Misty Blues Band – Call & Response
Self-Released, May 2018
11 songs – 49 minutes
Massachusetts-based Gina Coleman – former Middle School Principal and Women’s Rugby Coach by day, blues singer by night – entered the music scene in the early 90’s as the lead singer of the folk-rock group Cole-Connection. It wasn’t until 1999 when she played a gospel singer in the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” that she began her trek to path of the blues. The lead actor in that production, Rubin Santiago-Hudson, told Coleman that he thought her voice was well-suited to singing classic blues styles, a sentiment echoed by noted stage and screen performer, Mandy Patinkin, who had sought her out with encouragement, after seeing the opening performance of that production. Stantiago-Hudson also turned Coleman on to a compilation album, Men Are Like Streetcars, that featured various female blues singers from 1928-1969, names like Billie Holiday, Memphis Minnie, Koko Taylor, Etta James, Big Mama Thornton, and Irma Thomas. The album proved to be a great source of inspiration for Coleman.
Coleman eventually paired-up with guitarist Jason Webster and bassist Bill Patriquin from Cole-Connection, and that was the beginning of Misty Blues. Misty Blues pays homage to the brassy blueswomen and the classic male blues artists of first half of the 20th century. Call & Response is their sixth studio album, and is an impressive collection of primarily up-tempo original blues tunes, flavored with some jazz, gospel, and funk seasoning. All but two of the tracks were written by Coleman. Personnel for this album include vocalist and bandleader Coleman; Webster on guitar; Patriquin on bass, vocals and trumpet; Ben Kohn on keyboards and vocals; Rob Tatten on drums; and Aaron Dean on sax. Guest artists include David Vittore on accordion and Diego Mongue on bass.
From the opening track, “Hear My Call,” a stripped-down, Gospel-infused moan, the first thing that hits you is Coleman’s powerful, contralto voice… and it’s a voice to be reckoned with. Accompanied by just an electric slide guitar dripping with tremolo and a bit of grind, Coleman channels Mahalia Jackson while soliciting guidance from her Lord. It gave me chills the first time I heard it… and the second time… and the third time. It’s that kind of voice. Throughout the album, Coleman’s distinctive voice drives each song with a power and authenticity that can only be matched by a relatively small number of her contemporaries.
The second track, “I Ain’t Yellah,” has a ragtime Gospel feel, as the band locks into a sweet groove, while Coleman tells a tale with which many blues performers can identify: “I ain’t yellah, ain’t got much green, but I sing the blues!”
“Chasing Gold” is one of this collection’s many standout tracks, a funky boogie that highlights nicely the individual contributions of the band, and how well they can complement Coleman’s vocals. “Blues on My Heels” feels vaguely like a contemporary reworking of Otis Blackwell’s “Fever”, albeit with a bit of New Orleans funk pushing it into another realm completely. Ben Kohn delivers some great piano work on this one, and Jason Webster’s guitar solo on this track is solid, and suits the track perfectly.
“My Baby’s Gone” – written by Kohn – marries 50s Do-Wop with a touch of musical theater, while the distinctive shuffle beat of “Purdie’s Blues” is a wonderful tribute to the great Bernard Purdie, but with the band’s own unique spin.
“Heaven Sent” is a heartfelt soul ballad, and you can feel the emotion in Coleman’s voice. “Just Don’t Know Why” throws down an infectious New Orleans-style rumba, and you can’t help but tap your toes in time. “South Bronx Boogie” is an up-tempo boogie shuffle with a catchy call-and-response, and a fiery guitar solo by Webster.
“I Need More Light” is the one track that feels a bit out of place on this collection. Written by Webster, who also handles the vocal duties, it has the feeling of a 70s-era blues rocker. It’s not a bad song, but it just doesn’t quite fit-in with the overall flow of the rest of the CD.
The final song is a full band reworking of the opener, “Hear My Call.” Great song, great version, just different. I prefer the more spare arrangement of the earlier version, because it really highlight’s Coleman’s vocals, which are, as always, wonderful.
All in all, Call and Response is a CD that has easily withstood multiple listenings, and while the band is solid, I’m really drawn to Gina Coleman’s vocals. I’m looking forward to hearing the next album from this talented performer!