12 songs – 53 minutes
Deb Ryder’s third album picks up where her outstanding sophomore release, Let It Rain (reviewed in the 05 May 2015 issue of Blues Blast Magazine), left off. Featuring 12 original tracks written by Ryder; crystalline production by Tony Braunagel; a crack band featuring Braunagel on drums, Ric Ryder on bass, Johnny Lee Schell and Kirk Fletcher on guitars and Mike Finnigan on keys (along with a range of special guests); all topped off with Ryder’s powerful, distinctive vocals, Grit Grease & Tears is an album to savour.
Kicking off with the upbeat shuffle of “Ain’t Gonna Be Easy”, Ryder convincingly inhabits the characters in her lyrics when she admits: “I’m no devil, I’m no saint, I’m somewhere in between. I got issues, bad habits, I get a little mean….. If that’s the woman you need, only one thing is guaranteed: it ain’t gonna be easy… it ain’t gonna be easy, but a whole lotta fun.”
As explored in the Blues Blast Magazine article on her in the 22 February 2016 cover story, Ryder has a fascinating history, but the glowing acclaim she has received over the last few years is actually a reflection of the woman’s serious talent as a singer and songwriter.
Ryder and crew happily essay a range of blues styles across the album, from the traditional shuffle of “Aint’ Gonna Be Easy” to the funk-blues of “Get A Little Steam Up” and “Panic Mode”, the roots-Americana of “Blink Of An Eye” (with great slide guitar from Johnny Lee Schell), the Delbert McClinton-esque “Just Her Nature (featuring guest Albert Lee on guitar), the grinding stomp of “New Mechanic (Patrick’s Blues)” and the gospel-blues of “Rivers Forgiveness”. “Prisoner Of War” recalls the Texas boogies of ZZ Top while “Sweet Mary Anne” even mines a joyful soul-pop seam.
Highlights abound throughout, but the haunting title track, with the great Bob Corritore’s harp twisting around an echoey, reverb-laden guitar, all underscoring Ryder’s powerful, impassioned vocals, is a classic-in-waiting.
Having started with the shuffle of “Ain’t Gonna Be Easy”, Grit Grease & Tears goes full circle for the closing track, “Right Side Of The Grass”, a swinging shuffle that highlights an irrepressible toe-tapping groove as various solos are traded by the players.
With special guests including Sugaray Rayford, Jim Pugh, Joe Sublett, Darrell Leonard, Kenny Gradney and Pieter Van Der Pluijm as well as the aforementioned Corritore and Lee, there might have been a risk that Grit Grease & Tears could have sounded like a disparate collection of session musicians recording the tracks but this is emphatically not the case. To the contrary, there is a unity, a sense of cohesion and even personality to the songs that makes the album feel like it was recorded by a long-established band – to the credit of all the players involved.
Grit Grease & Tears is a very impressive release and should ensure that Ryder’s career continues its dramatic upwards trajectory. She has all the talent and tools required to succeed and this writer looks forward with enthusiasm to following her continuing journey.