The way that everyone seems to claim to be the next Janis Joplin reminds me of the continuing pursuit within the music industry to create the next Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Although three of the seven quotes that are used on Blue by Nature's press material relate lead singer Karen Lawrence's voice to Joplin, the late Port Arthur, Texas native who died Oct. 4, 1970. In contrast, Lawrence does share the raspy growl found in much of Joplin's material. However, she doesn't come near as close to matching her voice as Boston native Susan Tedeschi does.
A listen to the 8-track, 32-minute release of Lawrence and Blue by Nature reveals that ambition will be used as a weapon of destruction (I mean this complimentary.), not drugs and alcohol and ill-fated romances as was Joplin's fate.
"We are all blue by nature," Lawrence writes in the CDs limited liner notes. "Livin' with it is what life's all about."
Musical inspirations pushed Lawrence to begin fooling around with music at the tender age of nine. By the time she was 13, she fronted her first blues band. Lawrence then spent some time with the band A&M, which was followed-according to the band's press material-by her "sharing the stage with Koko Taylor, Debbie Davies, John Lee Hooker, and many other high profile blues artists."
Joining Lawrence-who also plays acoustic guitar and percussion-on this rootsy down-home release is electric/slide guitarist Brad Ayers, drummer Dan Potruch, bassist Andrew Stewart and acoustic/slide guitarist Fred Hostetler. Jamie Browning is also mentioned on the liner notes as making lead guitar contributions on the tune "Traveling Blues." Joe Peluso also joins the party with his spirited harmonica playing.
All tracks begin with an acoustic guitar introduction except "Break Down," the second track on the album, which is also one of the album's best cuts. "Travelin' Blues" allows Lawrence's voice to shine nicely through and is accented beautifully with Browning's subtle lead guitar phrasing.
"Hard Day" finds Lawrence musing about the many prices paid for broken romances. "I'd be rich all right if I had a dollar for every tear that I will cry tonight," she sings. "I gambled and lovin' lost, but sometimes I've gotta pay the price."
If you like your blues filled with acoustic guitars, straightforward arrangements (4/4, a lot of pentatonic runs) mixed with the voice of a southern Californian blueswoman, Hard Daze is worth the price of admission.
For more information concerning Lawrence or Blue by nature contact:
Hostel Records, 1147 E. Broadway #450, Glendale, Calif., 91205
Phone and fax #: (323) 665-0790
This review is copyright © 1999 by Matt Alcott, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.