Whitney Shay – Stand Up!
Ruf Records – 2020
12 tracks; 44 minutes
Last year San Diego’s Whitney Shay was nominated for the Blues Blast Sean Costello Rising Star category and made a great impression at the Awards show. This year she was scheduled to be one third of the 2020 Ruf Blues Caravan tour (alongside Jeremiah Johnson and Ryan Perry) and, on the evidence of this disc, she would have blown the roof off the places they played – let’s hope that Ruf can reorganise the tour after the current Coronavirus crisis. This album was recorded in Austin, Texas, with a great band: Laura Chavez on guitar, Red Young on keyboards, Chris Maresh on bass and Brannen Temple and Tommy Taylor sharing the drum seat. Sax player Kaz Kazanoff arranged and produced the album and he and his fellow Texas Horns, John Mills on baritone and Al Gomez on trumpet, are on most of the tracks. Guest appearances come from Marcia Ball on piano, Guy Forsyth on vocals and resonator guitar, Derek O’Brien on slide guitar, Alice Sadler on backing vocals and Charles Godfrey on cowbell. Whitney handles the vocals on ten originals written by herself and Adam J Eros and two covers, all of which mine the soul/Rn’B sound extremely well.
The title track kicks things off in dramatic style, a horn-heavy Rn’B tune with a great guitar solo, and is immediately followed by “Someone You Never Got To Know” in which Whitney does not know how to mourn the passing of someone she hoped to know better, emotional lyrics over a catchy soul tune for which Laura Chavez gets a co-write credit. The horns sit out “Equal Ground” as Derek O’Brien’s slide and Laura’s guitar give a swampy, rocking feel to the song before Whitney puts an ego-driven guy in his place on “P.S. It’s Not About You”. Red’s churchy organ introduces “I Thought We Were Through”, a song in which Whitney sounds very firm in putting her ex straight, the lovely ballad including a fine Kaz sax solo.
Guy Forsyth duets with Whitney on the funky “Far Apart (Still Close)” and adds his resonator to “Boy, Sit Down” alongside Marcia Ball’s piano. This is a foot-stomper with some fine trumpet work as Whitney firmly establishes who is in control of their relationship! In fact it is clear that Whitney is a lady who likes to be in charge and the last two tracks on the album both follow that theme, “Getting In My Way” being a fine piece of soul-blues and “Change With The Times” an uptempo tune with a great baritone solo and a rave-up ending that harks back to James Brown. “You Won’t Put Out This Flame” is an uptempo Rn’B stomper with blazing horns, the backing vocalists singing a chorus of “watch me ignite”.
Whitney confirms that she knows the history of this music with a funky cover of The Five Royales’ 1958 “Tell The Truth” and the ballad “I Never Meant To Love Him”, a 1975 single by Jesse James which Whitney sings brilliantly – check out her vocal gymnastics here!
This fine album is sure to figure on the ‘Best Of’ lists at the end of the year and comes strongly recommended!