Every time I hear Deborah play I swear that her guitar playing continues to get better and better. One of the top women blues guitar players, she can hold her own with many of her male counterparts. Her second song, "I'm a Woman," let's you know just in case you missed that fact. Her searing guitar licks and rich, expressive vocals propelled this strong, heavy beat blues song. Though she is more of a guitar player than singer, Deborah has a nice blues voice, singing in big, contra-alto voice. Deborah brought her guitar playing from fast, hard hitting licks down to soft, slower and soulful playing. Then she slowly built it up again to a strong, driving, up-tempo finish. Deborah featured many songs off her live CD, "So Be It." "Don't Lie to Me" is a fast driving, funky beat blues song driven by her snarling guitar and rich, full sensual vocals. Deborah's heavy guitar licks moved into a strong boogie beat, where she switched and let rhythm guitarist Hiro Suzuki take the lead on his hollow body Gibson. His fast flowing, melodic chords were a lighter counterpoint to Deborah's heavy chords. She finished off the song, as she did many, by playing full, piercing chords as her hand slid up and down her guitar neck for a great slide sound.
Much of Deborah's music concerns relationships and surviving. As a result, she has many great slower, soulful tunes on her CD's. But tonight she was in an Albert Collins, power blues guitar mood and rarely played anything below a mid-tempo beat. On "My Heart Bleeds Blue" she played some great held and bent guitar notes as she brought her voice down low and sensual. Her tight rhythm section of Jason Paul on drums and Debbie Knight on 5-string bass provided a loud, strong, steady and funky groove that helped power her blues the whole night. The heavy rhythm groove served as a solid foundation for Deborah's fast singing and playing on the title track from I Can't Lose. Singing with a low, husky tone she made slow, controlled movements on stage, letting her monster guitar do the shaking and shouting.
Deborah captured the crowd with her powerful, grinding blues on "The Dream." Her strong, soulful vocals spiced with a nice, low vibrato served as a nice complement to her powerful guitar riffs. Moving between slower, soulful riffs into low, heavy, distorted guitar notes Deborah's guitar also rang out with piercing notes that put an exclamation point on her solid playing. Deborah has a talented band and she plays off them well. On the fast rumba beat of "Goodbye Misery" she and Hiro traded licks back and forth, eventually going into a long, Allman Brothers style jam with both of them playing wide open. Feeling the blues power surging through her, Deborah jumped off the low stage and strode right into the middle of the crowd and played fast and furious, bending and swaying as she played, eyes closed as she felt the passion of her playing.
All night Deborah proved to be personable and friendly, interacting with the crowd, feeding off their enthusiasm, and sharing her energy. Her songs seem closely grounded in reality and personal experience, as in "My Man Don't Love Me." She took this fast rolling blues song faster and slower with her playing, from snarling, in your face, to slow, expressive and sensual, back to sharp, fast, jangling chords featuring some great back picking. Several times she gave tastes of her greatest influence, Albert Collins. After breaking a string on her Gibson, she switched to her Fender Telecaster. She proceeded to deliver some of the hottest, snarling, powerful guitar riffs of the night, filled with energy and emotion. Her great fast playing and repeating chords are amazing considering how calmly she stands erect playing with a minimum of movement about the stage.
Deborah shows a guitar mastery that would make Collins proud. After dedicating "The Man is Mine" to all the gentleman, and all the bad boys, too, she played funky, chopped off licks while singing in her rich, low voice with lots of vibrato. She played short, funky chord progressions and shook and moved her guitar about for vibrato. Deborah brought down the house with her powerful, ringing, repeating guitar licks on "Losing My Mind." Again she took the crowd's energy and emotions up and down as she started out strong and loud, brought it down for some great slow, soulful picking, and brought it back up again for some fast, blazing blues guitar. Still the crowd had not had enough, so Deborah and the Thrill Seekers went back up and delivered the fast-rolling blues of "Travelling South." The entire band played fast and strong as Deborah played stinging guitar licks, sang strong and expressively, and brought things to a fast, furious finish.
Deborah Coleman's appearance was the third in the Winter Meltdown Series, that began with Hadden Sayers in February, featured Lamont Cranston next, and concludes with Tinsley Ellis April 3rd. Promoter Mark Townsend, who brought the blues to Rochester for many years at Mugzee's, put the series together with local sponsorship. He plans to continue bringing blues to Rochester in the months ahead.
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