13 tracks / 64:50
With its rich cultural history of jazz, rock, and the blues, the San Francisco Bay area launched many artists’ careers and has been a source of so much fantastic music over the years. None other than the late Etta James got her start in the Bay Area, and Oakland’s Terrie Odabi is doing a marvelous job of following in her footsteps. Terrie’s vocal skill and passion translate well to the studio, and her sophomore album, My Blue Soul, has everything going for it.
Terrie worked in the music business for years before releasing her 2014 debut album, Evolution of the Blues. Based on the pure awesomeness of this disc and her amazing performance ability, Odabi earned the right to be the Bay Area representative at International Blues Competition for 2014 and 2015, and both times she made it to the semi-finals. This lady is the real deal, and has earned all of the respect she gets.
My Blue Soul is a labor of love from Terrie, as she wrote eleven of the thirteen tracks, and she poured her soul into recording the vocals. She made all the right moves to make sure this would be a good album, and the first step was bringing in Kid Anderson as the producer and engineer. Anderson knows how to construct a quality blues album, and it surely made his job easier to have Odabi and a crew of more than a dozen top-shelf Bay Area musicians to work with.
The music is excellent, but Terrie’s lyrics are what really make the songs special. They are honest and relevant, drawing on personal and community experiences. The first track, “Gentrification Blues,” is a pointed social statement about folks who move into a neighborhood and then think they have the right to change the existing cultural norms. This fervent message is set to a hopping mixture of blues, funk, gospel, and rock with smoking organ and guitar from Anderson and thumping bass and drums from Kirk Crumpler and Derrick Martin.
“Born to Die” is a 1970s-issue jangly rock and roll revue with a “Foxy Lady” beat and the finely tuned horn section of Nancy Wright, Manny Angel, and Faris Jarrah – these cats are tight! The message here is that no matter what one’s station in life is, the end result is always the same so we should live accordingly. This track is backed up by the jazzy blues of “Life is so Good,” an autobiographical torch song from a woman whose life is good, so that she can’t believe that she’s singing the blues. This song features Terry Hiatt on lead guitar and cool muted trumpet from Angel.
There are a few songs about the difficulties of relationships, but the most uplifting is “When You Love Me,” a song that Odabi wrote to thank her love for his support during the production of this album. This is a barebones blues track with sexy vocals and the sparse instrumental accompaniment of just a pair of guitars manned by Anderson and AJ Crawdaddy. This is the perfect opportunity for listeners to hear Terrie’s voice, and her personality, inflection, and range are truly amazing.
The cover tunes are both neat songs that have special meaning to Terrie. She loves Big Mama Thornton, so “Ball and Chain” is a logical addition to the mix. This piece of straight-up blues is powerfully sung with sweet guitar leads from Kid and tasteful piano from Ken Cook. The other re-do is the traditional, “Wade in the Water,” reinterpreted as a gloriously soulful rhythm and blues tune. This spiritual is has a powerful place in US history, and the lovely backing vocals of Courtney Knott, Lisa Leuschner Anderson, and Niecey Robinson make this modern take complete.
This is an excellent sophomore effort from Terrie Odabi, and it is a testament to what this woman means for the future of blues. This disc is full of poignant songs that are recorded well and appeal to both traditional and modern blues audiences, making it one of the best releases of 2016. and it will be awesome to see what she comes up with next!