Sandwich Factory – 2017
12 tracks; 58 minutes
Originally from Southern California, Val Starr worked in the music industry for a number of record labels and radio promotions through the 1980’s and 90’s. After re-locating to Sacramento in 2003 she and her husband formed a band playing rock covers but in 2010 they started attending blues jams and from there The Blues Rocket was formed. This is their fourth CD since 2012. Val wrote all the material and handles lead vocals and rhythm guitar, her husband John Ellis is on bass and B/V’s, Frankie Soul on lead guitar and Paul Farman on drums. Todd Morgan adds keys to eight of the twelve tracks while guests include Daniel Castro, lead guitar on two, Steve Wall, slide on two, Tim Barron, harp on four and Guyle Taber who replaces drummer Paul Farman on two. The band plays a range of styles ranging from shuffles to melodic blues-rock.
The CD is well-produced so that all instruments can be clearly heard. Val’s voice is central to the songs and her voice can at times be a little monotone, “What Happens After Midnight” being one example. The title track has some very nice piano which adds a jazzy feel to the track as Val sings of getting “lost inside the shuffle, it’s the only place to go”, some mournful harp towards the end adding to the blues quotient. The two tracks with Daniel Castro are both standouts: his torrid lead lines on “Whether Blues” add to the sense of foreboding conjured up by Val’s lyrics; in contrast “Please Don’t Go Away Mad” is an altogether gentler song which Val sings well and finds Daniel playing very lyrically with a hint of country in his tone. Another good track is “You Better Stop”, a bright shuffle enhanced by Steve Wall’s slide which works very well alongside Frankie Soul’s lead though Steve’s other contribution is on “Blind Eye” that is more rock than blues. “The Baby Mama Song” makes you smile as Val get saucy over a catchy tune with electric piano standing out. Val is certainly prepared to take action when a relationship goes sour, as she explains in the fast-paced “Out With The Old”; “Every time I see you you make me feel blue so it’s out with the old and in with the new”
Overall this album delivers twelve original songs with a couple of standout tracks.