Deb Ryder – Memphis Moonlight | Album Review

Deb Ryder – Memphis Moonlight

VizzTone Label Group VT-DR05

13 songs – 53 minutes

A petite powerhouse with a gale-force voice, Chicago-born, California-based Deb Ryder has been been soaring into the stratosphere in the blues world since making her recording debut seven years ago. And her ascendance should pick up speed with this CD, which was produced by Grammy-winner Tony Braunagel and includes a world-class lineup.

The daughter of a popular Windy City crooner and a mother whose second husband owned and operated the legendary rock-‘n’-roll palace Topanga Corral in the Los Angeles suburbs, Deb began singing in clubs across Chicago at age five, eventually moving west, where she discovered the blues through a neighbor – Bob “The Bear” Hite — and frequently served as opening act for Etta James, Big Joe Turner, Taj Mahal and Hite’s group, Canned Heat — all of whom mentored her as both a vocalist and songwriter.

A longtime session artist in the film industry, she appeared in national TV ads and Las Vegas musicals before launching her solo career in 2014 with Might Just Get Lucky, a disc that was co-produced and recorded with bassist hubby Ric Ryder. This is her fifth CD and the fourth produced under the direction of Braunagel, the most recent of which – Enjoy the Ride – earned a spot on Living Blues magazine’s annual top-50 list. She’s also a two-time Blues Blast Music Awards nominee for the Sean Costello Rising Star Award and for contemporary vocalist of the year.

Recorded at three studios in greater L.A., Deb’s backed here by Phantom Blues Band/Taj Mahal Band members Johnny Lee Schell (guitar, bass and keys), Mike Finnigan (keys), Joe Sublett (sax) and Braunagel (drums) along with Dutch harmonica master and ex-Mannish Boy Pieter “Big Pete” van der Pluijm, Mark Pender (trumpet) and Travis Carlton (bass). The roster is augmented by guest appearances by guitarists Ronnie Earl, Joey Delgado and Alastair Greene, Steve Berlin on sax along with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos on accordion and backing vocals from Steve Delgado, Maxayn Lewis, Kudisan Kai and Ric, who co-produced.

The horn-drenched “I’m Coming Home” swings from the hip to open as Ryder announces that she’s wasted enough energy on the road “chasin’ the wind” – doing whatever she chose – and that she’s finally ready to return to where she belongs. She offers up a little advice about living in troubled times in “Hold On,” recommending to keep a tight grip on yourself in times of trouble because life will go on no matter what.

Deb commits herself, her eyes and her heart to doing the work of the Lord in “These Hands,” a gospel number tinged with an electric, country feel, before “Get Ready” opens with a psychedelic flourish and gets funky as she suggests that love will restore peace in the revolution ahead. The downside of romance is featured in the two tunes that follow: “Blues Is All I Got,” a driving rocker propelled by Johnny Lee’s guitar, and “Love Is Gone,” a ballad of resignation and acceptance that features emotion-packed fretwork from Earl.

Schell’s on acoustic guitar for the title tune, “Memphis Moonlight,” a stripped-down Hill Country-textured blues that serves up a memory of dancing with a lover along the mighty Mississippi at night and the desire to do it again. Things heat up quickly in the loping boogie, “Just Be Careful,” an autobiographical memory of lessons Ryder received from her mother – to whom the disc is dedicated – before joining forces with Greene for the blues-rocker, “Devil’s Credit Line,” an admission of regret about mistakes made during her misspent youth.

“Jump on In,” an easy-greasy mid-tempo shuffle, advises that life begins when you start taking chances before Finnigan comes to the fore on Hammond B3 on “Standing at the Edge,” a musical intervention for a friend who’s had it all, but is on the verge of losing everything because of his own pain and neglect. Things heat up again in the rapid-fire, accordion-driven “Second Chances” before the love ballad, “Most of All,” finds Deb stroking her man’s hair lovingly as he sleeps to bring the album to a close.

Available through most major retailers, Memphis Moonlight shines. Not only does Deb Ryder possess one of the most emotive voices on the scene today, the 13 tunes here are all exceptionally well-crafted, original material.

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