VizzTone Label Group/Squeeze Play Records
CD: 10 songs; 51:17 Minutes
Styles: Mellow Folk and Soul-Influenced Blues, Blues Covers
Blues music doesn’t have to be overly loud or vocally ‘in-your-face’ to be good. A case in point is Cathy Lemons, originally from Dallas, Texas, but now an artist who has been a regular performer in the San Francisco Bay Area for twenty-five years. She’s worked with some of the most well-known artists in the genre including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Anson Funderburgh, John Lee Hooker (according to her website, she toured as his send-off singer in 1987), Tommy Castro, Chris “Kid” Andersen, and many others. Sporting a feathery costume on the CD cover that makes her look more like the statuesque ballerina of the movie “Black Swan” than the bird in the title, Cathy now presents Black Crow. It’s her third release, following her year-2000 debut Dark Road and 2010’s Lemonace. Her style is mellow and hypnotic, but never tedious. With her are guitarist/vocalist/percussionist Stevie Gurr, bassist Paul Olguin, drummers D’Mar and Robbie Bean, and pianist/organist Kevin Zuffi. Special guest stars are Doug James on baritone and tenor saxophones, Volker Strifler on lead guitar, and Kid Andersen on organ and sound effects. There are ten songs – six originals and four covers – and these three are the finest of the former:
Track 03: “Black Crow” – Gentle yet ominous, this album’s title track takes a surprising turn. These avians have been portrayed in literature and music as omens of death or other misfortune: “There’s a black crow; he’s maimed, but he dropped down to visit me. He circled round and round, won’t let me go, won’t set me free.” Later on, we find out what he represents – our narrator’s lover: “You’re my maimed black crow, baby. All I want is your wings around me. I swear we’ve both got to burn, but I’ll take you with me.” Lemons performs humming harmony with herself, while co-producer Kid Andersen provides cawing sound effects.
Track 04: “Hip Check Man” – Pouring on the hot sauce, Cathy is sure to tingle listeners’ aural taste buds with the very next song. She’s so desirous of the titular character that she doesn’t care if she’s his one-and-only. “I don’t mind you got another girl; she ain’t gonna take care of you like I do.” Co-producer Stevie Gurr’s harmonica rip-snorts throughout this rowdy rendition.
Track 10: “The Devil Has Blue Eyes” – “The heart has no say; the devil has taken my love away. I can’t understand why he has treated me this way.” Such is the message of this haunting ballad. There’s a minimum of instrumentation, only superbly sultry vocals, creepy guitar, and mournful harp. One should listen to it at midnight with all the lights off at one’s own risk.
Cathy Lemons is no “Black Crow”, but a ‘black swan’ of the blues. If one’s favorite type is mellow and full of soul, then this album fits the ‘bill‘!