She's bold; she's brassy; she's downright sassy; but one thing is for sure, Barbara Blue can really sing. The Pittsburgh-born Blue is now a mainstay of the Memphis music scene, performing on a regular basis at Silky O'Sullivan's on Beale Street. Throughout her singing career, Blue has rubbed elbows and performed with some of the greatest names in the blues Taj Mahal, Jeff Healey, Pinetop Perkins, Tab Benoit and Maceo Parker to name a few. On a recent trip to Memphis, I had the pleasure of meeting Barbara and hearing her perform live. During her set, Barbara covered a broad range of musical turf, mixing her exceptionally talented vocals with a cheerful, sassy and sexy banter to entertain her audience.
As the result of the persuasive live recommendation I received at Silky O'Sullivan's, it was with great anticipation that I popped Barbara Blue's latest recording, Sell My Jewelry, into my CD player. Backed by members of Taj Mahal's Phantom Blues Band additional support from by John "Juke" Logan and the Texicali Horns (Joe Sublett & Darrell Leonard), Blue burns through twelve songs including three originals and covers of songs written by EG Kight, Lucinda Williams, Rod & Honey Piazza and Janis Joplin. As good as Barbara was when I saw her live in Memphis, having a quality backing band behind her, makes her even better on this recording.
Sell My Jewelry opens with an EG Kight tune, "Trouble With A Capital T," that might as well serve as Barbara Blue's theme song. As personable as she is to talk to, there is no doubt watching her that she could give any man as much trouble as they could ever want, particularly if Barbara felt she was being wronged. Her powerful vocals on this song ring loud and clear that she is the woman she is referring to in this song. On "Tool Box Blues," Barbara exudes sexuality in her references to the "tool" that a man has in his tool box that she does not. This is followed by a nice torch laden ballad entitled, "Don't Lead Me On," with vocals that more than once reminded me of another powerful female blues singer, the late Janis Joplin. The indications of the Joplin influence in Barbara Blue's vocal style extend to several other songs on the recording, including the Joplin original, "Turtle Blues," that closes out Sell My Jewelry.
It only seems fair to speak specifically about the three Barbara Blue original tunes on the CD, "Road Blues," "Sell My Jewelry" and "From The Delta To The Golden Gate." "Road Blues" speaks eloquently of Barbara's admitted dislike of touring. On stage in fact, she admitted to preferring to stay close to home, enjoying the "friendly confines" of her regular gig at Silky O'Sullivan's versus the hardships of the road. The song is spiced up considerably by the fine harp fills provided by John "Juke" Logan on the track. "Sell My Jewelry" is co-written by Barbara and Tony Braunagel who also co-produced the CD and plays drums/percussion. "Sell My Jewelry" is a rockin', honky tonk piano-filled tune that includes Barbara's fine vocals with back-up by Teresa James and Tamara Champlin. The final original, "From The Delta To The Golden Gate," is a wonderful tribute to the late king of the Detroit Boogie, John Lee Hooker. This is a slow burning blues that definitely offers a Hooker style feel to the music.
While I had never heard of Barbara Blue before my visit to Memphis, I can honestly say that my decision to see her on my "maiden voyage" to Beale Street was well worth the trip. Barbara is an excellent entertainer and her CD Sell My Jewelry is an excellent example of her talent. To learn more about Barbara Blue and to pick up copies of her two independently released recordings Sell My Jewelry and Out Of The Blue, visit her website at www.barbarablue.com and enjoy the music of this talented singer.
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