Renee’ Austin
"Dancin’ With Mr. Blue"
By Jean Verstraete
I was handed this CD over Memorial Day weekend. I thought "Great!" I can hear this CD and se this lady live around town. I looked through our "what’s happening music papers only to discover she’s nowhere to be found over the weekend. (Murphy’s law I assumed). Then the idea hit. Since I can’t see Ms. Austin live, I’ll bring her music to the public. My good friend Isaac Contreras was celebrating a new house, release from the Navy and having that 3 day Memorial day party complete with pig roast and a good stereo system (a must) with lots of relatives and good friends ages 60 to early 20’s. Perfect for an honest CD review. When artists put that CD (their babies) out I the music store, the bottom line is that its the "average Joe’ who will decide if your CD will sell or not. This is a combination effort of part of the general public, myself and local musicians to review Renee’ Austin.

First off the local musicians Renee’ used were the frosting on the cake and they deserve a lot of credit for this CD. James Walsh (Mr. Metro Studio) on piano and organ and harmonies. Mr. Mick Sterling (golden voice extraordinaire). The horn section of Pat Mackin, Pete Embolm and Bob Halligrimson. Harmonies of the ladies Melanie Moos, Catherine Battoncletti, Sandi Hodges, Kristie Hamilton were always, I mean always, right and in the pocket. The shined like a star in the sky. Local guitarist Dan Lund was sitting in my kitchen reading the musicians on Renee’s CD. He noted Danny Rousen and said "Man, he’s a great drummer" and bass by "Mr. Spooky" Charles Fletcher. If I’ve misspelled your last names, please forgive me; you were mentioned one time at the end of the notes in very small print over a fold in the liner. Last but not lease, Renee’s guitarist Kenny Wilson. Every beginning to Renee’s songs - "the hook" - if you will, Kenny performed in an outstanding manner - above and beyond the call of duty. Kenny, I worship you. You did good kid. His slide work is just as good as his lead guitar. Renee’ Austin wrote all the lyrics and songs. The maturity of this CD reflects "she’s no kid" to the entertainment business. Her roots are in Texas and the whole flavoring of this CD is Texas blues.

I received a lot of feedback on her first tune "Little Bit of Texas." People thought she should have named her CD after this song so you’d know where her blues and rock influences came from. I felt this was valid feedback. I have Renee’s bio. The public does not, but you can’t fool the "average Joe." The first song comes out kickin’ thanks to the guitar work of Kenny Wilson - nice arrangement. Everyone at the party was sittin’ up and feet were tapping on the floor. The song and lyrics were a kind of autobiography of Renee’; she’s a rebel with a cause. It’s a high energy jumpin’ blues.

The second tune "Callin’ It Quits" featured Renee’s vocal stretching. The background harmonies of the ladies and James Walsh were so damn tight I got goose bumps. Renee’s lyrics: "We say things we regret, cuts that sting, we won’t soon forget. We could end this before it starts, words don’t break bones, but they sure break hearts," make this a total song for the vocalist. Renee’ stretches her voice a bit on the bridge. My friend Fritz, an honest woman with Chicago roots said "great tune, great writing, great harmonies. I caught her on the bridge though. She’s stretching, she could throw in some more soul type vocal notes."

"The Accused" is the third song up. A gospel rock tune where Kenny Wilson’s guitar and James Walsh on piano and organ brought the feeling in the song out. Harmonies from the ladies were tight and in the pocket. The fourth song up, "One Man Woman" was everyone’s favorite. Again guitar work and hook from Kenny Wilson got you dancin’. Suddenly, your foot is tappin’; or you’re movin’. A jumpin’ blues features Renee’s vocal phrasing with soul in her voice. Good solid bass and drums. You’re hooked. Kathryn Vaherra said This was her favorite, good lyrics with true words and it’s got the rhythm going." "Pillow" was another favorite. The guitar intro kicks with Renee’ announcing: "Boy are you in trouble now! I put your pillow in the bathtub, you can sleep in there. You’ve been mean and nasty to me, you got a hangover? Baby I don’t care. Your remote is in the out-house. You can fish it out." Good fun and great comedy. The bass and drums are rolling and kicking - the real backdrop to this tune. A true Texas Jumpin’ blues song with a sense of humor. This song can’t miss.

"It’s All A Game," seventh song up, features Mick Sterling on Duet. Both Renee’ and Mick just sound "too damn good together," my friend Linda stated. I wish I could hear more of both of them, they complimented each other so well. One of Renee’s best vocal works in my opinion is this song with Mick. Lydia Flores stated "great lyrics, good writing again, Mick Sterling added awesome feeling to his tune."

"Catfish Woman," is a great story song about a woman who has lost a husband to an alligator in 1951 in the bayou and a boy to rheumatic fever and is living her days out on the backwater of the bayou. Great slide guitar work. "Swing" was arranged by James Walsh, featuring those horns accenting it just right. It’s a fast paced R&B tune that’s just right for dancing. The last song, also the title song, "Dancin’ With Mr. Blues" was a slow blues about falling in love. The guitar work and organ stand out strong along side Renee’s vocals.

All in all, I enjoyed this CD and would recommend it for your Blues Women collection. I received some further opinions I’ll share with you. Rob Mullen said "powerful voice, powered by guitar work; bass, drums and keys brought it together. Vocal parts at time seemed the same. Could use more harmonies. Great musicians." Vincente Colunga stated, "this young lady has spunk, pizzazz and extraordinary energy to accomplish her goals. I think her talent will allow her to achieve them, as shown in this CD." Steve Travino said, "good music, great rhythm and blues, great duet with Mick Sterling." As you can see, she’s got some new fans and I want to express my thanks to everyone who took the time to help with this review of this fine new release from Renee’ Austin.

Jean Verstraete

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