I remember receiving one of Laura Tate’s earlier CDs, but it lives in my office at the station where Henry Cook and I put together Time For The Blues, so I can’t remember which one it was. I do remember liking it, and I’m sure we played one or two of her songs, and a Christmas song she recorded on one of our holiday shows.
So, while she’s not exactly a brand new artist to me, she’s new enough that I had to dig up a little research to refamiliarize myself with her work. And I’m glad I did.
Her newest album, Let’s Just Be Real, is a solid, vocal-driven disc that showcases her wonderful voice. While she covers some blues songs on the album, most notably Still Got The Blues and I’ll Find Someone Who Will, her selections are not genre driven. If she finds a good song that’s more in a rock vein, or a rhythm and blues groove, she’s going to do that, and do it well.
Many of her choices would make a great live show in an intimate setting. Fortunately, there are many clubs that can accommodate such a performance, and they are not limited to blues or jazz clubs.
When I listen to this album, I can easily imagine her performing them and it almost seems like a live album. All that’s really missing is her rapport with the audience and I imagine that would not be difficult for her to achieve.
Tate has put together a tight musical outfit that includes her on all the lead vocals along with Terry Wilson on bass and vocals; Billy Watts on guitars and vocals; Jeff Paris on piano, B3 and mandolin; Tony Braunagel on drums; Lee Thornberg on brass; Paulie Cerra on saxophones; and Leslie Smith on percussion. Teresa James supplies the female backing vocals.
Paris’ keyboards sets the mood for Nobody Gets Hurt and her vocals come in after a throaty chuckle. Tate has a sweet voice and mixes a little of that Texas steam into her vocals. It has a good sound and shows some potential, and as I am new to her work, I have faith that she’ll continue throughout the album.
The next song, If That Ain’t Love, is written by Paris and Terry Wilson. I’ve been noticing more of Wilson’s work this year, maybe I’m just catching up to the rest of the world, but he continues to impress me. This song is a great tune that would be at home in just about any cabaret or Broadway show and Tate delivers it with style.
Hitting On Nothing kicks off with a barrelhouse piano and some sharp brass. It’s a soulful bluesy tune with some great hooks as one would expect on a song written by Naomi Neville. Listen for the sax lead (it’s impossible to miss) and you know that this song has got to be a killer when Tate performs it live. It’s a great anthem for the women in the audience.
Her next song, Can’t Say No, is a gentle number that mixes in some rhythm and blues with what feels like a slight bossa nova run. Her vocals are delivered in a saucy purr and she toys with her audience in a delightful manner.
The opening to Boys Are Back In Town is lush and entirely different from the well-known Thin Lizzy version. This starts off as a slow ballad through the first verse then kicks it up with plenty of spice. As the song says, “she’s steaming.” Tate has some fun with this and with her delivering the song, it takes on a different perspective. Interesting and bold choice.
Tate follows up with Still Got The Blues, which is a solid blues number that she can sing the hell out of. That may not be the best grammar, but it accurately sums up my thought on the song. The slow horns roll in like waves and Tate’s voice soars and drops with emotion. Watts’ guitar break is a sweet run. I’ll be playing this one on Time For The Blues.
Teresa James and Terry Wilson wrote the next song, I’ll Find Someone Who Will. James and Wilson have been popping up on several other artists’ albums, plus the one they did together. This number is big and brassy and gives Tate a chance to perform with some serious attitude. This is a great somebody did me wrong song. Love it.
The title track, Let’s Just Be Real, follows. Paris’ piano leads us in and Tate’s vocals start off soft and low. Pretty soon, things move up and Tate switches into a crooning style. It’s a good big band kind of a number and one that works very well in an intimate setting.
There’s a bit of Texas grit in the opening of I Know You Lie. Watts has some fun with the guitar and Tate’s vocals take on a sharper edge. When you see a title like this, you know somebody’s going to be on the receiving end of a serious discussion, and you might not want to open your mouth to respond anytime soon…
Curiously enough, Tate then follows up with I Need A Man. Maybe she means a new man, but title quibbles aside, she delivers this advertisement with some solid emotion. It makes for a good torch song and the horn section punctuates the song at precise intervals to give it a cool Chicago sound.
More great horns open Big Top Hat and the song immediately has a big band feel. I like that particular style very much and realize it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Tate delivers the song with as much attitude as she can muster. If you’re listening to this song in the car with a bunch of younger kids, you might want to hit the “next” button to avoid a few instances of a three-letter word that’s a synonym for “derriere.” It doesn’t detract from the fun of the song, just a warning, just in case.
Tate and company close the album with Wildest Dreams. It’s a song of longing and remembering. The song is very nice, with kind of a California pop sound. It’s slick and one that could receive some airplay on the crossover stations if the producers would give it half a chance.
Laura Tate has a great voice and she’s put together a terrific band. I know a lot of blues fans read this blog looking for new things, and while I like this album very much, I’m not sure that it has enough blues to satisfy some of the more hardcore fans. Still, you should be the one to make that call, and you can sample some of her work on her website https://www.musicbylauratate.com/.
While you’re there check out some of her earlier work, and take a look at her acting and directing resume to see some of her work outside of music. She’s quite a talent!