She may have been born in Texas, but she’s Chicago’s baby now! Sharon Lewis is back with another great release on Delmark, Grown Ass Woman, to follow up on her last release, The Real Deal. Deal had a lot of promise and Grown Ass Woman delivers on that promise; and a whole lot more.
Lewis came to Chicago sometime in the mid 1970’s and has been making a name for herself on the blues scene since the early ‘90’s. During her apprenticeship, she mastered the art of blues, soul, and funk. She’s got a voice that growls when it has to and purrs when it wants to, and trust me brothers and sisters, you have to listen to it.
As you might infer from the title of the album, this CD features a great deal of attitude to go along with the great music and vocals. We’ll pick that up as we go through the songs. But Lewis can back up the attitude with talent, and as that great American philosopher Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.”
Something that might get lost in the shuffle is just how good of a songwriter Sharon Lewis really is. Of the fourteen songs on the album, she penned six. Another six were written by her guitarist and band leader Steve Bramer and of the final two, one was written by B.B. King and Dave Clark while the last one was written by Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers.
Aside from Lewis on vocals and Bramer on guitar, her core band consists of Roosevelt Purifoy on piano and organ; Andre Howard on bass; and Tony Dale on drums. Special guests include Joanna Connor adding some guitar on two tracks; harp maestro Sugar Blue adding his specialty on two numbers; Steve Bell sounds a lot like his father Carey as he plays the harp on one song; Ari Seder plays bass on a couple of tunes; and the Texas Horns, comprised of Kenny Anderson on trumpet, Hank Ford of tenor sax, and Jerry DiMuzio add their talents to four songs.
The album kicks off with Lewis’ salute to the current blues players in Chicago, Can’t Do It Like We Do. She also casually tosses a gauntlet to those who want to get their chance at the spotlight, that it takes a lot of work to get to that level, and even more to stay there. Sugar Blue adds some great harp to the number and this is a great way to kick off the album.
The Texas Horns add their stamp to the party anthem, Hell Yeah!, and the song kicks from the first note to the last. This is not a subtle little number but a kick-ass-grab-‘em-by-the-throat song that has got to get an audience up on its feet.
Lewis and company follow up with the powerful Chicago Woman, a blistering number thanks in no small part to Joanna Connor’s amazing slide work. This is a song that celebrates self, and by extension all of those other great women. And that’s all women, partner, and you better not forget it! This is a great song on so many levels.
Country and gospel give a lot of flavor to They’re Lying, a song in which the narrator has been slandered by gossip. But she’s not going to lie down and take it – she’s going to “stand up and put my foot down.” The theme of this album is empowerment and this one builds its power slowly but surely.
Lewis ups the funk factor with the first of Bramer’s compositions, Don’t Try To Judge Me. This is another song that emphasizes a woman taking the power and control over her life. It’s a hard-rocking number with a great organ break from Purifoy.
Lewis wrote the next song, Old Man’s Baby, as well as the first four, and this is a fun song that follows the philosophy that it’s better to be with someone who appreciates you than with someone who doesn’t have a clue. Love this song. That’s Steve Bell on the harp, another member of that great Bell musical family.
Next up is the title track, Grown Ass Woman, the last of Lewis’ compositions on the album. I don’t think there’s a better song on the album that displays the theme of empowerment. She’s definitely taking care of herself and can do whatever it takes to handle business.
The next five songs are all written by Steve Bramer starting with Walk With Me. This is a gentler song, but it’s still intense with a desire for respect. It’s okay to walk with this woman but you better be ready to share the responsibility.
Freedom is one of the more intense songs on the album, albeit with a bit of funk. This is a throwback to some of the great ‘60’s songs that introduced social consciousness to mainstream music. It’s never been more needed as it reminds us that no one is truly free until we are all free.
There’s a bit of swing in Call Home, and the Texas Horns make the most of the song. It’s a not so subtle reminder that whatever we need can be gotten if we only connect with those people we love. All you have to do is pick up that phone…
It’s old school time with Home Free Blues using Purifoy’s keys to set the mood. This one’s got some heavy heartbreak behind the lyrics and Lewis wrings all the emotion out of it. Great song.
High Road is a great companion to the song Grown Ass Woman. This is the stage with all the pain and the lessons learned from a hard life. It’s a powerful song that’s made even better with Sugar Blue’s harp. Very powerful.
The last two songs are covers with BB King’s Why I Sing The Blues serving as Lewis’ reasons for the choices she’s made. It’s almost a perfect bookend for the opening number and the band launches into it with almost religious fervor. This one rocks and swings and is a terrific entry to her repertoire.
Lastly is the Allman Brothers’ Soul Shine. This is one of those great songs of healing and she delivers with a pure gospel voice. It’s a beautiful song and a wonderful way to end the album. The old hippie in me is still smiling over this one.
Lewis is a major talent. I loved her last release and this one is surely destined to be on my Best Of list at the end of the year. She’s got a great voice and has a way of reaching into your soul and lifting you up and kicking you in the ass at the same time. That’s the real power of a woman.
I wish I could find a website to direct you to for more news, but can’t seem to find one dedicated to her. So, feel free to browse the Delmark website at http://www.delmark.com/ for more information about her and their other great artists.