Back in 1992 an album called Young Girl Blues gave notice to the world that a new talent was ready to show the blinkered audiences that a guitar player doesn’t need to be a man…this young lady began to prove those chauvinistic attitudes were wrong. With her distinctive blues style, compositional nous and ability to make worthy cover versions, she has continued to stake her claim to the blues regardless of gender.
Sue Foley is the lady I refer to and one listen of her take on I’m A King Bee on that debut, or rather her take on Memphis Minnie’s update on that James Moore song, Queen Bee, reveals a depth of understanding and feel for the blues even at the tender age of twenty-three. Fast forward to today and her sixteenth album is due for release…named in honour of her trusty Fender Telecaster which is enrobed in a unique pink paisley pattern, Pinky’s Blues shows how she has never lost that feel, that ability to make the guitar speak volumes and to always use the right number of notes in the right places. What makes it even more remarkable is that the whole album was recorded in just three days with most being live, spontaneous and with some fantastic improvisation.
The opener and title track, Pinky’s Blues, is Sue and her precious Pinky revelling in the blues as she takes a few recognisable blues tropes and weaves a new tapestry of truly expressive guitar playing in and around them…it’s fun playing ‘spot the influential guitar inspiration’ while realising that this lady is all original and a damn good player; the runs, sustain and full use of every string and the neck prove it beyond doubt. A great instrumental lead-off track that, if it had taken up the entire running time of the album, would still be too short.
Two Bit Texas Town was written by an unknown to me: Angela Strehli is being added to my collection. She is a blues singer from errr, Texas but is also a blues historian and that shows in her music. Sue does a faithful yet new version of this rolling Texas blues song: a traditional structure with the names of some blues masters from the past included in the lyrics show that this is a heritage piece rather than a retread and Sue does a great job vocally and is outstanding on the Telecaster.
Dallas Man is Sue’s ‘tribute’ to significant guitarists; as she says, “I realised it was just about all these great guitar players from Dallas and right around there. Between Blind Lemon Jefferson and Frankie Lee Sims, and then working on some Freddie King and always watching Jimmie Vaughan…Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, Freddie King, T-Bone Walker, Anson Funderburgh, Zuzu Bollin, Doyle Bramhall II, Denny Freeman and Derek O’Brien all came from that area. That’s almost a whole album right there!” An impressive list by any measure, and Sue does every one of them proud as she lets the guitar play with styles and melodies that sum up Texas blues rather well.
Southern Men modifies a template well and, either Sue has seriously strong fingers, or she uses a Tele with a tremolo bridge which I didn’t think Pinky had…either way, the tremolo work is superb throughout and the short solo is absolute genius. Say It’s Not So is a lovely amalgam of jazz touches to the vocal while the solitary backing of some inventive guitar leads to the bass and drums joining in with the bluesy jazz feel before the pure blues solo melts you. Hurricane Girl is about a girl who is a “force of nature” and I will refrain from puns about being blown away, suffice it to say this more instinctive guitar blues…another familiar but totally new use of the styles.
Stop These Teardrops from Lillia Lavelle White is another Texan; a singer, songwriter who added soul to her blues. This one has a pace the title doesn’t suggest and Sue pours some neat blues runs into the riff and solo without losing the soul of the original. Boogie Real Low was originally by Frankie Lee Sims from 1958. (He was a New Orleans born bluesman who moved to Dallas later in his career and was a cousin to Lightnin’ Hopkins) Sue changes the gender of the protagonist but otherwise does a brilliant job of updating this classic of its type…a boogie all the way dance floor filler.
Think It Over was written by Lillie Mae Donley and her (better known, taking all the credit) husband Jimmy and released by him in 1962. It is of its time as so many songs from that decade has the lilt and swing like this…still a great rendition and the original didn’t have such inventive guitar and swirling organ solos. Okie Dokie Stomp is the classic from Clarence Gatemouth Brown (although written by his bandleader Pluma Davis) and, needless to say, the guitar playing from Sue is flawless and original whilst paying due deference to Clarence’s version. The final two tracks are listed as ‘bonus tracks’ on the CD. Someday is another timeless construction carried out so sympathetically with the feel of the 60s blending perfectly with today.
When The Cat’s Gone The Mice Play is a song that Junior Wells released in 1963 and bears a remarkable resemblance to Messin’ With the Kid, instrumentally at least. (Messin’… was written by Mel London in 1959 and covered by Wells the following year.) The tones she pulls from that Tele are just lovely and, with the band as solid as always, delivers a great solo too to wrap up this totally new and old collection.
This is the sort of nostalgia laced, modern blues album that is always welcome through my Kefs…it may not be new, new as even the new tracks are full of the sounds and feel of those heady blues filled days of yore. What it is, is an album filled with very high quality playing with a display of Sue’s unique ‘attack’ that is gorgeous throughout. The band are damned good too and so it all adds up to a high-quality slice of high-quality blues.
Bluesdoodles rating: 4 Doodle Paws – a Wonderful album of new songs and old songs delivered in a new way and always entertaining with sufficient soloing to satisfy my inner guitar geek.
Two Bit Texas Town
Say It’s Not So
Stop These Teardrops
Boogie Real Low
Think It Over
Okie Dokie Stomp
When The Cat’s Gone The Mice Play
Sue Foley: guitar, vocals
Jimmie Vaughan: rhythm guitar on Hurricane Girl
Jon Penner: bass
Chris Layton: drums
Mike Flanigin: hammond B3 on Southern Men and Think It Over
Recorded at Fire Station Studios in San Marcos, Texas and produced by Mike Flanigin.
(iTunes served up a side of Sun Dragon: this little known 60s band came to fame when fans like me discovered that Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice featured on some of their tracks, mainly because Derek Lawrence produced the band. The track I listened to was their take on The Byrds song, So You Want To Be A Rock ’n’ Roll Star…Ritchie plays a blinder although the Nazareth version in their epic Telegram takes some beating.)