California based Caroline Dahl is a straight ahead no nonsense pianist. On
"No Hats", her debut CD, she trawls her way through a cornucopia of
blues piano styles, accompanied on most of the tracks by the Bay Area's
finest drummers. Dahl's breadth of blues knowledge also reflects a deep
seated understanding of the music, reflected in the fact that Dahl 11 of
the 12 tracks here are original compositions.
The album opens with "Caroline's Boogie" which leaves you with no doubt
about her credentials. It is the first of a number of boogie woogie pieces,
and has an annoyingly familiar refrain. Rather than simply peddle out a CD
full of boogie woogie instrumentals, however, Dahl is tackles a range of
styles. She starts by switching to New Orleans for the second tune, "Tico
Tico Medley," which is the only non-original here, and owes much to a
medley that used to form part of the late great James Booker's repertoire.
"No Hats" is an album that constantly keeps you on your toes with its
frequent changes of style and tempo. So, by the time you reach track three
("Sharp Swinger") you are already into the third different style as Dahl
adopts a more jazzy feel. It takes until track five "Sugarplum's Blues"
before you get a chance for a breather with a slower tempo, straighter
blues number. This is the first of three tracks where Dahl plays solo, the
other two being the closers ("Rhumba Apocalypso" and "Young Mother of
Old"). Dahl also plays accordion (overdubbed!) on part of "Kentucky Blues
Sampler"--Dahl is originally from Kentucky--which comprises several tunes
segued together, and contains some of the albums fines moments.
"No Hats" is proof positive that Caroline Dahl knows her way around the
88s. Although there is a lot of changes of blues piano styles on show, Dahl
somehow manages to maintain an overall coherence to the album. Anyone who
likes blues piano should get along to their local store to pick up a copy
of "No Hats," or failing that, check out availability from the good people
at Globe Records (www.globerecords.com). "No Hats" is definitely one for
the blues piano connoisseurs.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.