Eliza Neals – Colorcrimes | Album Review

Eliza Neals – Colorcrimes

EH Records LLC


9 tracks – 32 Minutes

Detroit born Eliza Neals graduated from Detroit’s Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, minor in piano. Her studies were in Opera. She toured Europe performing opera with the WSU concert chorale performing as a Mezzo Soprano. But she quickly tired of that music and moved into singing the blues.

Performing around Detroit, a chance meeting with producer Barrett Strong Jr., who had previously produced Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight, took her under his wing and trained her to sing in the Motown style. Her love of classic rock from the 60’s and 70’s provided a direction for her music citing Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt as favorite stylists. She has received five Detroit Music Awards, the 2018 Black Music Award for “Blues Artist of the year” and seventeen nominations from the Independent Blues Awards.

Her first album, I Want More, was released in 1997. This is now her twelfth album. Barrett Strong, Jr., who died in 2023, cowrote three of the originals songs with Eliza and produced two of them. All other songs are also originals written or co-written by Eliza. Eliza produced the remaining songs herself, plays piano and provides all vocals. Michael Puwal plays guitar and slide guitar on seven of the songs and a large group of guests provide all other instrumentals.

The album opens with “Heal This Land”, a folky blues performed solely with Michael’s acoustic slide work. With an appealing call to the crowd of “Clap your hands”, it will clearly be a crowd draw to energize a live show. She then tells a humorous story of how she was “Banned in Jackson” just for being herself. The title song, “Colorcrimes” is a powerful social song looking at the current racial struggles in the US as she pleas “Why can’t we live together, just make time for life.  Why can’t we talk it over, don’t make color a crime”.

“Something’s Better Than Nothing” moves into an Aretha styled soul blues. with Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboard player Peter Keys playing Hammond B3 as Eliza notes that “it is better to have something than to have nothing” and “better to have your life”. “Love Dr. Love” brings the funk with horns and a hint of New Orleans as she “prepares to step into his world” and “leave all my worries back home”. King Solomon Hicks guests on guitar and backing vocals on “Sugar Daddy” with a tale of the man who cannot leave her.

Eliza lets her piano rip and amid a bit of boogie with no more treats for him as the “Candy Store is closed forever more” while she does “have a sweet tooth”. On “Found me Another”, she tells him that she is “sick and tired of his wicked games”. She closes the album with “Friday Night (All Day Long)” as she “revs my girls to party all night “, “nothing can stop me from doing some wrong.”

Eliza has a smokey voice that can remind of Bonnie Raitt. She delivers another pleasant and fun recording mixed with a brief sidestep to the social message in the title song.  Michael Puwal’s guitar work is also an astounding addition to her sound. The only downside is that the nine songs are brief and leave you wanting more.

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