Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley – Gold Cadillac
CD: 11 Songs, 37 Minutes
Styles: Blues Covers, Jazz-and-Soul-Influenced Blues
Good blues makes one entertain the notion that the singer “feels your pain,” as former president Bill Clinton used to say. Great blues transmogrifies its performers into personal pals and crooners into confidants, for as long as the music lasts. Canada’s Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley generate such intimate rapport with every note they sing and chord they play. Their chemistry and consummate musicianship are brilliantly showcased on the selections that their latest album Gold Cadillac features. However, what’s almost spooky is the way these two seem to enter into your living room, automobile, or other personal space you occupy and make you feel like they’re your closest friends. You’d tell them your secrets, for they would understand. They’ve been in the blues for so long that no heartache is beyond their ken. Although only three songs out of eleven are originals, every one of them is full to the brim with warmth and clarity. Whiteley, the winner of MAPL’s Best Horn Player of the Year for 2019, and Braithwaite, dubbed “a national treasure” by JAZZ FM, are two of a kind – two flawless blues diamonds.
Even though they’re not widely known in the United States, Braithwaite and Whiteley are mainstays of the Canadian blues scene. They’ve won countless awards, including several from SOCAN and MAPL, but they’ve also garnered the prestigious African American Women in the Arts Award and the Cable Ace Award. With roots in the southern United States , Diana’s ancestors escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad and lived for four generations in Wellington County, the first African-Canadian pioneer settlement in Ontario. Growing up, she spent summers in Montreal, Quebec, in a place called “Little Burgundy,” the historic African-Canadian neighborhood where her father and the great jazz musician Oscar Peterson were born. As for Chris, he’s had an illustrious music career spanning some forty years. His extensive touring career includes working with renowned jazz and blues legends such as Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and countless appearances on television and radio, including a special guest appearance on Saturday Night Live with international recording jazz artist Leon Redbone.
Alongside Braithwaite (vocals) and Whiteley (guitar, harmonica, cornet and vocals) are John Sheard on piano, Ron Johnston on bass, Vince Maccarone on drums, Neil Braithwaite on tenor sax, and background vocals by Bobbi Lee.
“Toodle Loodle Loo,” lucky number seven, is the first of the three original tunes. It’s a bouncy boogie with perfect big-band sound, not to mention terrific harmonica from Chris. John Sheard heats up the ivories to a sizzling temperature as well. Two songs later, the title track arrives, super-short (two minutes and forty seconds) and super-suave. Braithwaite’s velvety voice excites as she calls out, “Yeah, all you humdingers, all you bell-ringers, in the back of the line!” Polishing off this CD is “Down the Road We Go,” a slow burner and trip down memory lane.
Gold Cadillac is a winner for sure, presented by two classic Canadian confidants in the blues!