Like their showcases for local blues players on guitar, harmonica, and piano, the Ladies Sing the Blues night again demonstrated how much talent there is among musicians in the Twin Cities. All of the lady singers performed ably on stage, with a range of styles, experience, and exposure that made for a great evening of music that the enthusiastic crowd appreciated. The staff at Whiskey, along with the sponsors, performers, and many musicians and fans who turned out to play or listen made for a special night of blues-based music at the Junction.
Lisa Wenger of the Mojo Band started things out with her strong, smooth voice on a short set of songs that ranged from pop rock to R&B to old blues with attitude. Her light, frothy "Chuck E's in Love" was followed by a little R&B and finally a strong, bluesy finish with her powerful, from the gut singing on "Please Don't Mess With My Man." Lisa showed good power and tone, particularly with her strong blues finish where she sang with attitude. The Mojo Band plays every Monday night at The MN Music Café and elsewhere around the Cities.
Moving things right along, Kathy Smithson and the Ronnie Lake Band took the stage. Playing accordion and singing, Kathy showed clear, expressive vocals with a pleasant tone. The long, steady, driving hypnotic beat of "Your No Good to Me" allowed Kathy to show both her vocal and accordion talents. Kathy finished off her set with campy, in your face blues with "Flaming Mamie" and "Wang Dang Doodle." She achieved a nice vibrato as she sang with energy and enthusiasm.
Next came Molly Nova and The Hawk, the relatively new band the Iowa transplant has put together since leaving her long-time partners in the Blue Band. This interesting band features the incredible electric fiddle of Molly and her strong, full, husky vocals delivered with style and power. The sound is a mixture of blues and rock with a Southern-fried edge. Molly's up-tempo, energetic playing and singing with passion on "Baby Please Don't Go" made this a highlight. As strong and passionate she can make her husky voice, nothing can match her incomparable sound on electric fiddle. Molly's "Turn Another Shade of Blue" was a beautiful, soulful blues-rock ballad where her low, sultry vocals were complemented by her superb fiddle playing. Molly's band plays regularly around town and was scheduled to open for Leon Russell Thursday night.
Reneé Austin stormed the stage next, dancing and singing on a set of mostly originals with some great covers mixed in. She wowed the crowd with her energy, range, and attitude on "Put Your Pillow in the Bath Tub." Reneé knows how to capture the crowd's attention with her energy and enthusiasm, getting the crowd up and dancing with the up-tempo, infectious "Swing." She capped things off with her full, rich vocal stylings with great soaring, piercing notes on her original "Little Bit of Texas." Reneé has been expanding her performing beyond the Twin Cities over the last year, having performed across the Midwest, at the Chicago Blues Festival, and opening just the night before for Lonnie Brooks outside Chicago. She is opening Friday and Saturday for Delbert McClinton.
Next up were the strong, sultry, and smooth vocals of Deb Brown backed by her band Blonde Faith. Her set ranged from funky rock to full-throated blues. She showed a nice touch of passionate soul on the slow, soulful "My Heart Is Aching." On the country rocker "If I Ever Fell in Love with You" she gave soulful, sensual vocals. Deb closed things out with powerful, soaring vocals and long held notes while singing from low and sultry to high and emotional on the old blues "Love Me Like a Man." Deb and her band appear regularly around the Cities.
Gabriela Sweet and her band Bayou Hazard then brought her great slide guitar, expressive vocals with a bit of twang and grit, and solid swamp blues to the stage. Her pleading song "Please Be Good to Me," was a nice bit of swamp blues, featuring her solid, tastefully expressive slide guitar and vocals. Gabriela gave an updated version of "My Baby Loves Shortening Bread" where her solid vocals blended seamlessly and effectively with her solid slide guitar. The highlight of Gabriela's set was her inspired, effective scat singing on "I Hate to Be Alone" where she matched her vocals with her smoothly rippling and ringing slide guitar for a great musical sound. Gabreila closed things out with sweetly ringing, repeating slide guitar and strong, expressive vocals on the New Orleans influenced "I Am a Country Gal" and "Beans and Greens." Her long, held notes on vocals and guitar and her energetic, enthusiastic performance were a treat.
Playing in the final slot was one of the Twin Cities youngest and newest lady blues singers, Lotus. Only a few months after forming a band and beginning to perform, she impresses people with her youthful energy and passion, as well as solid guitar playing and a surprisingly big, strong voice that seems aged and developed beyond her years. Her strong set featured slow, soulful blues to fast rocking blues with a good feel for changing tempos and moods. Sometimes she does that within the same song, starting out with slow, soulful, grinding guitar licks and soft sweet vocals that evolve into strong, loud and brassy guitar licks and vocals. On "Tell Me Baby" she revealed solid, slow picking and strong, passionate vocals. For someone who has not been performing live long, she shows good stage presence and the ability to capture and connect with the audience. Lotus' vocals have a sultry, sensual tone. Lotus closed out her set and the Ladies Sing the Blues night with her jangling guitar licks and dynamic vocals on "Bad Case of the Blues." While she may have lacked some of the sophistication and polish of the other performers, Lotus brings an energy and raw talent to the stage that will only improve with time. It's great to see a young lady with talent and desire who has respect for the music and musicians that came before her along with a desire to add her own sound to the rich history of Blues.
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