Stony Plain – 2018
12 tracks; 54 minutes
Canadian Sue Foley has been quiet of late. She has, of course, collaborated with Peter Karp on a couple of albums but it is a long time since we heard a solo effort (2006’s New Used Car) so it is good to welcome her back, particularly as she has returned to Austin, Texas, where she started her career. For this album she has been able to use the cream of Austin musicians, including Jimmie Vaughan, Billy Gibbons, Derek O’Brien and Charlie Sexton who add their guitars to Sue’s; bass duties revolve between Chris Maresh, Johnny Bradley and Billy Horton, JJ Johnson, George Rains and Chris Layton share the drum stool, Kyle Thompson adds a variety of hand percussion and Mike Flanigin plays organ as well as producing the disc. Horns are added to one track by Ephraim Owens (trumpet) and Elias Haslanger (sax) and by The Texas Horns to one other (Mark Kazanoff, tenor, John Mills, baritone, Jimmy Shortell, trumpet and Randy Zimmerman, trombone). Sue wrote all the songs apart from two covers.
It is no surprise that the overall feel of the album reflects the Texas blues talent on board and Charlie Sexton’s slide is at the heart of “Come To Me” which blends Little Feat funk to a Bo Diddley beat, a fine start to the album. The slower pace, churning twin guitar (Charlie again) and organ swirl of “81” suits Sue’s voice well, Johnny Bradley’s upright bass adds momentum to the frantic three piece rocker “Run” and Billy Horton does the upright honors on the title track, another stripped back trio performance with fine slow blues guitar and possibly autobiographical lyrics: “They call me the ice queen, I’m cool and detached, and all the men agree, I’m too slippery to catch”.
Jimmie Vaughan guests on two cuts, sharing vocals with Sue on “The Lucky Ones”, an attractive Texas shuffle with lyrics about the two protagonists’ careers, and handling the guitar duties while Sue concentrates on singing “If I Have Forsaken You”, a ballad with The Texas Horns in discreet support of Jimmie’s sterling guitar work. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons adds some harp and guitar to “Fool’s Gold” as Sue and Billy issue a warning about chasing illusions. “Gaslight” is the other track with horns and Elias’ wild sax solo elicits a storming response from Sue. An adaptation of George Brooks’ “Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair” (originally sung by Bessie Smith) works splendidly with Sue and Derek O’Brien on guitar duties and Mike’s organ to the fore as the rhythm section of Johnny Bradley and George Rains kick up the dust.
The album winds down with three quieter tunes the first of which is a trio performance of “Death Of A Dream” which has a late-night jazz feel courtesy of Chris Maresh’s upright bass and JJ Johnson’s gentle cymbal work. The last two numbers are solo pieces of very different styles, both of which demonstrate Sue’s dexterity on the acoustic: the flamenco-flavored “The Dance” and a fine cover of The Carter Family’s “Cannonball Blues” which, ironically, is preceded by Sue’s studio chat which suggests that she had tried the song a few times without success, but this take is brilliant.
Overall this is a good album and a welcome return to the scene for Sue who shows that she can operate in a wide range of styles from Texas shuffles, slow blues, country blues and even touches of jazz. This is one of those albums that deserves repeat listening in order to best appreciate its qualities.