Oh, my great Blues God, where did this woman come from and why have I never heard her amazing voice before? That’s the question I pretty much shouted after only a couple of songs from Debra Power’s brand new album, That’s How I Roll.
I have had this album for a little while – it released on May 31st – but it hadn’t made it very far on my “must listen” pile. It arrived in a nondescript package from one of the Canadian publicists who sends me great music, but with its whimsical cartoonish cover, it looked more like it might be a cutesy roots or folk music album.
There was no way I was expecting the amazing barrelhouse piano that greeted me and I was totally bowled over by her voice. Oh, that voice! It was as if someone had lit a blowtorch in a dark room. So clear, so powerful.
Power hails from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Like a typical American, I know almost nothing about Calgary, but if it means catching her live, I’ll be booking a plane trip asap!
There’s an even dozen songs on the album, all written by Power and while she is on all tracks playing piano and belting out vocals, she is joined by some fine players who back her with energy and enthusiasm. She is joined by Mike F. Little on Hammond B3; Russell Broom on guitar; Chris Byrne on bass; Lyle Molzan and Kelly Kruse on drums; Tim Williams on slide guitar for one song; Jack Semple on vocals and lead guitar for one song; Joey Landreth on slide guitar for three songs; Chris Brzezicki on upright bass on one song; Steve Pineo on harp for one song, and Ann Vriend on background vocals for one song. Other backing vocals are provided by Cindy McLeod, Elsie Osborne, and Katie August McCullough. There’s also a horn section comprised of Mike Clark on tenor sax; Ian David Hartley on trumpet; and Pat Belliveau on baritone sax.
Power starts off the album with a rollicking number, All Night Playing The Blues. Add her rough voiced vocals and you’ve got an opening that’s guaranteed to hook just about everybody. She calls the roll of several great blues artists, invoking their spirit and they all answer with love. Oh yeah, you’ll be hearing this on Time For The Blues, and if there is any justice, every other blues show as well.
There’s more high energy in the gospel flavored Takin’ The High Road. Power preaches complete with a swinging horn section wedded to her pounding piano. Her voice reaches for the heavens as she tells us how she’s leading her life. A great uplifting number.
Power slows things down and strips down the sound beautifully in Blue Tears. It’s a gorgeous near solo song (piano, trumpet, drums) that made me think of late nights I spent in a jazz or blues club when the singer would bare her soul behind a microphone lit by a single pin spot. Okay, we’re three songs in and I am hooked for life.
Next up is the title track, That’s How I Roll. She has some slide guitar on this song to play off of her piano and vocals. There’s a slight country flavor added to the jump blues mix she creates. Fun song, definitely a great upbeat number and I love her piano break augmenting the slide. Sweet sounds.
Next up is a duet with Jack Semple, Last Time I’m Lovin’ You. The story of a couple who may be great together in one way, but maybe not so much in every other way. The percussion sets up the funky rhythm for the song and the Hammond B3 adds the backbone. You can feel the chemistry between these two and I bet this is a great live song.
She delivers a heartfelt song next, If We Haven’t Got Love. Her subject has broadened to take on more of the problems of the world. She accomplishes this without getting preachy, appealing to our better natures and what we can do.
She drops another pleading ballad with Don’t Ever Leave Me. It’s a beautiful number with a stripped down sound that can break your heart and still give you hope. For those with a sensitive soul, you might even shed a few tears. Let ‘em come and enjoy the song. PS – I’ll admit to getting very choked up over this one…
She picks up the pace quickly with I’m Comin’ Around. If this doesn’t get an audience out of its chairs and onto the dance floor, I’m not sure what will. Her piano coupled with some great guitar make for some raucous swinging. Oh yeah, a great fun song!
She follows up with a sweet number, My Grateful Song. How hard is it for us to find the simple things that we need to be thankful for every day? For most of us, damn hard, and we can use this gentle reminder that there’s much to treasure.
There’s a big band ballad feel to Let Me Love You Tonight. Power delivers powerful vocals that would be right at home with all of the great torch singers. There’s a little early rock and roll feel just under the surface, and the Hammond B3 chords enhance the song.
Her piano rollicks into Please Forgive Me Blues, a deceptively simple song telling a man off. She’s not the one asking for forgiveness, she’s the one telling the jerk that he’s going to be back singing those please forgive me blues. Ah, such a fool. You tell ‘em Debra!
Power closes out the album with an interesting song, Side On Sue. I’ll confess that it took a couple of listens for me to get into the song. There’s some great harp by Steve Pineo, and it’s an unusual take, a story song about an unsavory character. What got to me finally is the darkness of the song and Power’s lyrics. It’s poetry and paints an amazing picture. I’m going back to listen to it again…
Being a high energy female piano player inevitably brings comparisons to Marcia Ball. While that’s flattering to both performers, as they are both amazing performers, Debra Power should be judged against herself. She is a unique talent that commands any space she occupies.
That’s How I Roll is easily going on my year-end Best Of list and if the future, any of her future albums – no, make that every one of her future albums – will immediately move to the top of my “Must Review” pile. She has released one previous album, Even Redheads Get The Blues and I am placing my order for it today.