Zoom with Shawn Kellerman – Chocolate Cake
Born in Romulus, Michigan, Zoom was impressed by Koko Taylor at a young age and began performing. She hit the road and sang and toured with many a great artist. She was invited to join several Chicago Blues Tours to Europe and shared the stage with Koko, Bobby Bland, Albert King, James Cotton, Junior Wells, John Primer, Lucky Peterson, Billy Branch, Maurice Vaughn and more. Not too shabby a resume, but life sometimes calls and things change. She took a twenty year hiatus from music and touring to attend to and raise a family.
As she began to get ready and back into things, she hooked up with Shawn Kellerman, who had been touring the globe with his own band and the likes of Bobby Rush, Sherman Robertson and Lucky Peterson. After completing a project with Peterson celebrating Lucky’s 50 years in music, Shawn and Zoom began to collaborate remotely on writing songs. They finally got together to start making this album and then Covid hit, so another delay ensued as they held the release of the album up. With signs of the pandemic waning, they decided to finally release the album, and it’s a goodie.
Zoom handles all the vocals. Kellerman plays guitar, bass and electronic drum programming. Jim Boudread plays drums. Dave Wiffen is on baritone and tenor sax, and Ray Podhornik is on trumpet. On B3 organ appearances for a track apiece are Lucky Peterson, Lance Anderson, and Jim Alfredson. Dominic DiGravio is on keys for a cut and Steve Marriner is on harp for another. Matt Weidinger does triple duty on B3 (one cut), clavinet (another cut) and piano (three cuts).
The opener “Are You Ready” has Zoom asking the listener if we’re ready for her; she’ a lot to handle, so it’s an apt question! Kellerman plays some stinging guitar and the horns play nicely; a cool opener and as noted in the one-sheet it’s, “Raw, Real Honest and Sincere!!!” It’s a big, driving cut. She follows that with “Big Boss Woman,” a song she dedicates to womankind. She tells us all the things she can handle at the same time and can best any man. It’s a slick blues cut with more high energy music. Kellerman wails sweetly on guitar, the organ is sublime (why wouldn’t it be? It’s Lucky Peterson!) and the horns also add to the cut. “Born To Sing The Blues” slows the pace down; Zoom gives us slow blues and shows she can bring it fast or slow; delightfully fun as she builds and builds the emotion here. She and Kellerman both do outstanding work here as she tells us what she was born to do. Next is “Still Got The Rhythm,” a cut with a little bit of a down home, country flair as Zoom opens with some Yee Ha’s. She blends blues with rock and country and turns it into a cool cut about bringing it despite some of the failings of age.
The title cut is next up, featuring a heavy dose of funky stuff. Horns blaze, the guitar and bass lay out a fine groove and the baritone sax stands out as Zoom sings about giving her baby a piece of that chocolate cake; how could he say no? “Temptation” is next, a cut about breaking up. Down tempo with a deep and funky bass line, Zoom sings with deep emotion. Kellerman again displays his prowess and some keys by Dominic DeGravio add depth to the mix. “Amazing Nepenthe (WEED)” follows where Zoom tells us she needs a little bit of weed here and there to give her the necessary push to get into things. The doctor fails her with pills and she tells him she just needs a medicinal card. It’s a fun and driving cut and we get to hear Steve Marriner on harp trade licks with Shawn Kellerman.
“Damn Well” has some B3 and piano added to the guitar and backline and it’s a rousing success. Zoom gives another fine performance as this bouncing and upbeat cut moves along. Lance Anderson’s B3 is featured next on “My Baby Don’t Love Me.” Zoom growls and sings with passion, Kellerman plays with controlled chaos and the B3 just makes things sound even better. “Love Bone” starts with an air of mystery and then breaks into a sort of psychedelic blues rock where she asks for her man’s manhood. Little is left to the imagination as Zoom tells us what she wants and needs. She and Kellerman set the tone vocally and on guitar. The final number is “Tired Of Hate.” Here the B3 is provided by Jim Alfredson as Zoom sings about the racial issues facing her and other African Americans. She sings with deep, deep feeling as she expresses herself and rails at America’s problem with race.
This is a fine album with lots of emotion, energy and fire. Vocals are big and delivered with passion. Zoom is the real deal. So is Shawn Kellerman. He’s a guitar stud who plays with flair. He remains controlled even when he hangs it all out– no shredding, just big, nasty guitar. There’s a lot of hot music here, not made for the faint of heart. If you need a rip roaring musical ride with some big vocals and guitar and lots of raw, unabashed energy, then look no further; this is some slick and really good stuff!