ToneMonkey

Cathy Lemons - Black Crow

Blues is anything but a single style of music, it’s infinitely varied and diverse if only you take the time to explore what’s on offer. There are some artists who do the exploring for you, and one such act is Cathy Lemons who’s latest disc is called Black Crow. I hadn’t heard of Cathy until I came across this disc, but on this evidence I think she has a fan.

While she does have a hugely varied smorgasbord of styles on the disc, from Texas shuffles to JJ Cale roots songs, it’s a remarkably consistent listen. If many acts attempted this kind of diversity it would fall apart but with the universally high standard of material and Cathy’s rich, velvet voice as a centerpiece, the threads that hold the disc together are strong. That voice is sensuous and expressive, with lyrics delivered with clear enunciation and a minimum of extraneous filigree, she forms an immediate and lasting emotional connection. Her delivery is one that many acts could, and should, be envious of.

Musically the picture that’s built up around her is funky and driving, moving the feet as much as it moves the heart. This is a group of musicians that understand their job is the groove, and not to show off. Even when they have they chance to lay it all down and go for a no holds barred, flat out solo, they hold back and deliver subtlety and real emotion. This restrained performance suits Cathy’s diverse music superbly and stands as a reminder that much modern blues has become a vehicle for showing off.

What all this means is we have an album here that is far closer to the genuine blues than many of it’s contemporaries. The focus is on emotion and not on spectacle, which means it may not grab people who are used to the latter on first listen. However, if you stick with it, as you definitely should, you’ll be rewarded with a depth and richness that eludes the masses. This is a record that deserves repeated listens, that gives you something new on every pass. Each time it hits your record player you’ll love it just a little bit more.

IAN MCHUGH
July 16 2014

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