On the first really cold, snowy night of the fall, I made my way to St. Cloud, Minnesota from the Twin Cities to listen to some really hot blues by Joanna Connor. Joanna Connor and her searing slide guitar work have been raising the eyebrows of blues aficionados and critics everywhere ever since she stepped off of a Greyhound bus in Chicago circa 1984. Along with several members of a multi-cultural music class from St. Cloud State University and the usual packed house at Legend's, every one was treated to a great show by one of the most underrated guitars in Chicago blues.
Connor's three sets at Legend's included numerous songs from her latest (and rather hard to get) release on INAK Records, Nothing But The Blues. Backed by an excellent band that included Anthony Palmer on guitar, Bryan T on drums and Stan Mixon on bass, Connor displayed her awesome talents as a guitarist, a singer and a band leader. This was the first time I have seen the four-piece version of the Joanna Connor Band. In the past, I have only seen her perform with a drummer and bassist, with Anthony Palmer shifting from guitar to bass in the three-piece set-up.
Connor's sets included a combination of instrumentals, originals and covers of some classic blues songs. On songs like "Walkin' Blues," Connor was impressive with her incredible slide work and her bluesy vocals. "Dr. Feelgood," from Nothing But The Blues, included some blistering guitar Connor that got the audience movin' and groovin' to her sound. She also did a good job of sharing the spotlight with Anthony Palmer who proved to be an exceptional guitarist as well on "You're Going With Me" and "Sissy Strut."
In addition to the usual mix of blues, blues-rock and r+b, Joanna pulled a rabbit out of her hat during the second set when she broke into a reggae tune called "Smoke It Up," from her 1996 CD, Big Girl Blues. Along with the originals like "I Got To Have You," "Playin' In The Dirt" and "Heaven Is Right Here," Connor and company did nice work on covers of classics like "Statesboro Blues," Taj Mahal's "Goin' Fishin'" and Janis Joplin's hit "Piece of My Heart." Her lightning fast lead solos and incendiary slide guitar were, as always, amazing to behold.
Fortunately, Legend's is just an easy one hour drive from my home in the Twin Cities because it was as close as Joanna would get to Minneapolis-St. Paul on her latest tour. After hearing her play (it had been a couple of years), I knew that it had been well worth the trip!
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.