Guitar Angels Records
9 songs – 36 minutes
Usually, when a theater company decides to perform a play involving the blues, it recruits a vocalist from the music scene to carry the load. It’s highly unusual for an artist to take the reverse route. But that’s the case with Mary Jo Curry.
The Central Illinois resident studied voice and theater in college before taking her strong, sultry alto on the road with touring theater companies. She toiled before discovering her true love five years ago and making the jump to the blues.
Judging by this tasty eponymous debut CD, which was produced by guitarist James Armstrong, it was the right choice. She delivers this collection of four originals and five covers in addition to contributing six-string herself. She penned two of the songs and hubby Michael Rapier, who shares guitar duties with Armstrong, the two others. Rounding out the sound are bassists Darryl Wright and Lawrence Baulden, drummer Andrew Blaze Thomas, keyboardist Brett Donovan, a horn section of Dick Garretson (trumpet), Mike Gillette (sax) and Larry Niehaus (trombone) and backing vocals from L.A. Davison.
The Mary Jo original “Ooooo Weee” kicks off the set. It’s a loping shuffle that opens with a brief guitar instrumental before she opens her mouth and proves without a doubt that she means business. The song’s a celebration about waking up to discover that the man who’d shared her bed was gone and she was finally free. It features a swinging mid-tune solo from the horns with Garretson taking the lead. Curry’s attack is slightly and perfectly behind the beat.
Rapier’s “Husband #2” follows. It’s a medium-paced blues that features the guitars and is delivered as a full-throated threat to hubby No. 1 that the singer’s on the hunt for a replacement. A traditional take on Junior Wells’ “Little By Little” is up next, followed by a cover of the Tom Hambridge/Richard Fleming number, “Wrapped Around My Heart,” which appeared on James Cotton’s star-laden Cotton Mouth Man CD. It’s a slow, grinding ballad, and Mary Jo holds her own with Ruthie Foster, who handled the vocals on the previous release.
Curry obviously won’t back down to anyone. The next two numbers have been fixtures in two more female blues stars. Written by filmmaker/guitarist Byl Carruthers, “Steppin’” was first performed by his band, the cult favorites Café R&B, and featured dynamic powerhouse Roach on vocals. “Voodoo Woman” was part of Koko Taylor’s arsenal.
A cover of Dennis Walker’s “When A Woman’s Had Enough” precedes two more originals to conclude the set. Mary Jo’s “Homewrecker” is a straight-ahead walking blues sung from the view of one woman singing to another after the first lady’s man has hooked up with the vocalist. Curry’s lyrics make it quite clear that the real homewrecker in the situation was woman No. 1, and not her. The uptempo “Smellin’” brings the action to a close. Written by Michael, it’s delivered from the position of a woman whose nose tells her that her man’s been cheating again.
Available directly through the artist’s website (address above) Mary Jo Curry is a powerful debut release of the first order, she’s definitely worthy of a wider audience. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m pretty sure you will, too!