Eliza Neals – Badder To The Bone
Eliza Neals emerges from the dark days of the pandemic with a hot new album featuring nine new songs she wrote (or co-wrote) and one great cover. Apparently the pandemic did nothing to impact Neals’ music as she returns with one of if not her best efforts in Badder To The Bone. I was really impressed with each of the songs and the performances.
Following her 2020 release Black Crow Moan, by my count this is Neals 10th album/EP. Hailing from Detroit, Eliza is a powerful blues rocker who sings with no holds barred and has always had premier players in her band. This album continues in that tradition with great musicians and high energy performances by Neals. Neals handles all the vocals and plays piano on the even tracks and adds B3 to “Fueling Me Up.”Lance Lopez plays some standout guitar on four cuts while Peter Keys handles b3/organ, Jason Kott plays bass and Tim Grogan drums on the same tracks. Michael Puwal plays guitar and adds bass to four other songs. Billy “JC” Davis adds guitar to “Got A Gun” while Paul Randolph adds his bass to that and “Heathen.” John Galvin plays piano on those two tracks and Skeeto Valdez handles the drums. Bryan Clune and Jeffrey “Shakey” Fowles aptly provide the rest of the drum support and Kymberli Wright backs Eliza up vocally on “Heathen.” It’s a fine cast of musical characters on this album.
The album opens with the driving beat of “United We Stand” which features some wicked slide work and nice vocals by Neals. Neals follows that with “Queen of the Nile,” taking the tempo down and giving an impassioned performance. Lopez offers a superb guitar solo and Keys adds some tasty B3 to the mix. “Lockdown Love” follows with Puwal featured on the cut. She bemoans pigging out and being lazy during the pandemic in this excellent slow blues. Puwal once again kills it on the guitar. Next is “King Kong” which opens with a rousing guitar introduction and then Neals gets into it, comparing her lover in a good way to the famed giant movie ape. Another stinging guitar solo is presented here, too. “Bucket of Tears” follows, a soulful ballad that Neals nails. A little more slide to enjoyed is offered up here, but Neals steals the show vocally.
Billy Davis is a guest on guitar on “Got A Gun,” which also features some nice B3 organ. It’s a rousing cut where Neals threatens she’s got a gun and not to mess with her because she’ll use it. Sounds like a great relationship – not. “Fueling Me Up” is next, a rocking, slower blues with lots of energy and emotion. There’s some more special slide guitar here, too. Next is “Heathen,” a slow and more than mournful blues with organ and piano by Neals where Neals sings of a cheating lover who is not only a heathen but she also wishes he’d also stop breathin’ on top of it all. Galvin tinkles the keys nicely here and Keys shine on organ. The Stevie Winwood classic “Can’t Find My Way Home” gets reworked as the lone cover on the CD. Neals keeps the tempo slow, a tad slower than the original, and turns it into a somber and cool rendition. Lopez handles the guitar here and does an outstanding job. Eliza sings with deep seeded passion and the cut builds and builds to a dual guitar solo that is spectacular. The emotions grow as Neals returns and then there is another frenzied piece of guitar work to finish the cut off as Neals redoes the chorus one last time- well done! The final tracks I “Queen Of The Nile II,” a reprise of sorts of the second cut. It echoes the feel of the prior cut, with solid vocals and stinging guitar, another winner.
I was really impressed by this album. Neals always provides lots of energy and power in her music, but this album rose above her others for me in displaying a new level of musical maturity. The songs that she wrote or had a hand in writing were really very solid cuts, and her take on the Winwood song was original and cool. While the pandemic was not a fun time for her and for all of us, this album was a Phoenix of sorts that rose from the ashes of two years of miserable times and shines brightly as a symbol of hope. Kudos to Eliza Neals for producing a fine new CD for all to enjoy! I highly recommend it!