After receiving many awards in her native San Diego, blues singer Whitney Shay is expanding her horizons and, for her third album, has signed to Ruf Records…always a mark of quality. Although I wasn’t familiar with her previous work (debut album Soul Tonic and its follow up A Woman Rules The World) a quick search and listen reveals a lady with bags of talent and promise which, I’m pleased to say, has matured and developed into a set of blues-based R’n’B that will please lovers of both. The extensive band behind her is also a class act and features, amongst others, the guitar skills of the lovely Laura Chavez and the equally lovely Marcia Ball on piano…add in the slide guitar prowess of Derek O’Brian and we get some superb backing to Whitney’s powerful and emotive vocals.
Opening with the title track, Stand Up! we get a sub-three-minute blast of horny R’n’B with soul and, significantly, an inventive and rather good guitar solo…think James Brown…yes, really! Someone You Never Got To Know arrives with a more restrained soulful, bluesy R’n’B and a catchy chorus to join in with. The keys are subtle and the chorded guitar a delight as Whitney tells the story so well…then, after the bridge the short key solo gives a lift to the sadness of the lyrics: then listen to the guitar behind the fade and enjoy. Equal Ground is heavenly, slow-ish blues with slinky slide and neat piano behind the vocal. The way too short slide solo is worth the entrance fee and it does, indeed entrance…sorry for the wordplay! P.S. It’s Not About You moves us into a faster, funky slice of blues with a genius rising riff and a solo that traverses the neck beautifully but doesn’t last long enough.
I Thought We Were Through is a ballad of beauty with the intro consisting of just gospelly keys and vocal. The band stays suitably restrained with horns and sparkling guitar chords. The sax solo is more than equal to the mood and fits well. Back to funk with Far Apart (Still Close) and its duet vocals with Guy Forsythe pouring emotion to match Whitney’s as the Prince like backing (pay attention to the brilliant bass line) expands and fills the tune out…then another magical guitar solo and also behind the vocals to the fade. You Won’t Put Out This Flame is more funk but, with the horns, it is a bit more soul than blues…still huge fun as Whitney draws comparisons between flames, ignition and the colour of her hair. Tell The Truth, written by The 5 Royales member, Lowman Pauling, is perhaps better known from the instrumental version Johnny Winter did. Whitney takes it fairly straight but still brings it up to date and even improves on the original…especially with the vocal and sax solo.
Boy Sit Down has some lovely piano from Marcia and the resonator guitar really does resonate with me…a true delight. It is a romp that just engages you from start to finish, although the coned trumpet is over-egging it for my taste. I Never Meant To Love Him, written by Ronald Clyde Carlson and Terri McFaddin, was made famous by the great Etta James and Whitney uses Etta’s influence so well and reflects her genius in interpretation and emotion too. Getting In My Way is more bluesy with a simple but effective riff and washes of keys to paint the perfect background for the vocal. More lovely guitar from Laura in the solo makes this my current favourite.
The final track, Change With The Times, harks back to the horniness of track one…equally irresistible too with a suitable lower register sax solo that works better than most and is a rocking R’n’B way to close.
There is much to enjoy on this well-crafted album…Whitney is a strong and emotive vocalist and, with Laura on guitar, the majority of the tracks will have enough bite to satisfy blues, soulful blues and R’n’B fans…what more do you need?
Bluesdoodles rating: Wonderful – There is much to enjoy on this well-crafted album
- Stand Up!
- Someone You Never Got To Know (Whitney Shay, Adam J. Eros, Laura Chavez)
- Equal Ground
- P.S. It’s Not About You
- I Thought We Were Through
- Far Apart (Still Close)
- You Won’t Put Out This Flame
- Tell The Truth (Lowman Pauling)
- Boy Sit Down
- I Never Meant To Love Him (Ronald Clyde Carlson, Terri McFaddin)
- Getting In My Way
- Change With The Times
All compositions byWhitney Shay and Adam J Eros except where stated.
Whitney Shay – vocals
Red Young – keyboards
Laura Chavez – guitar
Chris Maresh – bass guitar
Brannen Temple – drums and percussion (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11)
Tommy Taylor – drums (Tracks 7, 8, 10, 12)
Marcia Ball – piano (Track 9)
Guy Forsyth – duet vocal (Track 6), resonator guitar (Track 9)
Derek O’Brien – slide guitar (Track 3)
The Texas Horns:
‘Kaz’ Kazanoff – tenor saxophone
John Mills – baritone saxophone & flute
Al Gomez – trumpet
Alice Sadler, Whitney Shay ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff Guy Forsyth, Drew Potter, John Mills, Al Gomez, ‘Kaz’ Kazanoff, Joey Benjamin: (Track 9)
Charles Godfrey – Cowbell (Track 4)
Recorded atWire Recording Studio and produced by Kaz Kazanoff.
(The iTunes run on track pitched up the piano boogie blues of the little known Will Ezell with Pitchin’ Up…followed swiftly by the much more up to date (and brilliant) Will Wilde and his Bring It On Home opus.)