Ally Venable – Texas Honey
Ruf Records 1267
11 songs – 38 minutes
Barely out of her teens and based out of Kilgore, Texas, guitarist/vocalist Ally Venable has been making quite a splash in the Lone Star State since debuting at age 12. Now just a few months into her 20s, she enlisted guitar slinger Mike Zito to produce this disc and fellow axe man Eric Gales to make a guest appearance.
Long before she released her first album, No Glass Shoes, in 2016, after growing up singing in church and listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Miranda Lambert and other fellow Texan firebrands, the blues rocker was making waves. She’s a five-time winner of the East Texas Music Awards, capturing top honors twice each as female guitarist and band of the year and another for best album
Her debut release placed in 16th position on the Blues Music Reports electric blues charts, and her second release, last year’s Puppet Show, debuted at No. 7 on Billboard’s blues listings and finished the year in the top ten on iTunes charts. A longhaired stunner, she’s made a major impact touring in support of Gales and Lance Lopez
Like the title infers, Venable’s pipes are pure Texas honey, but her incendiary fretwork packs quite a sting as she fronts a power trio anchored by Bobby Wallace on bass and Elijah Owings on percussion. Lewis Stephens contributes keyboards throughout this disc, which was recorded at Marz Studios in Nederland, Texas. Zito lends a hand on slide and rhythm guitars on three cuts and backing vocals on a fourth while Gales adds his guitar and singing talents on another.
Despite their presence, however, Venable is unquestionably the star throughout this collection of nine originals.
“Nowhere To Hide” powers out of the gate with a stop-time guitar run as Ally comes face-to-face with her own cold heart and the trouble it brings, noting: “I don’t know/What’s got a hold of me./But it’s something that/I can’t keep under my sleeve.” The intensity continues for before “Broken,” the realization that the uncaring attitude she displayed in dealing with a cheating lover was nothing but a sham.
The self-descriptive title tune, “Texas Honey,” is up next. It’s a cautionary stop-time pleaser that warns: “I’m gonna take all your sugar/I’m gonna take all your money/Cause there ain’t nothing sweet about/This Texas honey.” Zito makes his first appearance to help out on the ballad “Blind To Bad Love,” the realization that, like practically everyone else, Ally wants something or someone she can’t get.
Gales joins the action for “Come And Take It,” a steady-moving rocker that advises a wary prospective lover that he’d better come and take her – if he’s man enough. A cover of Stevie Ray’s “Love Struck Baby” before Zito gets space to shine on “One-Sided Misunderstanding,” which describes the ashes left at the end of a romance.
“White Flag,” which follows, confronts a repeated liar with the warning that it’s time to surrender, a message that continues in “Long Way Home,” which advises that it’s time for him to hit the road, a theme delivered from another point of view in “Running After You,” which states that, if he goes, Ally won’t follow. The album closes with a loping, bluesy take on “Careless Love,” the jazz standard first popularized by Buddy Bolden in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th Century.
Available through most major retailers, Texas Honey, is sweet to the core if you love blues rock that sticks close to the root. A powerful performance from a true young star on the ascendant.