Tiffany Pollack and Eric Johanson put Blues In My Blood

Take an accomplished and highly regarded jazz singer who plies her trade in good ol’ New Orleans; add in a skilful and, most importantly, sensitive guitarist, plus a band of great skill to back them on eleven blues-drenched songs and what do you get? Tiffany Pollack and Eric Johanson is the answer. Tiffany performs regularly in New Orleans singing primarily jazz with The Dapper Dandies and Tiffany Pollack & Co. Eric is no slouch either as he has played with Cyril Neville, Terrance Simien, Tab Benoit, JJ Grey & Mofro, Eric Lindell, Mike Zito, Anders Osborne, the Neville Brothers, and many more. On this new release, Blues In My Blood, they have combined that lineage to bring us a varied and thoroughly enjoyable mix of originals and covers. By the way, they are actually cousins although they only found that relatively (pun intended) recently.

It opens with the title track and straightaway you appreciate the warmth and sensitivity of Eric’s playing as sumptuous acoustic slide leads into the equally warm and powerful yet restrained vocals of Tiffany. It’s a lovely slow blues that has the added benefit of a (short) electric solo that stays within the established blues template but has a lovely gospel feel from the tasty ‘aahh’d’ chorus… a shiver-inducing piece of classy blues. A similar feel pervades the second track, Memories To Forget, except that it is Eric that effectively tells the tale of turning his back on his true love with suitable backing from Tiffany. The guitar solo is first class and Sansone adds some great harp textures as his interpretation is so suitably mournful. Keep It Simple ups the quality still further with slide guitar excellence as this funky electric blues takes over from the delicious acoustic slide intro. Tiffany puts heart and soul into the vocal phrasing and is backed superbly with some clever keyboard flourishes and solo as well as the pounding bass and drums. The solo is as good as you’ll hear emanating from a bottleneck as the single-string work is interspersed with harmonies but always preserving the feel….it’s too short though! Next track is a surprise…Michael references the time Tiffany worked in an undertakers and is suitably funereally sung over more brilliant slide work from Eric on, I’m guessing, a resonator through pick-ups rather than just mic’d. That the funeral is in N’Orleans is not in doubt when the horns cut in to paint the street procession picture that the track deserved. A strange subject with Tiffany’s emotions giving the lyrics a gravitas and power that chills and enlightens in equal measure, but always thrills. After the sombre comes an up-tempo blues rock song on which the duo duet…Diamonds On The Crown addresses the state of nations over a great slide riff with keys, bass and drums providing the weight as the guitars weave their spell…Eric uses acoustic and electric to great effect and you only wish the solos were extended by an hour or two! A cover of the Jagger/Richards song, No Expectations, is next and they turn it into a country-blues ballad that reflects the original but is different enough to be fresh and the picked/slide subtle solo is more than fitting. Jazz makes an unsurprising appearance as Tiffany bravely takes on Nina Simone’s Do I Move You? The band addresses it in a slightly different way: as Tiffany hits every note to sultry perfection, Eric plays simple chords with more blues in them than many an album! The organ washes over the background and then we are treated to a guitar solo with a few notes speaking volumes. I have never been a lover of the Nina songbook, but this may force me to change any preconceptions I had…it is sheer quality. Now to my favourite track; Slave Of Tomorrow, opens with a great electric slide pattern and develops into a slow and heavy blues with a sort of Bonamassa learns slide sound and you can feel the freedom the instruments were allowed throughout. Get Lost With Me is a Memphis styled blues with a killer solo (again!) and neat organ and piano backing…this is pure quality blues by a guitarist that understands how to make those six strings work without resorting to pointless overplaying. Having covered Nina Simone so effectively, Tiffany takes on Joni Mitchell in an inspired version of her song, River. Yes, she pays due reverence and reference but her voice has crystalline values that differ from Joni’s vocal approach; as with Nina, I appreciate fully her songwriting skills but they will never be a ‘go to’ style…in saying that, this is a damn good reading of that well-written song. The final track is also a cover…this time it is the freedom song written by Pete Seeger back in 1949. The duo trade verses on If I had A Hammer and slow it down from the original to make it into a slow blues song that, for me at least, doesn’t quite work…it is recognisable; the vocal and guitar work is exceptional and yet I cannot help my mind being influenced by the bouncier original when I hear the so familiar words. I do have a feeling, however, that I’ll get over it over the course of numerous listens, which the track will get so that I can hear the solo again!

I love this album and fervently hope these two get together musically again soon and write some more new music. Maybe the jazz world will be missing an angel but the blues world will gain one and when she is alongside the demon guitarist, the results can only be very good indeed.

NINEpawprint half inchdoodle paws out of TEN …

Track listing:

  1. Blues In My Blood
  2. Memories To Forget
  3. Keep It Simple
  4. Michael
  5. Diamonds On The Crown
  6. No Expectations
  7. Do I Move You
  8. Slave Of Tomorrow
  9. Get Lost With Me
  10. River
  11. If I Had A Hammer


Musicians:

Tiffany Pollack: vocals

Eric Johanson: guitars, vocals

John Gros: keyboards

Jack Miele: bass, bass guitar and percussion

Phil Wang: bass

Brentt Arcement: drums

Sean Carey: backing vocals

Guest musicians:

Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone: harmonica

The 504 Horns



Produced by

Jack Miele at The Music Shed Studios, New Orleans.
Tiffany Pollack and Eric Johanson put Blues In My Blood

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