CrossCut Records – 2015
15 tracks: 50 minutes
Germany’s Blues Shacks have been around for a while and have issued several fine albums but this is their first with female singer Bonita Niessen from South Africa. Bonita’s soulful vocals add an extra dimension to a band that can play everything from swing to soul. Andreas Arlt is the guitarist here and readers may recall his fine solo album All-Time Favorites back in 2011. With brother Michael on harp/vocals the rest of The Blues Shacks are Fabian Fritz on keys, Henning Hauerken on bass and Andre Werkmeister on drums. The music comes from a variety of sources including soul, Rn’B and rock and roll classics plus two originals penned by Bonita and the Arlt brothers.
Opener “Don’t Call Me Babe” sounds like an old soul tune but is an original, Bonita and Michael sharing vocals with swirling organ and ringing guitar over a pumping rhythm section performance. It is interesting to compare that with “Love Ain’t Never Hurt Nobody” which is real old school soul, Andreas’ guitar work sounding absolutely authentic as Bonita proves herself a fine singer of this style.
The focus changes for Leiber & Stoller’s “Turn The Lamps Down Low” with its loping rhythm, Bonita and Michael sounding pretty sexy in their exchanges, Michael supplying a suitably breathless harp solo to match the mood! We return to classic soul with a great version of “You Keep Me Hanging On” which Bonita sings brilliantly and Andreas shows his mastery of that Memphis rhythm style. “This Little Girl’s Gone Rockin’” was written by Bobby Darin and Mann Curtis and clocks in at under two minutes – very short and sweet! Another side of Darin’s writing appears later with the gorgeous ballad “I’ll Be There” on which Bonita’s vocal recalls Natalie Cole to these ears.
Magic Sam’s “Give Me Time” sounds good in a soulful rendition with Fabian and Andreas taking excellent short solos. The band demonstrates its versatility with the amusing shuffle “Sure Cure For The Blues”, Buddy Johnson’s “Satisfy My Soul” and a latin groove on “You’re Driving Me Crazy” before the second original “Bad News” which fits perfectly with the tunes that precede it: Bonita sings this one in a tougher style and Andreas’ guitar fills take us into Texas territory in the style of Anson Funderburgh.
“I’m A Fool For You” is a lilting soul tune with Michael on lead vocal and Bonita harmonising well and “Be Cool” sounds like a lost Willie Dixon tune with Michael’s harp over a steady rhythm section and some clever lyrics: “Just watch the pussy cat, how he relaxes, while you run around all day worrying about taxes. Why don’t you be cool, have fun”. The band sets a frantic pace on Jimmy Preston’s “I’m Lonesome” before closing the album with the delicate ballad “Never Let me Go” which provides another showcase for Bonita’s lovely voice, perfectly suited to this sort of song but equally at home on everything heard here.
This is a superb album with a wide range of material, all well played and featuring a singer whose voice merits the widest exposure. Recommended!