Ms. Washington has been a staple on the Boston music scene for some years now. This southern-born songbird has shared the stage with Sam and Dave and Jackie Wilson. She has released a couple of fine CD's on the Tone-cool label. She has also been nominated for the W.C. Handy Award. After listening to this new release Been So Long it is apparent what all the fuss is about. Been So Long is easily her finest CD.
The new CD is on the Northernblues label and glistens behind the production work of Duke Robillard and Bruce Bears. It's always been obvious that the woman could sing but these guys have arranged and put things together in just the right places. The backing instruments leave plenty of room for her vocals but could stand alone . For instance on the Bessie Smith tune "Back Water Blues", Scott Aruda is tearing it up on trumpet in the background. You can't help but pay attention to her phrasing as well as his blowing. As for the other players you don't get more tasteful than guys like Duke Robillard (guitar), Bruce Bears (keyboards), Mark Texeira(drums) and Gordon Beadle, Doug James (saxes).
There are 13 tunes on this CD and the liner notes point out that Toni Lynn wanted to do this CD that offers her interpretation of classic blues songs to honor the feminine spirit. Been So Long has great liner notes because she gives a brief explanation why she chose each particular song. Some insight into what inspires Ms. Washington is that she will chose songs written by men and give them that female interpretation. For instance on the Earl King tune "Three Can Play The Game" she makes sure that the listener knows that a woman can tip around and do the same things some men do. Stylistically Ms. Washington evokes a large range of blues and blues-based material. There is some Delta blues, R'nB, jazz, boogie-woogie, jump blues, gospel, ballads, and soul.
My favorite song on the CD is "Down In The Basement." It's got a truly sassy, slinky and low down groove. When Toni Lynn sings, "and when you play that low down funky beat, it makes me feel so good." I hear her singing these words and I get that same feeling! But she doesn't just stop there, the last 3 ½ minutes of the song you've got Toni Lynn testifying about how much fun everyone is having down in the basement. This is the party song of the year. This is the kind of song that you wish was on a 45 rpm so that you could play it over and over again to keep the party momentum going.
Been So Long is a thoroughly enjoyable CD. Certainly one of the best I've heard all year. Not just one of the best by a female vocalist but one of the best period.
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