Suzie Vinnick – Shake the Love Around
12 songs/45 minutes
Bonnie Raitt created a blues-informed style of pop music with her landmark recordings Nick of Time and Luck of the Draw. The influence has spread in many different ways informing legends like Taj Mahal, Gen-X’ers like Susan Tedeschi and traditionalist like Keb’ Mo. Suzie Vinnick has taken a step into this radio friendly world with Shake the Love Around. This record is a flawlessly performed collection of feel good music. This is an artistic pivot in style for the Canadian Vinnick who up to this point has primarily been a folky acoustic performer.
Suzie’s last record, 2012’s Me n’ Mabel, was an ode to the solo acoustic blues and her beloved acoustic parlor guitar. Shake the Love Around still has a sort of solo vibe in that Suzie plays all the guitar and bass parts, save cameo solos by slide guitar aces Colin Linden and Kevin Breit. However, unlike most of her past outings, the 6-stringed instruments on this record are primarily electric. The music is fortified with drums by Gary Craig, occasional keys by co-producer Mark Lama, saxophones by Johnny Johnson and background vocals by Dean McTaggart and David Leask. Vinnick and band work through styles. There are funky jams (“Happy as Hell” and “Lean Into the Light”), deep soulful dives (“Creaking Pines” and “Danger Zone”), and feel good romps (“All I Want to Do” and “The Golden Rule”). However, there is great consistency because of Suzie’s singular talent as a singer and guitarist/bassist.
The best summation of Vinnick’s Raitt inspired aesthetic is the standout original “Beautiful Little Fool.” A hopping syncopated groove gives way to an emotionally sung chorus “such a beautiful little fool, can’t believe you fell for me, opened up the door to my heart, you set me free.” A fun guitar solo, washes of accordion and a simple but perfectly thumping drum pattern tie this little ditty up into a nice clean easy listening package.
Vinnick is a clever song writer. Songs like the above mentioned “Beautiful Little Fool,” as well as “Happy as Hell” and “Lean Into the Light,” are well structured pieces with clear message and poetic simplicity. However, songs “The Golden Rule” and “Find Some Freedom” are a little too obvious. Although both are well structured and the instrumentation is impeccable, the lyrics are a little simplistic and platitude riddled. A small quip for what are such great sounding and well sung performances.
Although Shake the Love Around has that distinct Bonnie Raitt sound, Suzie Vinnick is not simply a Bonnie wannabe. Vinnick’s voice is strong and clear, the timbre of her voice unique and reassuring. Suzie has more Big Mama Thornton and Bessie Smith in her voice than Raitt’s Ruth Brown/Etta James influence. Additionally Suzie’s guitar playing is strong, muscular and flat picked unlike Bonnie’s virtuoso finger picked Piedmont and electric slide styles. Suzie’s multi-instrumentalist skill on bass is jaw dropping. Check out the solo performance of Percy Mayfield’s “Danger Zone” in which Vinnick sings the prophetic song about the “world in an uproar” simply accompanied by her own bass playing.
Suzie Vinnick is a unique talent; a triple threat singer/songwriter/guitarist. She is emotive, joyous and funky all in the same song. Shake the Love Around is a great evolutionary step for this thoughtful and engaging artist.