LJ Mounteney – Mama Danced…
Puzzle Rabbit Records LJM 0002
13 songs – 47 minutes
Born in Edmonton, raised in Alberta, LJ Mounteney is a sweet soprano with a lilting delivery who’s been dubbed as “a Canadian Bonnie Raitt,” and shows why with this interesting effort, a 13-song sophomore effort that features backing and production from several of the top artists in music-rich Vancouver, where she’s now based.
LJ became interested in the blues during childhood, when she sang alone to her mother’s albums, which included Loggins & Messina, Dolly Parton and Ike and Tina Turner and Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and Muddy Waters, too. Music ran deep in her family. Not only does her mother have a background in classical piano, but her grandfather played 13 instruments by ear.
She’s been based on the Canadian West Coast since enrolling in the jazz program at Vancouver Community College, where she was mentored in voice and improvisation by Jennifer Scott, a singer/keyboard player with a lengthy recording career, before launching a professional career that’s included stints in jazz, swing, R&B and pop. She made her debut as a recording artist in 2017 with the release of Here in the Dark, an eight-tune effort that included blues and bosa nova.
Recorded at Electric City Sound in Victoria, B.C., and Fiasco Studios and Demi-Tone Studio in Vancouver, this disc was produced by multi-instrumentalist Jack Lavin, a native Chicagoan who co-founded Powder Blues – one of the Great North’s top bands ever – before becoming a Juno Award winner – the Canadian version of the Grammy – for his work in the studio.
Lavin contributes harp and bass to a pair of tracks in this moveable feast of musicians, which includes Jan Randall on keys, John Roper on guitar, Maple Blues Award winner Brandon Isaak on guitar, vocals and harp, Jerry Cook on sax, Geeta Daas on trumpet and Ross Hall on drums. They’re augmented by appearances from Debra Peters on accordion, Nick Apivor on percussion and backing vocals from Dee Daniels, Krystle Dos Santos and Lillooet Fox.
A set of eight originals from various sources and five covers, LJ demonstrates her versatility throughout, beginning with an updated take on Memphis Minnie’s “Dirty Rat,” which is delivered atop an unhurried shuffle. A taste of the Big Easy kicks in via Lavin’s “I Like It Hot” before Mounteney delivers “Wasn’t That a Time?,” a haunting, contemporary blues penned by Jim Foster.
The sprightly title tune, “Mama Danced,” is up next, propelled lightly by harmonica and accordion, before Isaak shares vocals on his original, “Take My Message,” a driving blues with strong gospel appeal. The pleasant, original soul-blues, “Somebody Pour Me Some Coffee,” seeks solace in the morning following a fight with a lover the preceding night then gives way to a percussive, horn-propelled take on Allen Toussaint’s “I Did My Part.”
Things slow down dramatically for the torch-song ballad “Life of the Party” – a new tune penned by Dennis Meneely, not the Shawn Mendes hit – before a cover of Willie Dixon’s “I’m Ready,” the only number in this set that leaves this listener flat because of its oh-so-traditional arrangement and vocals that lack impact when delivered in upper-register soprano. Things improve dramatically for “Take Some Care of Me,” a ballad penned by Linda Kidder, before covers of Huey Meaux’s “Neighbor, Neighbor” and Ike Turner’s “Two Is a Couple” precede the Tom Arntzen original, “Basement Suite Blues,” to close.
Despite the Dixon number, LJ Mounteney serves up a winner here for anyone with a taste for jazzy, traditional blues.