10 tracks; 34 minutes
Although the debut release from this Toronto-based band looks like a completely amateur affair with hand-drawn cover work and track notes the CD is actually great fun, blending obscure tunes from ‘sassy’ lady singers of the past with a few originals. Fronting the band on vocals and bass is the Bad Luck Woman herself, Raha Javanfar; her Misfortunes are Fraser Melvin on guitar and vocals, Andrew Moljgun on sax, Tom Moffett on trumpet, Jay Swinnerton on piano and vocals and Jonathan Hyde on drums. On four tracks Galen Pelley and Adam Beer Colacino appear on drums and guitar respectively.
The band tackle two songs from the late 40’s associated with Julia Lee, both full of double meanings: “Snatch & Grab It” opens the album with frantic piano and drums behind Raha’s vocals, breakneck guitar from Adam and a short sax break that recalls the honkers of the post-war period; “Spinach Song” has some fine honky-tonk piano and, in case you were wondering, the song is definitely not about the green vegetable. The title track is a Memphis Minnie tune with modern additions by Raha and “No More Love” is from the Ella Johnson songbook with a fine horn arrangement. More obscure are “I Don’t Know About You”, written by Judis Roxborough and recorded by Lloyd Nolan in 1962 (here given a mambo feel by The Misfortunes) and a drinking song from 1954 by Melvin Smith, “It Went Down Easy”, complete with suitably drunken sounding trumpet. “That’s A Pretty Good Love” was covered by Little Feat on their 1995 album Ain’t Had Enough Fun but BLW’s inspiration is undoubtedly Big Maybelle’s version from 1956. A 1955 single by Dolly Cooper is the source for “Ay La Bah”, a jolly singalong tune to close the album.
Apart from the previously mentioned additions to Memphis Minnie’s song there are two originals: Fraser shares lead vocals with Raha on his tune “The Way You Love” which musically fits well with the retro style of the rest of the album, especially Tom’s trumpet solo; Raha’s “Take Our Time Together” is a straight love song, beautifully played but rather different to the rest of the album.
Raha’s voice is well suited to all these songs and she commands the listener’s attention. Hearing these fairly obscure numbers from the late 40’s to the early 60’s is enjoyable and the band’s playing is excellent, making the project well worth exploring. This reviewer’s only regret is that there were not a couple more tracks to extend the listening pleasure beyond 34 minutes. Mind you, many LP’s were about this length back in the day but we have become spoiled by the additional capacity of CDs!