After listening to Lady Bianca's "Rollin'," I've concluded that the so-called Chitlin' Circuit' might just as well be called the "Cheatin' Circuit." 'Cause cheatin' - whether carried out or merely contemplated - forms the basis for much of the material here.
Ms. Bianca comes with some serious credentials, having worked with both John Lee Hooker and Van Morrison. Hers, though, is a voice that deserves the spotlight, and can easily carry the weight of a solo project. "Rollin'" is her second outing under her own name, a follow-up to 1995's "Best Kept Secret" on the Telarc label.
After a less than auspicious start with "Blues Fonk," a sort of disco-lite tune that had me looking around for a mirror ball, Ms. Bianca settles into a shuffle for "Lookin' At My Man," a cautionary warning to those who'd come between Ms. Bianca and her significant other, then goes to a slow, sexy groove on "Easy Lovin'." This one's driving me nuts; credited as an original, I swear I've heard the song before but can't remember where or when. At any rate, it's an excellent exercise in late-night soul, the kind of song that sets the mood for . . . well, whatever you're in the mood for. "Sexy Bones" is another dance-floor rave, before Ms. Bianca revisits her previous warning to "Keep My Baby Outta Your Eyes." This one, too, has a slow, slinky, sexy feel to it. The subject of "Spendin' Money" is something we can all relate to - there just isn't enough of it! Unfortunately, it's another disco-style tune that simply doesn't do justice to Ms. Bianca's vocal abilities. Need I elaborate on "You Slept With My Man Last Night?" Slow groove. Cheatin'. Nuff Said. It's back to the dance floor with "Lyin' To Me" (noticing a pattern here?), before we turn to "Little Drop Of Water." At seven-minutes-plus, it's probably the disc's strongest track, an achingly tender ballad that, again, explores something most of us can identify with - the wish to appear strong, to hide the tears from someone who's left us behind. Here, at last, Ms. Bianca cuts lose, the gospel-like fervor in her vocals utterly spine-tingling.
"Daddy Blues Was A Witness," it's polyrhythmic percussion giving it a Caribbean feel, sums up the history of the blues and its relationship to other forms of music; "Can You Slip Away Again Tonight," too, has a tropical feel, complete with congas and flamenco-style guitar. The disc closes with a bang with the upbeat "Roll Thang," another booty-shakin' workout that ought to raise a sweat on even the most dedicated wallflower.
While Lady Bianca proves a singer of considerable power, the disc is weakened by rather unsatisfying production; the absence of a certain 'oomph' leaves even the real instruments sounding synthesized. Nor is the material very strong; Ms. Bianca, obviously a gifted interpreter, would be better served by songs with a bit of emotional meat, something she can sink her considerable chops into (musically speaking, of course). Still, if you feel like dancing...well, hey, you could do a lot worse!
Rooster Blues Records
A division of Bottled Majic Music, Inc.
This review is copyright © 2001 by John Taylor, 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.