Fish, Popovic, Lyytinen, Shaw Taylor, McGregor are some of the names that spring to mind to disprove the theory still held by some that guitar heroes must be male and, Joey B apart, dress in suitably rocky apparel. Well, Samantha, Ana, Erja, Joanne, and Chantel have all disproved this on numerous recordings and a multitude of live appearances…a quick search on Bluesdoodles will provide evidence, should it be needed, that they are first and foremost superb composers and masters of the six-string…which is all that matters to me. I know, I know, I keep banging on about it but it still gets right up my nose when I hear so-called music lovers denigrating a musician based only on gender…we know better, don’t we?
We now have to add another name to that list as Diana Rein releases her album on the Mike Zito backed Gulf Coast Records. In my book, If Zito is involved and is promoting an artist then it is time for us all to sit up and listen. I rarely resort to PR sheets but with a back story like this it is easier to just quote…” Diana’s parents escaped communist Romania in 1981 when she was 3 years old. They arrived in Chicago with only $50 and a dream for a better life…[she] went to performing arts school leading to a role in the comedy “Home Alone”.” Quite a tale and one that fills me with admiration for her and her parents who also took her to blues clubs and introduced her to the likes of Buddy Guy and other Chicago legends. Now based in Southern California she lists SRV, Prince, and Philip Sayce as major influences. Having released a solid blues filled album in 2016 called Long Road, she now has a new one, produced by none other than Walter trout’s drummer Michael Leasure and she has punningly named it Queen of My Castle. I will try not to let my somewhat weird sense of humour fill this review with similar puns…after all, the work Diana has put into this shows it wasn’t just throne together, but is crafted and planned impeccably. (Sorry, I’ll stop now…promise!)
This fifteen-song opus kicks off with the Chicago tinged Yes, I Sing The Blues that utilizes a neat chord pick, not quite a riff that backs the blues/soul vocals. There are also some nice structured guitar fills between the lyrics before we get a ‘classic’ blues solo that has a quality feel and, to my ears, a nod to Buddy Guy. Also noteworthy are the faultless band that she has backing it all up…the organ, bass, and drums are in perfect unison. The Midnight Line is still Chicago by way of SRV’s Texas with an up-tempo take on the classic blues tropes. That is not a negative by the way, the riff is great and, if it had been filled out a bit with more attack on the chords it would be blues-rock par excellence. It has a lovely dubbed solo with slide and picking leading to a tempo change that takes us into a slowed down and effective finish. The title track is again a standard and familiar blues come rock’n’roll pattern that certainly exploits the style very well. The guitar fills and solo are inventive and show an understanding of the most beautiful instrument as Diana traverses the neck and uses all six strings to great effect. I Can’t Quit You is reminiscent of other titles: the intro brings a definite hint of Cream by the Spoonful (see what I did there?!) In saying that, it is still a nice slice of proper electric blues and the solo is more SRV influenced than Clapton but still entertains with the sparse use of notes and neck range that says more than blurring it all together as many do, to build a memorable song. This could be my favourite although the next track, One Foot In, runs it close as Diana pulls out a neat riff for her to overdub neat single note phrasing…this is the sort of blues that Canned Heat via CCR by way of Savoy Brown are so good at. The solo is another example of the Kossof school of a few notes say so much as Diana fills it with sting and emotion.
The track, Walking Along has the same sort of feel with simple but effective strumming allowing space for the vocal and guitar fills. The solo is an understated delight as she again traverses the neck and strings…it adds so much more colour than repeatedly playing the top two strings and the top few frets. The next track moves to a more rock based, err base. The ascending solo is one of the best yet and, with the band rocking away behind her, Diana shows her abilities across the genres. A lot of people are going to think me crazy for this (and they could well be right) but think of AC/DC with melody and a gossamer touch as it has that sort of ancestry. The solo has the attack to suit and bends and runs aplenty that all fit neatly into this clever, melodic rock song. It’s You has a great bass and drum intro that gives way to SRV tinged strums and the train track shuffle feel works a treat with an inventive solo to keep it fresh. My Love is a little incongruous with its ballroom rhythms, but it still manages to have enough guitar over the bossa nova to make it listenable.: mind you, Santana did it often enough, so who am I to question it? Get Down is back to melodic rock with a story of preparing for and then performing…a suitable opportunity for audience participation is built in and the wah solo rescues this otherwise predictable song. In The Chill Of The Night is a slow blues with country overtones and more evidence of a band with total understanding. It may seem to approach pastiche, but the Hammond solo pulls it up a lot of notches and the guitar fills and solo make for a pleasurable experience throughout. Worth is next and moves into funk land light with a great riff and the drumming is phenomenal with the hi-hat and snare work. Once again a solo of quality pulls everything together so well.
Time’s Ticking Away is from the Bad Co school of blues on the intro but quickly moves into bluesy funk with the lyrical backing. The quiet bridge with sparse notes leads to the solo that has a fire behind its subtlety. Penultimate track, Heat, surprises again as the fuzz pedal brings a Sabbath weight to the riff. Until the vocal cuts in, the riff and crash cymbal/snare interplay remind me of that criminally underrated band Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell (listen to their Keep It Greasy! album to hear what I mean.) Final track, Zoe, is an instrumental that pays tribute to “a lost loved one” and Diana uses SRV techniques to weave an excellent and lyrical, if lyric free, piece. Just under four minutes of guitar heaven.
This is a value filled fifteen-track album that entertains all of the way. It may not break new ground, but the playing is of such a quality that it is always welcome and I get the strong feeling that the next album will be even better as Dian’s studio experience increases and I look forward to that next opus.
(The traditional didn’t stop in time iTunes run on track is Dickey Betts’ brilliant solo version of his own song, Ramblin’ Man. Inevitably as he wrote it, played and sang on the Allman Brothers original, it is similar but has enough nuances to warrant having both versions.)
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Yes I Sing the Blues
- The Midnight Line
- Queen of My Castle
- I Can’t Quit You
- One Foot In
- Walking Along
- Pure Soul
- It’s You
- My Love
- Get Down
- Chill of the Night
- Time’s Ticking Away
Tracks written byDiana Rein
Diana Rein – Vocals, Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar
Michael Leasure – Drums
Dave Osti – Bass