This nine woman co-op was modeled on a similar project that Grammy nominated Kate Hart first formed in Seattle in 1985. Within a year of moving back to Detroit in 1993, she formed the Detroit Women and has been bowling over a growing fan base, since. The cast of characters has changed a bit, but the energy, the grit, the dynamism has not.
This 2005 live effort features the powerful vocals of Hart along with those of the MotorCity’s Rhonda Bantsimba, Terrie Lea, Lady T, Stacia Petrie, Valerie Barrymore, Elena Papillo, Ping Spells, and Kathi McDonald, who was also on the Seattle Women project. All of the singers take turns backing up the front woman on each song and that interplay is consistently sizzling.
Terrie Lea opens the collection with an explosion on “Old Weakness.” As is the case throughout, the lead singer gets some rock solid vocal support from her cohorts. Lady T’s take on Bonnie Bramlett’s “Strongest Weakness” follows. This is a one-two punch that every recording artist dreams of. If you’re not hook-line-and-sinkered into this, you need to send those ears and tapping toes back to the shop for some tweakin’!
Bantsimba’s take on “My Man Is Ugly,” (“he’s ugly and stupid too/but early in the morning he knows just what to do”) is rowdy and bawdy. For contrast, Kathi McDonald’s version of “I’d Rather Go Blind” is spellbinding and chill generating. Stacie Petrie counters with a rockin’ interpretation of Albert King’s “Feel Like Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home,” and ringleader Hart’s “Two Plays for a Quarter” is steeped in Angela Strehil Texas-style sass. Elena Paillo offers a version of the Bill Cooper-penned “Paradise,” a 2002 regional favorite from Mimi Harris & The Snakes that was done to perfection by Mimi. “Leap of Faith,” a strong cut from the Etta James book is given a fine reading from Lea, and Butsima’s performance of Sam & Dave’s “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby” is admirably rendered and showcases Susie Woodman’s delectable piano.
Valerie Barrymore sings her own “I Believe,” a medium tempo burner that features Dennis Burr’s sizzling guitar work. Hart follows with her take on Etta James’ “Good Rockin’ Daddy,” a tune that utilizes voices in much the way that Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton and Angela Strehil did on the same tune. Lady T promises to “put it in the alley” for “Bone Me Like You Own Me,” a tune every bit as rowdy and raunchy as you think. Kathi McDonald shuts it down with her own “Save Your Breath,” a rockin’ closer that seals the deed and the disc with an explosion to match the opener, thereby bookcasing these 13 tunes splendidly.
As is the case throughout, superb guitar work from Dennis Burr is an exciting energy source. Keyboards from Susie Woodman and the rhythm team of Bruce Bedford (drums) and Rick Zeldes (bass) complete the band makeup. There are guest appearances from Carolyn Striho (best known locally for her stint with Detroit Energy Asylum and with Patti Smith), and organist Dan Crabtree. Extraordinary disc.