Vanja Sky – Bad Penny
CD: 12 Songs, 42:00 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Electric Rock & Blues Rock, Jazz, All Original Songs, Debut Album
There’s a good reason why the website of Vanja (pronounced “Vanya”) Sky has “.rocks” on the end. To wit: Her first release, Bad Penny, is a rock album. There’s one catchy blues-rock track (reviewed below), a couple mellow jazz/easy-listening numbers, and a fret-load of guitar monster R&R. Vocally, Vanja is Croatia’s answer to Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones, with a bit of Ana Popovic thrown in. There’s a phlegmatic, nonchalant style to her singing, perfect for coffee shops and nightclubs the world over. However, her guitar is a different story. It roars and rages with the ferocity of rush-hour traffic in New York City. No one can accuse Vanja of holding back on instrumentation. She’s also put forward twelve original tracks, a bold tactic when traditional blues covers might have been a safer bet. For one’s opening move in the blues rock/hard rock scene, it’s an aggressive gambit.
Most musicians who turn their avocation into their vocation start young and hone their art for years before putting out an album. On the contrary, Ms. Sky was inspired at the age of nineteen to pick up a shredder, get good, and get better. “It was crazy,” she reveals on her webpage, describing a pivotal visit to a live venue near her hometown of Buzet. “There was a special energy in the air. I can’t even describe it. I decided I wanted to play guitar right then and there – and when I decide something, I just have to do it.” She’s since found a home in Germany’s Ruf Records, with Thomas Ruf and blues rock maverick Mike Zito co-producing her debut.
Joining Vanja (lead guitar and vocals) are Mike Zito on rhythm guitar; Terry Dry and Dave Smith on bass guitar; Matthew Johnson and Yonrico Scott on drums, and Lewis Stephens on piano and organ.
The following track is the clearest example of blues rock as most blues-rock fans recognize it.
Track 07: “Give Me Back My Soul” – Lucky number seven will get people dancing, whether live or at home. Vanja gives George Thorogood a serious run for his money in the first couple of notes. “Give me back my soul. It’s only rock and roll,” she pleads in a refrain to which no one will have trouble singing along. Dave Smith lays down a gritty bassline, but the highlight is when Vanja plays her guitar in a chugga-chugga rhythm for emphasis on the bouncy beat.
Vanja has the guitar chops and musical presence to make it big on any stage, but traditional genre aficionados may say blues isn’t her niche. Not yet, anyway.