Black Crow

  • 2014
  • Black Crow
  • Cathy Lemons
  • VizzTone 2014


 Reviewed by Steve Daniels

            Based for years in San Francisco after a stint in Texas, Cathy Lemons sports an impressive resume including associations with Anson Funderburgh, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and John Lee Hooker, who used her as his frequent opening act.  In her first release since her 2009 collaboration with bassist Johnny Ace, "Lemonace," Lemons delivers a diverse set of ten songs ranging from the tangy to the titillating to the turbulent, all distinguished by her unique vocal style and backed by a stellar group of musicians.  Production is well handled by Lemons, multi-instrumentalist Steve Gurr, and ace producer (and Rick Estrin and the Nightcats' lead guitarist) Kid Andersen.  The result is a notable release.

            Blasting off with the R-&-B style"I'm a Good Woman" (credited to Kim Wilson, who at last check was a man), the album segues into "Ain't Gonna Do It," a sinuous and sultry statement of assertiveness.  It's followed by one of the six Lemons-composed tunes, the title cut, a moody slow blues reminiscent of one of Doug MacLeod's atmospheric outings.  Next is the infectious, uptempo "Hip Check Man," introduced by Gurr's harmonica and demonstrating an irrestible momentum.  "You're in My Town Now" establishes Lemons's cred as a tough woman not to be messed with, and sports some nice piano by Kevin Zuffi.

            We're halfway through the album now, and there's a lot more quality music to come, including a fine slow blues, "I'm Going to Try," and a great driving shuffle — named, appropriately, "Texas Shuffle."

            Lemons has a voice which can do both tough and sultry, and she adds piquancy with some spoken phrases that highlight lyrics and add unexpected emotional impact.  Several songs feature Lemons providing overdubbed vocal harmony to excellent effect.  Throughout, I was impressed by Steve Gurr's chops: the man is a fine harmonica player, and plays understated by eloquent guitar.  So far this year, this is one of my favorite albums.

[This review initially appeared in Big City Blues magazine.]