Ally Venable Band – Puppet Show
10 tracks / 52:56
Ally Venable is member of the newest generation of blues artists, but after hearing her tasty blues-rock it is evident that her voice and guitar chops are well advanced beyond her age. Venable hails from East Texas and like many other great blues vocalists, she got her start singing in church. Ally progressed on to the guitar, and her hard work on that instrument resulted in back-to-back Female Guitar Player of the Year awards at the East Texas (ETX) Music Awards. This is quite an accomplishment for an artist who is not quite old enough to drink in the bars she has performed in!
There are two more members of the Ally Venable Band: Elijah Owings on guitar and Bobby Wallace on the bass. These fellows have mad skills too, and this powerful trio has garnered three Blues Band of the Year awards at the ETX Music Awards. These folks recently hit the studio to record the follow up to their well-regarded debut album, No Glass Shoes, and Puppet Show is indeed a worthy successor. Ally wrote eight of the ten tracks on this disc and laid down the vocal and guitar tracks; the band got a little help from a handful of super-talented guest artists, and you will find that the results are impressive.
Kicking off the set is an original tune, “Devil’s Son,” a sharp rocker with a country feel, and an extra dose of guitar courtesy of Gary Hoey. Ally’s vocals are strong, which is appropriate for these lyrics that describe a no-good man. “Bridges to Burn,” which features Venable’s mentor, guitarist Lance Lopez, follows this up. This burner has nice interplay between the guitars, including some slick doubled parts, and the vocals are a bit edgier. Next on the list is “Cast Their Stones” which has a lovely 1970s AOR sound with Owings taking a faster tempo on the drums while Wallace gets funky on the bass. The guitar and vocals are also more processed on this track, and the effect is breathtaking.
There are two cover tunes in the middle of the set, and the first of these is a Bessie Smith song from 1927, “Backwater Blues.” This song builds from a traditional introduction that soon shifts into a full-on rocking Texas blues jam that features the harp of Steve Krase. The second re-do is “He Caught the Katy” by Taj Mahal, with a few changes to reflect the different pronoun in the title. Krase returns for this song and is joined by Eric Steckel on the organ, and once again Venable’s guitar tone and vocal inflections are second to none.
The title track starts the second half of the set, and “Puppet Show” is a radio-friendly song with heartfelt lyrics and deft solo work from Ally. There is also more of Steckel’s B3, which is the perfect accent for this power ballad. “Comfort in my Sorrows” slows the pace even more, which really allows Venable’s soulful vocals to shine, and there is some tasteful extended guitar soloing to close it out. After this interlude, the band goes back into roadhouse mode with “Survive,” which has hammering drums and fat bass, along with one last shot of the Hammond organ. “Waste it on You” revisits the theme of a man who is not deserving of a second thought, and this is the last song before the finale, “Sleeping Through the Storm.” The closer is a high-energy boogie that provides one last chance to hear Ally’s talented guitar playing, and to consider a positive message that encourages the listener to rise above adversity.
The Ally Venable Band has minted blues-rock gold with Puppet Show, which is chock full of solid musicianship and well crafted tunes. The band has a lot on their plate with gigs all over the eastern half of the US in the next few months, including shows with Gary Hoey, Bernard Allison, and Mike Zito. Head over to their website to read about their tour and make sure you click on the “Music” tab to hear samples from their albums. If you are a fan of blues-rock you will definitely be impressed!