Sierra Green & the Giants – Here We Are | Album Review

Sierra Green & the Giants – Here We Are

Big Radio/Righteous Path Records

10 songs – 39 minutes

A captivating, wall-rattling vocalist who’s known at the Queen of Frenchman Street, Sierra Green has gone from a New Orleans street singer to a star at several of the top clubs in the Big Easy. And she shows off her talents in the best way possible on this debut disc, an album guaranteed to have you boogieing on your feet.

Born in the city’s Seventh Ward – a community that produced Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton and Allen Toussaint — and trained as a pre-teen in gospel, Sierra formed the Giants last fall in partnership with Dave Torkanowsky, who might be an unfamiliar name to you but has been a driving force in the region for 50 years. A Berklee College of Music-trained keyboard player, his credits include membership in Luther Kent’s Trick Bag, work with Irma Thomas, Zigaboo Modeliste, Ellis Marsalis, a decade as Dianne Reaves’ bandleader and appearances on more than 200 albums, including several of his own, and scores to major Hollywood movies, too.

Their band includes the cream of the crop of local talent, including guitarists JD Simo, Paul Provosty and Joe McMahan, bassists Miguel Perez and Ted Pecchio, drummers Adam Abrashoff and William West and a horn section composed of sax players David Ludman and Robbie Crowell, trombonist Maurice Cade and trumpet players Brandon Nater and Emmanuel Echem.

Recorded and co-produced in at the House of Grease in Nashville and Downman Sound Studios in New Orleans with Simo (Beyoncé, Stevie Nicks, Jack White), Sierra and her Giants will grab you from the jump here and never let go.

A brief keyboard intro kicks off the original, “Can You Get to That,” and Green confident, pleasant mid-range voice comes straight from the church and street and immediately catches your ear. She describes herself as previously feeling she was “one among many…or at least I seemed to be.” While looking back with regret at all the hard decisions she’s had to make to get to where she is today, she announces the beginning of her new, bigger journey.

It takes confidence to cover a tune like Ann Peebles’ “Come to Mama,” and Green is definitely up for the task next. The Giants simply cook as she makes the tune her own. The same holds true for her readings of the passionate ballad, “Girls Can’t Do What Guys Do,” a hit for Betty Wright in ’68, and the Big Easy’s Betty Harris’ “Break in the Road,” which scored gold a year later.

A regimented drumbeat and a score that picks up intensity throughout drive the original, “Dreams,” as Sierra recounts awakening with the blues, dragging herself out of bed and putting on her walking shoes. She heads to a hilltop to overlook the city below before finding peace of mind and becoming aware that she’s had nighttime reveries to remember. It flows into “This Is a Man’s World,” a retitled version of the James Brown classic, which would have left the Godfather of Soul smiling.

“He Called Me Baby” — a country number penned by Harlan Howard and a retitled hit for Patsy Cline in the ’50s and an R&B chartbuster for Ella Washington and Candi Staton – takes on a brand new shine before the funk kicks in big time for an updated version of “Get Low Down,” a number first recorded by June “Curley” Moore, the vocalist for Huey “Piano” Smith & the Clowns. Stellar takes on David Shaw’s “Promised Land” and Magic Sam’s “Same Old Blues” bring the disc to a close.

Sure, there are plenty of covers here, but Sierra & the Giants add a special sauce to the mix throughout. This stellar debut is definitely worth your ear and probably will be under consideration for awards somewhere down the road. It’s just that good!

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