Between her older brother and BluesEd, a musical education program in Omaha, NE, Heather Newman got started at a young age. After a stint as a member of guitarist Nick Schnebelen’s band, which lead to a move to Kansas City, the bass player decided the time had come to form her own band. The first recording under her name puts her striking voice out front, backed by Keith Ladd on guitar, Ryan Flemmer on keyboards, and Cole Dillingham on drums and guitar, on a program that highlights Newman’s abilities as a songwriter.
Right from the start, Newman’s vocals dominate the proceeding, roaring with a fierce intensity on the swampy “Willie James,” then using a lighter touch over a rolling beat on “Bring The Swing”. Flemmer gives his piano for a ride on “Howling For Love” while Ladd impresses on his solo passage on “Love Strong”. The title track is a standout with a resonating bass line underneath a majestic vocal performance that erases any doubt listeners might have about Newman’s singing skills. “How Many Times?” may have a quirky rhythm but Newman again proves that she understands the art of singing, her voice generating plenty of emotional weight as it easily transitions from note to note without any hint of strain.
“High Mountain Blues” is a rugged shuffle with the leader’s sassy vocal playing off Ladd’s biting licks. Newman can barely contain herself on “Dirty Blues,” railing against life’s miseries with Michael Lefever’s sax creating a late-night vibe that brings to mind Tom Petty’s “Breakdown”. The band breaks out another familiar shuffle groove on “Share Your Love,” dominated by Flemmer’s reverberating organ fills. “’I Don’t Know Why” is another highlight, as Newman tears your heart out with a perfectly executed, emotionally intense performance. She swears off another another no-good, cheating lover on “I’m Through With You,” leaving no doubt who is better off. She trades phrases with Ladd, moaning the blues to a fadeout ending, then the band returns for a brief dialogue between Ladd and Flemmer on piano.
Newman certainly straddles that middle ground where blues and rock intersect, but for once, the blues influences have the upper hand. Heather Newman has written a solid batch of tunes – and when they are fleshed out by her compelling voice, every song becomes noteworthy. On the evidence here, her solo career is off to rousing start. Make sure you jump on the bandwagon now. I suspect that we are going to be hearing from Heather Newman for a long time.