Mary Lane – Travelin’ Woman
Women Of The Blues Records/OWL Music & Media
After more than twenty years, blues singer Mary Lane finally has another release under her own name. She had a 45 release on the Friendly Five label in 1964, with her partner Morris Pejoe on guitar. Lane continued to appear in Chicago clubs, even serving a stint as lead vocalist for Mississippi Heat that ended as Lane’s aversion to flying severely limited her ability to tour with the band. In 1997, the Noir label released Lane’s first album, Appointment With The Blues, to great acclaim. That project had her tough vocals backer by Johnny B. Moore on guitar and Detroit Junior on piano, and Lane’s husband, Jeffrey Labon, on bass.
One listen to her new project quickly illustrates that Lane’s voice remains a potent instrument. On “Leave That Wine Alone,” she lays down a stern warning to a wine-headed man in hopes of saving their relationship. Phil Miller flavors the proceedings with some tightly drawn slide guitar licks while the rhythm section consisting of Larry Beers on drums and Jim Tullio on bass conjure up a memorable shuffle groove. The duo also appears on “Let Me Into Your Heart,” as the eighty-three year old singer is at her best throughout a performance full of fervent emotions. Chris “Hambone” Cameron spices things up on Hammond B-3 and piano. John Rice makes his sole appearance on electric guitar.
Those tracks are two of the nine songs Lane co-wrote with Tullio, with the singer handling the lyrics while Tullio composed the music. Their partnership comes up with another stout shuffle on “Ain’t Nobody Else,” with Travis T. Bernard occupying the seat at the drum kit and Shedrick “Shedman” Davis joining Tullio on guitar. The track is further enhanced by the sparkling harp fills from Billy Branch. Another venerated Chicago harp player, Corky Siegal, shines on “Some People Say I’m Crazy,” and along with Johnny Grey’s rollicking piano runs, inspires another stirring Lane vocal. The title track rolls along, tracing the arc of Lane’s career, bolstered by a three piece horn section that includes Terry Ogolini and the legendary Gene “Daddy G” Barge on saxophone plus Don Tenuto on trumpet, and Louie Zagoras on slide guitar.
Fans of Chicago blues guitar will certainly recognize Dave Specter’s tasteful playing on “Bad Luck And Trouble,” which, combined with another gritty Lane vocal, elevates the track to highlight status. “Blues Give Me A Feeling” slows the pace a bit. The generic nature of the lyrics are overcome by some fine harp blowing by Indiare Sfair and the guitar shadings from Tullio and Bill Ruppert. The late Eddie Shaw appears on “Ain’t Gonna Cry No More,” but playing harp instead of his customary saxophone. “Raining In My Heart” is another steady-rolling cut with Tullio and Sam Butler on guitar plus some seasoning once again from Miller on slide. The final track, “Make Up Your Mind,” breaks things down to Lane accompanied by Colin Linden, playing slide on an acoustic dobro guitar. This haunting plea from the singer burrows deep into the universal wellspring of emotions.
Thanks go to Lynn Orman Weiss, along with her partner Allen Winkler of OWL Music & Media, for starting a new label in order to release Lane’s latest project. The singer is part of a traveling exhibition that is part of the Weiss organization, The Women of the Blues Foundation. There are plans to release a compilation CD featuring other women blues singers deserving more recognition, as well as a documentary film, I Can Only Be Mary Lane, that examines the singer’s life and career in-depth. Weiss will also be staging an exhibit of her photography at the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis in November, sponsored by the Blues Foundation. In the meantime, make a point to give Mary Lane a listen. She is one of the few surviving members of the generation that popularized blues music around the world. She is, indeed, the real deal!