Connor Ray Music – 2016
8 tracks; 34 minutes
17 year-old Texan Ally Venable’s debut CD features five of her own songs, an old blues with re-written music and two classic covers. Ally is on lead guitar and vocals with Bobby Wallace on second guitar, Zach Terry on bass and Elijah Owings on drums. Randy Walls adds keys and label boss Steve Krase plays harp on three tracks.
This relatively short CD divides neatly into two halves. The first four tracks are all originals, broadly in the ‘rocking blues’ style. “Trainwreck” motors along well with bouncing bass and some clear guitar leads whilst the slower paced title track finds Ally playing some distorted guitar leads against Bobby’s rhythm work. However, Ally’s voice suffers when she forces, leading to some strained shouting. “Woke Up This Morning” is something of a blues cliché but the driving tune works fine with plenty of strong guitar from Ally and she completes the quartet of originals with “Wise Man” on which the organ and piano add depth to the arrangement and Ally adds some more searing guitar lines.
The second half of the CD contains the covers, starting with Junior Wells’ “Messin’ With The Kid”, one of those songs that we hear far too often but this is a good version, Ally starting with the familiar riff before she tackles the vocals in a quieter style which suits the song. Given the origin of the song it is surprising that Steve Krase’s harp does not feature but the head honcho of Connor Ray Music is present on the final three tracks, starting with the chugging “Too Much Too Soon” which was the pick of the disc for this reviewer with a more restrained vocal and plenty of solid guitar. The adaptation of Alberta Hunter’s “Downhearted Blues” also works well with Steve’s high register harp fills but Chris Smither’s “Love Me Like A Man” (a song made famous by Bonnie Raitt that now seems obligatory for all female singers) adds little to the many versions we have heard before.
There is nothing particularly original here but at 17 Ally’s guitar playing shows promise.