmosphere the original never communicated. My opinion of the weak lyrics hasn’t changed, although Dana brings her inevitable feel to it. The original’s over simple structure has been improved but this track is my only disappointment on a truly fantastic album. I can think of dozens of other, better songs that deserve the Fuchs/Diamond treatment, rather than this one.
In summary then, a genuine treat for anyone who loves music, regardless of their usual fare. The band is packed with talented and empathetic players, supporting the genius of Diamond and the ludicrously gifted Dana. All you need to do now is get your own copy and make sure you listen to it regularly and prepare to be amazed, as the compositions will reward you differently with every hearing.
Dana Fuchs – Love Lives On – Get Along Records
TENdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Backstreet Baby
- Nobody’s Fault But Mine
- Callin’ Angels
- Sittin’ On
- Love Lives On
- Sad Solution
- Faithful Sinner
- Ready To Rise
- Fight My Way
- Battle Lines
- Same Sunlight
- Ring Of Fire
Dana Fuchs: Vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion
Jon Diamond: Guitars, Harmonica
Rev. Charles Hodges: B3
Steve Potts: Drums
Glenn Patscha: Piano and Wurlitzer
Kirk Smothers & Marc Franklin: Horns
Reba Russell & Susan Marshall: Backing Vocals
Eric Lewis: Pedal Steel, Lap Steel, Mandolin
Felix Hernandez: Congas
All Songs by Dana Fuchs and Jon Diamond except Nobody’s Fault But Mine by Otis Redding and Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash.
Recorded in Memphis and produced by Kevin Houston