Soul Stew Records CD-4206
7 songs – 31 minutes
Singer/songwriter/keyboard player Mary Hott steps out of the shadows for the first time to produce this interesting collection of jazz-tinged blues on this CD after serving for years as one of the most sought-after backup and session singers in New York.
A West Virginia native who was schooled at the prestigious Berklee College Of Music in Boston, she’s fronted 10-piece R&B ensembles in New England and jazz and swing bands in New York in addition to supporting other musicians. Her strong Southern gospel roots are clearly evident in her vocal delivery, which exhibits the polish of professional training. She’s backed here by a powerhouse band, which includes former Little Milton and Albert King guitarist Billy Thompson, sax legend Ron Holloway, keyboardist Wes Lanich and a rhythm section of bassists Tim Lyons and Daniel Zarcone and drummers Gary Rosensweig and Eric Selby.
Hott borrows the mystical title of this CD from Elizabeth Lesser’s book, Broken Open. Lesser describes a shaman lover as a person who enters suddenly enters your life and changes it dramatically on a subconscious level. For Hott, that lover was music, and this disc of original material is the result. Available through Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby, it fuses blues with rock and jazz into a seamless package.
First up, “Possibilities” kicks off with a bright sax solo before Hott launches into a funky message that you have to abandon needs to allow the spirit to set you free if you want to fulfill your dreams. Her delivery, which is slightly behind the beat, propels the music. Next up, a syncopated drum beat introduces “Shaman Lover,” in which Mary delivers a plea for the spirit to deliver her from the ashes of living a lie.
Thompson’s straight-ahead blues guitar stylings are featured on the sultry “Empty Again” as the singer carries the message forward. This time, she has to look within to find the cure for relationship problems with a man who “leaves my soul lost and longing.” Another strong guitar solo starts the uptempo “You Don’t See Me,” with Mary confused because the object of her affections hasn’t got a clue about her desire.
The pace slows as Hott delivers the ballad “I Think Of You,” the poignant recollection of a failed love affair from the perspective of someone who’s healed and moved on. But the pain returns with the memories. The mood brightens for the bluesy fast shuffle “Long Road To Travel,” which puts a positive spin on the future of a relationship with a true love who doesn’t even know you’re there, before “Shaman Lover (Reprise)” closes the set.
Available through Amazon, iTunes and CDBaby, this strong debut will leave you wanting more, both because of its brevity and its polish. All of the material shines with fresh polish. It will be interesting to hear what Mary has to say going forward.