Debbie Bond – Blues Without Borders | Album Review

Debbie Bond – Blues Without Borders

Blues Root Productions

10 songs – 46 minutes

An artist who possesses a deep social conscience and a lengthy track record of helping her fellow man, Alabama-based singer/songwriter Debbie Bond tackles a myriad of troubles plaguing the world with her latest album. Dealing with everything from racial equality, social justice and the environment to romance, it bares picks away at the scabs of life.

A Blues Foundation Keeping the Blues Alive award winner and the founder of the Alabama Blues Project, which provides music lessons and programs that support at-risk youngsters, Debbie was born into a musical family headed by a Baptist minister in California, but raised in Europe and West Africa, where her mother worked as a cultural anthropologist.

She’s been playing guitar since age 12 and based in the Magnolia State since 1979, when she began playing with early superstar Johnny Shines, touring with him regularly for the final 11 years of his life. Her background also includes work with harp player Jerry “Boogie” McLain, Eddie Kirkland, Sam Lay, Little Jimmy King, Willie King and others.

A soprano with plenty of feel, Debbie made her recording debut on Alabama Blues Showcase, a compilation released by the Alabama Blues Society in 1997 and followed it with the full-length album, What Goes Around Comes Around, a year later. Since then, she’s issued three other CDs, most recently, Enjoy the Ride: The Shoals Sessions, in 2016, when she also appeared on Do Right Men, a tribute to songwriters Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham that also included Jimmy Hall, Bonnie Bramlett, Steve Cropper and others.

The lineup on this one features her husband and longtime playing partner “Radiator” Rick Asherson, who contributes keys, keyboard bass, guitar and harmonica, along with percussionist Micky Barker and aided by Ray Corless (sax), Brad Guin (horns), Joelle Barker (tabla and congas) and Dave Crenshaw (drums) with Carla Don, Rachel Edwards, Meshon Omoregie and Gabrielle Semoine providing backing vocals. Fellow KBA-winning vocalist Lea Gilmore lends her voice to the title cut.

Asherson’s harp opens “High Rider Blues,” a medium-fast tune with swamp feel, in which Bond looks forward to going down to the river and washing her troubles away because there’s nowhere to hide. “Blues Without Borders” pulls out of the station slowly but quickly picks up speed as it insists that love can heal the suffering of refugees. It features Corless throughout with Gilmore doubling vocals before taking the lead with gospel flair mid-tune.

Debbie’s guitar skills come to the fore on “Let Me Be,” an R&B pleaser delivered from the understated position of someone experiencing racial oppression, and “Blue Rain,” a straight-ahead complaint about a bad love affair. The theme brightens dramatically for “Radiator,” a tune that praises Bond’s other half and everything he brings to the table.

The quiet ballad “Heart of the Matter” follows with Bond begging an unhappy lover to slow down and look a way to work out their problems – a complaint that’s accented by Guin’s horn runs throughout – before she rebukes a world that’s making war on itself in the percussive “Winds of Change.” It gives way to “Let Freedom Ring,” a spiritual that pays tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King and is inspired by his writings and speeches, before “Shades of Blue” revisits problematic relationships with a country feel. The disc ends on an upbeat note as Debbie and “Radiator” Rick celebrate their life together as traveling troubadours in “Road Song.”

The feelings run deep in Blues Without Borders, but Debbie Bond is a master of her craft, delivering powerful statements in a manner in which she gets her message across without ever being overpowering – solid blues for people who care.

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