Miss Bix – Bring It | Album Review

Miss Bix – Bring It

Blue Heart Records BHR 026


13 songs – 61 minutes

A 30-year veteran of the recording industry, Miss Bix took almost 25 years to explore the blues, but the wait has been worth it. After a stay in Clarksdale, Miss., in the mid-2010s, she delivered a 2017 love letter to Delta music that came in the form of the CD, We Don’t Own the Blues. And she continues her journey with this all-original contemporary set that puts an optimistic spin on surviving a world filled with COVID, social injustice and political strife as well as the loss of her home in California in a wildfire.

Born Leslie Letven and influenced by Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, Sting and others, she was a star under her maiden name in the world of smooth jazz in the early ‘90s after her debut release, Make It Right, charted as high as No. 12 internationally. After her marriage and the birth of her son, she morphed into Leslie Bixler and became a major force in children’s music, teaming with showbiz giant Dick Van Dyke and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith on two CDs, Moon Food and Rhythm Train, and winning a Parents Choice Award in the process.

When her son reached adulthood, she sought a new musical direction, spent several months soaking up the culture in Mississippi and learning the blues from artists born in the tradition. She adopted the Miss Bix moniker with her first blues offering, which was produced by former Eddie Money musical director/multi-instrumentalist Ralph Carter. A well-received mix of powerful story songs, it featured an all-star lineup that included Bruce Hornsby keyboard player John “J.T.” Thomas, former Van Morrison drummer Gary Mallaber and two of the best bluesmen on the West Coast — guitarist Franck L. Goldwasser and harp player RJ Mischo.

Recorded and engineered by Charley Pollard at Dragonfly Creek Recording in Malibu, Calif., this disc serves up a far more contemporary set with Carter, Goldwasser, Thomas and Mallaber all returning to the fold. They’re joined by former IBC winner Keeshea Pratt, New Orleans powerhouse Tiffany Pollack and Phil Wimer on vocals, Montgomery Pollack on guitar, Jimmy Z on harp, Tom Canning on Hammond B3 organ and Bill Bixler, Miss Bix’s former bar owner/Malibu High School music director hubby, providing a horn section.

The sprightly shuffle, “Ain’t No Such Thing,” opens with a brief guitar hook before Miss Bix’s honeyed voice sings praises of a man whose kisses no longer drive her crazy, but still insists she’s still “right where I belong.” Goldwasser’s extended mid-tune solo swings from the hip. The pace slows a little and the mood gets a little edgy for “You’ve Got the Nerve,” which delivers a respite to a lover for coming on too strong before evolving into a love song that offers a promise of more.

“Cocktail Hour” is up next. It’s a jazzy, relaxed ballad that describes days passing by “like caramel on ice cream” with only whisky sours and the daily ritual of the title standing out. Goldwasser’s attack on slide shines for the driving swamp blues, “Trail of Tears,” in which Miss Bix plans to drink away the pain of a troubled relationship before the mood brightens with the semi-acoustic ballad, “The Girl You Adore,” which poses the question: “Has time washed the magic away?”

Pratt joins the action for the “Red Walls,” a soulful, slow-but-steady protest number that earned two bronze medals in Global Music Awards when released as a single in 2020, while “Cheer Up, Sallie Mae,” starts quietly and quickly picks up steam as it serves up encouragement to a friend who’s down on her luck but has always done the same for the singer in the past. The haunting rhumba, “The Poison,” delivers dark images dealing with the seemingly regular arrival of both a lover accompanied by trouble before Thomas and Jimmy Z shine on the Big Easy-style complaint, “You Don’t Deserve to Be My Man.”

The feel continues with Tiffany and Miss Bix trading verses in “Daddy Why,” which yields for the 12-bar gospel pleaser, “You Better Believe It.” Two more numbers — the autobiographical “Shake Me Discover Me,” which describes Miss Bix’s childhood dreams of music stardom, and the solo acoustic lament, “Movin’ On” – bring the album to a close.

A multi-layered, mixed-bag, the blues runs deep in this one. Difficult to categorize, it serves up an interesting, well-executed treat in every cut.

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