304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
304 North Cardinal St.
Dorchester Center, MA 02124
Bluesdoodles rating: 3 Doodle Paws – a great listen to some powerfully written and performed blues and some stellar musicians helping to showcase a talented singer, songwriter.
Leslie Letven Bixler is a musician who started performing and recording in the jazz world. Motherhood inspired her to shift into writing children’s music for the preschool children she worked with…one of the children was the offspring of drummer extraordinaire Chad Smith! He and, separately, Dick Van Dyke heard her work and contributed to two specialist albums which they then toured. Leslie then got the blues after visiting Clarksdale and put together an extremely strong album of blues with some rock called We Don’t Own the Blues which Chad also helped out on, and where I first heard of (as she is known now) Miss Bix. No breakfast cereal jokes but that album was certainly fuelled by skill and compositional ability so rare in a debut blues release…check-out out the harp-y, slide-y Slave to the Grave.
She now has a new album, called Bring It, which was written, initially, through meetings over the internet and were inevitably coloured by the world events of that time. She remains admirably unbowed by the Californian wildfires that destroyed her home; by the covid restrictions that prevented her performing; by the racial and social unrest that plague the world and hit very close to her home.
Opening with the shuffle of Ain’t No Such Thing, we are treated to a slow shuffle with delightful backing to Leslie’s vocals suit perfectly and show a delicacy that has a bite when needed…the harmonies are good too. It’s also nice to hear the excellent Franck Goldwasser on guitar; if you aren’t familiar, his 2003 album Bluju is a treat…try Melba’s Bump for all kinds of reasons!
You’ve Got the Nerve is lovely blues with great bass, keys and guitar as the lyrics remonstrate with her lover. The Hammond solo is inspired and some seriously good guitar and harp behind the vocals add depth. Cocktail Hour brings one word to mind as the jazz-tinged blues unfolds…sultry. That’s no mean achievement as the lyrics include using dirty dishes again and “I ain’t gettin’ out of bed until cocktail hour” but then we all like to be lazy sometimes. A very clever picked guitar solo that traverses the neck and a Rhodes sounding piano solo make it even better.
Trail of Tears is immediate as the swamp blues with delicious slide unfolds: it may employ some familiar blues patterns, but it is one of those new/old songs that work. The slide solo and acoustic backing make it even newer/older and very lovely indeed. The Girl You Adore is a bluesy ballad with a curious sounding twelve-string guitar that (apart from being a damnably difficult instrument to play) has a tuning I cannot fathom…not out of key exactly and it works so what the hell, especially on the genius solo. Red Walls is horny R’n’B, Cheer Up Sallie Mae is an acoustic backed lifter upper with a great electric solo. The Poison sounds as dark as the title with a bass sax, clever percussion and guitar and shows yet another facet of Leslie’s vocal prowess.
You Don’t Deserve to be My Man is new/old again carried off so well as harp and piano combine to back a clever vocal melody and a salutary lesson to us men! Daddy Why features Tiffany Pollack joining in on lead vocals over a piano-led backing of quality. You Better Believe It is slow, almost ponderous, and weighty blues with genius bass and Leslie tinges it all with gospel edges to the vocal…the guitar is a delight behind it all. Shake Me Discover Me is rockier blues to tell the story of Leslie’s aspirations from a young age of becoming a rock star.
The final track, Movin’ On was recorded live with Leslie on vocals and guitar: the rawness is a tribute as she harmonises with the guitar which she picks with clarity and deftness. No, autotune here, just a good, honest, heartfelt and meaningful performance.
This is a very strong album with thirteen tracks delivering good value, particularly as there isn’t a duff song here. Every one of them is worthy and the level of musicianship from Leslie and the other musicians is first class.
Ain’t No Such Thing
You’ve Got the Nerve
Trail of Tears
The Girl You Adore
Cheer Up Sallie Mae
You Don’t Deserve to be My Man
You Better Believe It
Shake Me Discover Me
All songs by Leslie Letven Bixler except Ain’t No Such Thing by Bixler/Ralph William Carter and Daddy Why by Bixler/Tiffany Pollock
Leslie Bixler: vocals, guitar
Franck Goldwasser: guitars
Ralph Carter: guitar, bass, drums
Montgomery Pollack: guitar
John Thomas: Hammond, Wurlitzer, piano
James Zavala: harmonica
Charley Pollard: drums
Keeshea Pratt: vocals
Tom Canning: Hammond
Bill Bixler: saxophone
Phil Wimer: vocals
Tiffany Pollack: vocals
Gary Mallaber: drums
(iTunes inevitably moved onto another Miss…Mississippi Fred McDowell to be exact and his slinky slidey and very lovely You Gotta Move as he turned a traditional song into something special. The Rolling Stones thought so too and used this as a template for their version on Sticky Fingers.)