Rachelle Coba – Blink
11 songs – 41 minutes
Rachelle Coba turns up the heat dramatically on this CD, her first venture with the American Family Music label, delving far more deeply into soul-blues and roots than she’s ever gone before. That might come as quite a shocker for her legion of fans who know her as a singer/songwriter/guitarist. But her leap of faith will definitely prove to be a crowd pleaser.
Born in Fond Du Lac, Wis., to a Cuban father and mother from Wichita, Kan., Coba has split her time between the Midwest and South Florida, where she currently makes her home, for most of the past decade. She’s played both violin and guitar since childhood, eventually earning a bachelor of science degree in classical guitar performance from the University Of Miami.
Because of her classical training, Rachelle’s developed a unique style of finger-picking on the six-string. She became interested in the blues while still in high school after witnessing Lonnie Mack and Stevie Ray Vaughan in performance and getting to see and meet Buddy Guy. She polished her skills at the regular Monday night jams at Tobacco Road, a legendary club that hosted the blues for more than 100 years, playing alongside a host of major talent, including Guy himself.
Before forming her own group, she worked and toured with Coco Montoya, Johnny Winter, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Albert Castiglia, Super Chikan and Grady Champion. She’s represented both the Wichita and Topeka blues societies in the International Blues Challenge, and her only previous release, Mother Blues, was a 2014 Blues Blast Music Awards nominee for best new debut CD. Her work featured prominently on Liz Mandeville’s 2016 The Stars Motel release, which included six tunes co-written by the duo.
Don’t be fooled by her mild-mannered appearance. She’s a rock-steady guitarist who possesses a singing voice that can blow the roof off of any venue in which she appears.
This all-original album was co-produced by John Ginty, an electrifying keyboard player who’s star in his own right in addition to his work with Poppa Chubby, Sean Chambers, Castiglia and others, and Ben Elliott, who recorded, mixed and edited it for New Jersey-based American Family Music, which he co-owns. It features Rachelle on guitar and vocals backed by Ginty on Hammond B3 and other keys with Paul Kuzik on bass and Andrei Koribanics on percussion. Jimmy Bennett of the Bennett Brothers makes a guest appearance on dobro for one cut.
A simple keyboard arpeggio opens and provides accompaniment to Coba as she delivers the first verse of “High And Dry.” But the music explodes quickly into a driving blues as she complains about being caught off-guard by a lover who’s both cheated and lied. The feel gets funky for “Dance These Blues Away” as Rachelle plans a new wardrobe and new look for a night of partying that’s guaranteed to reduce her pain. Her single-note guitar run mid-tune is stellar, and her vocals are dynamic.
Up next, “Good Ole Heartbreak” is a soulful, bittersweet ballad with an old-school, slow-dance feel. Like an old friend, its timing is perfect, she says, always knowing when to come around. The mood brightens, the pace quickens and the sound gets funky again for “No Deals,” which assures listeners that she might run across the Devil at the Crossroads, but she’ll never sell her soul — a warning that Satan’s living both in the world and in your mind.
Co-written with Mandeville and first appearing on her CD, the bare-bones “River Of Blood” comes across with a Hill Country feel as it paints a picture about slavery and the ghosts that still inhabit the fields. The title tune, “Blink,” is a jazzy ballad that suggests that dreams – and wishes – do come true. The pace quickens for the driving “Bad Reputation,” the realization that she should have walked away from an ex instead of deciding to stay. The feeling continues in the ballad “You Stole My Heart” with the action so swift that it’s left the singer in a daze.
The medium-paced “Shuffle Ya” is pure funk, while “Maybe” is the first of two unhurried ballads. This one questions the singer’s state of mind and obsessive thoughts about a man while “Blame It On The Blues,” which brings the album to a close, finds Coba still waiting for the man to change his ways.
Rachelle Coba is an understated powerhouse who deserves your attention and your ear. Available through Amazon and other outlets, Blink is a treasure trove of great new songs displayed at their best. Strongly recommended.