Susanne Plahl and the Lightning Rod – Colours | Album Review

Susanne Plahl and the Lightning Rod – Colours

Styx Records

CD: 14 Songs, 60:50 Minutes

Styles: Jazz-Influenced Electric Blues, “Eclectic” Blues, Ensemble Blues, All Original Songs

I couldn’t help but think of Lewis Carroll, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, when I beheld the cover art of Colours, from Austria’s Susanne Plahl and the Lightning Rod. There certainly are a great many of them, on the outside and the inside of this CD. Its instrumentation explodes with vibrant grandiosity, going all out like the grand finale of America’s 4th of July fireworks. Don’t linger too long on any one musical shade – just enjoy the bang. Paradoxically, it’s Plahl’s voice that lacks sizzle, for the most part, more Sheryl Crow than Bonnie Raitt or Samantha Fish. (In Ms. Wetnight’s humble opinion, what makes Crow’s songs great are their catchy hooks and choruses, not how long Sheryl can hold a high note.) In Plahl’s defense, however, she’s found a niche in the subgenre of what I call “eclectic blues,” especially through the kaleidoscope of jazz. A similar artist is Israel’s Eleanor Tallie, whom I’ve seen and enjoyed live more than once. All of the fourteen tracks here are original, but none would please purists who enjoy the old masters.

According to Susanne’s promotional information sheet in English (her website is in German), “Susanne grew up singing along with her Beatles and Stones tapes while paying close attention to the harmonies. She discovered Bo Diddley as a youngster and was blown away by the rhythm. A few years later, she found herself in a garage band, but was dissatisfied with her then-side role as a singer. She decided to pick up the harp after meeting a harp player from the Viennese blues scene with extensive knowledge of the instrument. This move gave her more perspective and opened the door to a much wider musical range. From 1994 to 1999, as front woman of the Moondogs, a Southern rock and blues band, she opened for international stars like Eric Burdon, Colosseum, Spencer Davis, Little Feat, Chicken Shack, Rare Earth, Mick Taylor, Mother’s Finest, Molly Hatchet and Alvin Lee.”

Performing alongside lead vocalist and harpist Plahl are Stephan Kutscher on guitar; Constanze “Consti” Höffinger on bass and vocals; Christoph Kögler on keys and vocals, and Reinhard Höbart on drums. Special guests include Herby Dunkel on guitars; Benji Hösel on upright bass; Peter Müller on drums, and Steve Criss on background vocals.

The following song sounds the most like the kind of blues most fans love to hear. It’s raw, rough-and-tumble, and has slide guitar slicker than the roof of a kid’s mouth on Halloween night.

Track 02: “Restless Blues” – Just like Alice in Wonderland, we’ve all felt the itch to wander. “Sometimes the world is wicked. Sometimes the world is strange,” comments Suzanne, and who among us can say they haven’t felt the same way? Paired with Plahl’s haunting harp and Benji Hösel’s insistent upright bass, her voice gives shape to feelings many of us wish we could act upon. “I want to see the world. I want to know how to live, ‘cause life is way too short, and I’ve got too much to give.”

Even though Susanne Plahl’s voice could use more Colours, this CD blazes with eclectic glory!

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