Vanessa Collier – Honey Up | Album Review

Vanessa Collier – Honey Up

Phenix Fire Records

10 songs – 45 minutes

Don’t be fooled by the seeming youth and innocence displayed by Vanessa Collier on the cover of her latest CD. A gifted multi-instrumentalist with a powerful voice, she’s become a force, and the world’s taken notice.

If you have any doubt, just check out the nominations for the past Blues Music Awards, where her most recent release, Meeting My Shadow, was up for contemporary album of the year and where Trombone Shorty beat her out for horn player of the year.

Since graduating from Boston’s prestigious Berklee College Of Music with a double major in performance and music production and engineering five short years ago, awards and honors have come fast and furious for the dynamic saxophonist and guitarist, who fuses blues, funk, soul and rock into her show. She’s also earned first place as a lyricist in the International Songwriter’s Competition, a Blues Blast Music Awards nomination and more.

Collier spent 18 months touring the world and blowing horn behind Joe Louis Walker after college before he encouraged her to go off on her own. She released her first CD, Heart, Soul & Saxophone, in 2014, the same year Dan Aykroyd named her Best Of Blues Breaker on his House Of Blues radio show, and has been wowing audiences internationally ever since with a musical sensibility far beyond her years.

She contributed sax here in addition to acoustic and resonator guitar as she delivers nine originals and one cover in a set that was recorded at Hearstudios in Camden, Maine, and Thunderbird Analog Recording Studio in Oceanside, Calif.

Guitar responsibilities are handled by Laura Chavez, one of the most in-demand musicians on the planet, and Sparky Parker with Nick Stevens on percussion and shuitar – a guitar/drum hybrid, Nick Trautmann on bass and William Gorman on keyboards. Roomful Of Blues trumpet player Doug Woolverton and trombonist Quinn Carson sit in on five cuts. And two of her former professors – Mark Wessel and Rich Mendelson – engineered, mixed and mastered the project.

“Sweatin’ Like A Pig, Singin’ Like An Angel,” the opener, stands up to its title with Collier delivering alto, tenor and soprano sax lines to form her own horn section, something she does on the first three cuts, which come across with a distinct and funky Big Easy feel. “Sweatin’” flows freely atop a medium-paced shuffle as Vanessa encourages listeners to share the joy she feels.

The tempo quickens for “Don’t Nobody Got Time To Waste,” a tongue-in-cheek pleaser with gospel overtones from the keys that urges bandmates to be early, not on time because that’ll make ‘em late – and fired!  The title tune, “Honey Up,” serves up a warning to a lover that it’s time for him to man up instead of expecting the singer “to kiss your behind.”

Collier’s solo shines on the instrumental, “Percolatin’,” before she lets her sweet voice handle most of the action for “Icarus,” a jazzy retelling of the Greek myth about the boy who flew too close to the sun. The rocker “The Fault Line” features powerful horn lines and a blistering guitar solo as Vanessa wonders why she’s at odds with someone and both parties are totally unaware as to why, while “Bless Your Heart” makes use of a backhanded Southern compliment as it warns someone who wants to call her “sweetheart” or “baby” to call her by her given name or else she’ll turn on her heels and walk away without hearing what he has to say.

Vanessa kicks off “You’re A Pill” with an acapella vocal intro. It’s an interesting love song in which the singer feels weak at the knees, but can’t get enough of the medicine he delivers. “You Get What You Want” addresses a complaining boyfriend before Collier closes by reinventing Chris Smithers’ familiar “Love Me Like A Man,” breaking it down to its essence as a ballad before picking up steam slightly and seers to the end.

Available directly from multiple online retailers or directly from the artist (address above), Honey Up is a winner on all counts. Vanessa Collier is already a major force to be reckoned with – and, for her, the sky’s the limit.

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