In the world of the blues there are many paths to follow. Some artists like to find one path that’s comfortable for them and they stay on that path to good acclaim. Others meander and find little side paths to try for a while, and sometimes those paths take you someplace good.
In other words, there are many different styles of the blues, and here at this little oasis, we celebrate them all. I was delighted to receive a copy of Adrianna Marie’s latest CD after missing out on her 2014 release, Double Crossing Blues, which was nominated for several top awards.
Her latest release on VizzTone, dubbed Kingdom Of Swing, includes a group she names, Her Roomful of All-Stars. “All-Stars” is a pretty good description as she has managed to attract many great players to appear on the album, including L.A. Jones on guitars and vocals; Al Copley on piano; Kedar Roy on upright bass; and Brian Fahey on drums. She also utilizes The Roomful Horns, made up of Doug “Mr. Low” James on baritone sax; Rich Lataille on alto and tenor sax; Doug Woolverton on trumpet; Mark Earley on tenor sax; and Carl Querfurth on trombone.
Special guests include Duke Robillard on guitar and vocal for one song each; Junior Watson on guitar for one song; Bob Corritore on harp for one song; and The Roomful Horns even add their vocals to two songs.
Marie takes on that lush 1940 style of blues, one that blurred the lines between that genre and jazz. It was a time of elegance and when people dressed up to go out to a club where they could be seen.
Kingdom Of Swing recreates that ambience beautifully. You won’t hear a lot of guitar pyrotechnics, but what you will hear is a lovely style that is too often forgotten today. While Marie wrote many of the songs on the album, she also managed to cherry pick a few others written by some of her favorites.
The album starts off with the title track, Kingdom Of Swing. Immediately you are transported to the poshest of clubs. A few bars in and I’m under her vocal spell as well. Her voice is strong and blends so well with the big band era approach.
Johnny Otis’ Better Beware follows. This has some fancy guitar and horn interplay and Marie’s vocals are strong. While I’ve enjoyed the first couple of numbers immensely, I would love to see what she would do with a live set – recreating that look of a band sitting behind music stands and trading off licks. This one really swings.
Marie and her All-Stars keep jumping on an original, Sidecar Mama. Yeah, I’m going to have to play this one on Time For The Blues. It’s just too good, and Copley’s barrelhouse piano just really tears it up before turning it over to the horns for some more fun.
Duke Ellington’s classic, Mood Indigo, follows. The longest cut on the album at nearly nine minutes, it slows things down a little bit and showcases the All-Stars immense musical talent. Jones’ guitar sings a love song throughout and the jazzy feel fits perfectly with the album’s other tracks.
The band then takes on one of Marie’s originals, 3 AM Blues. There’s an extended musical opening before she starts singing. She’s changed her voice to one that’s more pleading, not as mature as she’s used on the previous number. She’s got several vocal approaches on the album and uses them all to good effect.
More swing kicks off Gimme A Roomful. It’s another one of her originals and her voice has a sassy playful edge that disappears into the horns which give way to the piano. I love the interplay on the album. Far too often, it’s only one or two instruments that get to strut their stuff. Here, it’s all of them contributing and taking their turns in the spotlight.
If you’ve ever spent more than a couple of hours in Memphis, you know it’s got its own sound and style. Marie tries to capture it in her song, Memphis Boogie. She utilizes a chorus that sounds a lot like some of the old string bands that recorded in Memphis. Copley’s piano rocks hard, and the horns build the song strong enough to withstand a Mississippi tidal wave.
Helen Humes’ Drive Me Daddy follows. I’ve read where Marie is a big fan of Humes, and I can certainly understand that. She adds Bob Corritore’s harp to the mix and it adds a nice flavor. Her vocals are more mature on this one, not as kittenish on this one – it’s a mature woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to let you know.
Next up is some kick back swing with Baby I Got You. While this is another original, it sounds like it jumped right out of a 1940’s nightclub. It’s a more innocent number and very playful. B.B. King’s Jump With You Baby follows. It rocks and Junior Watson’s guitar captures the nuances of King’s original. Marie’s voice wails and the Horn Section adds their vocals in the background. Sweet number.
Marie slows things down with The Blues Are Brewin’. A longer number than most at just a shade under eight minutes, it allows the band to stretch out some, and Marie’s vocals are lovely and sophisticated. Just let this one wash over you and enjoy it.
One Sweet Letter is a sweet innocent number. The swinging is toned down somewhat, but the horns and Jones’ guitar have a fun time. Next up is T-Bone Walker’s T-Bone Boogie, and this one swings big time. It’s a classic jump number and the band really takes it to town. Jones adds his vocals and gives Marie something to play against. Great tune and look for it to be showing up on the show.
The album closes with Blues After Hours. An instrumental. How many vocalists would reward her musicians by giving them an instrumental in order to have one last turn in the spotlight? It’s a class move and indicative of the collaborative nature of the album.
There’s something for everyone in the blues. If you want heavy rocking, this might not be your cup of tea. But if you enjoy great vocals and have a good time with music that others might call old-fashioned, this is one that belongs in your record collection. Some performers dabble with this style of blues, but Adrianna Marie is steeped in this style. It’s obvious that she loves it and wants to contribute her own new material.
The blues is not a museum, but a living breathing entity that needs new blood…
I listen to a lot of blues. I also listen to a lot of jazz, and believe it or not, I love the big bands of the 1940’s. Kingdom Of Swing is right up my alley and I plan on enjoying this album for some time to come. Hopefully you’ll give it the same chance that so many other listeners have as the album is running up all of the major charts.
I’ll have to check her website: http://www.adriannamarieandhergroovecutters.com/ to see if she has any concerts lined up for the East Coast. With festival season almost upon us, anything is possible.