304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
OK, not that Lake Geneva, but the city of that name on the shores of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, and not named after the Swiss one, but Geneva in New York State which is on the shores of Lake Seneca…confused? Fear not because the real reason we’re here is for the woman that filled the shoes of the one and only Janis Joplin on the Big Brother and The Holding Company’s tours, then you just know there is a voice awaiting discovery. The lady in question is Halley DeVestern and, with her talented band, has six other albums/EPs to her name with the brilliantly titled Fabbo!Boffo!Smasho! worth seeking out. This latest release is from the heady, pre-pandemic days when concerts were happening and their performance at The Studio Winery was captured for posterity and to remind us what we missed and is, hopefully, now returning.
The cover art is Dali-esque as the band cling to floating timepieces, sit on melting ones or float on a snare drum, while Halley walks serenely through the falling tetris landscape with a top hat on her head and a pink poodle on a lead…psychologists would have a field day, but I’m not looking for a deeper meaning; it’s just a neat cover.
To the music and they open, bravely, with Chain of Fools. Written by Don Covay, made famous by Aretha Franklin (although the NWOBHM band Tank did a genius cover in 1984) the reading Halley gives it sort of Aretha but way more bluesy and it works a treat…after an MC introduction we’re straight into the familiar, but listen to the guitar; a lovely way of using a simple, lower register to add bite (and it extends to brilliant solo later with added wah for even more enjoyment) as Halley displays admirably why she got the Janis gig.
Muscle Memory is an original and, after a sort of The Edge intro, we get something bluesy and a bit heavier and, mercifully no Bono! This is a well structured funkish blues with Halley showing range, depth as well as power. Try usually has (Just A Little Bit Harder) after it and Janis did a cracking version of the Lorraine Ellison song from the previous year on her 1969 album, I Got Dem Ol’ Kosmic Blues Again Mama! Again, you can hear why Halley got the job with BBATHC (although she does leave out the ‘extra’ verses that had a couple of, shall we say, less salubrious words in)…the band are very strong too with the bass a standout here as, with the drums, they lay down the base for that voice and the two guitarists to flourish.
The title track, Money Ain’t Time, is classic blues territory with both guitars backing up the very relevant lyrics brilliantly. A powerful track in every sense. I’m Ready was by the inimitable, immortal Willie Dixon and translated brilliantly by Muddy Waters: here we get a fairly honest reading but with plenty of originality stirred in. Halley has the ability to make her voice fit the mood and she does a great job here: as do the guitarists with some neat backing and great solos first from Davi and then Steve (I know ‘cos Halley calls them in.) American Pain is self-explanatory; a damning commentary on the state of the States as seen through her eyes. It has a country edge blended with a typical Americana structure…it works and some people would do well to listen to its lyrics.
Dancing In The Streets is of course the Martha and the Vandellas via Bowie and Jagger although it was written by Marvin Gaye, William “Mickey” Stevenson and Ivy Jo Hunter. Pure Motown on Martha’s version and pure Texas-style blues here: it works well and in any form, it is difficult to dislike. The winning part is the Texan strut from the bass and shuffled drums and then some quality guitar playing both solo and duet.
Boil is one of those catchy tunes that will have you searching your memory banks…mine failed but, it’s catchy! Although the message is real, relevant and biting. Stormy Monday will always be prefaced by ‘They Call It’ and completed by ‘But Tuesday Is just as Bad’ in my mind as the original is the best. T-Bone Walker wrote it and released in 1948. Perhaps better known is the Bobby Blue Bland version which changed it too much for me although I think Halley has used the best cover by The Allman Brothers as inspiration for this excellent interpretation.
Mighty Love rounds out the set with a reggae-infused song that has the sea washing the beach as Halley offers to scratch your back…peanut butter jelly time could be a double entendre although the baseball bat is a worry. I’d sooner have had a guitar solo than Halley demonstrating her tongue-twisting abilities, but the audience enjoyed it. These ten tracks are actually just the first half of the concert…someone forgot to press ‘record’ for the second.
This is a very proficient and enjoyable album that isn’t only blues but carries many styles and influences. Always welcome it when it turns up on my (ancient technology) iPod Classic.
Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen for a live set that showcases a talented vocalist and band giving the audience (and themselves) a good time in the process.
Chain of Fools
Money Ain’t Time
Dancing In The Streets
Halley DeVestern – vocals
David Patterson – guitar
Rich Kulsar – drums
Tom Heinig – bass
Steve Jabas – guitars, keyboards & backing vocals
Recorded on September 1st, 2019 at the Studio Winery in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
(iTunes, in its infinite wisdom, served up a real treat from the past: in 1929, Hambone Willie Newbern recorded Roll And Tumble Blues…a song that has many treatments by many great artists and this is one of the best mainly because this is the guy that wrote it! Hambone is genius on the slide.)