• 2009
  • Bridges
  • Mary Flower
  • Yellow Dog Records


Guitar maven Mary Flower has produced an ideal album for appreciation on a hot summer Sunday afternoon on the back porch, or in the living room with a glass of wine at 1 AM after a long day. It won’t make you get up and dance, but it sure will make you smile.

Flower, now a denizen of Portland, OR, presents 14 tunes, 6 of which she wrote. Mellow and proficient are the appropriate adjectives for this tasteful potpourri…as well as eclectic! How many other blues albums do you know that feature an array of instruments such as tuba (well, yes, used by both Taj Mahal and Bonnie Raitt), banjo, mandolin, accordion, saxophone, clarinet, and the usual suspects bass, drums, and piano? Although it skirts and samples the folk, jazz, spiritual, and country genres, this is indeed still a blues album. Homage is paid explicitly to Big Bill Broonzy, whose “Big Bill Blues” is a highlight of the CD, and also implicitly to Reverend Gary Davis and such eminent followers of his as Jorma Kaukonen and Stefan Grossman.

Of the 14 songs, 6 are instrumentals, including “Columbia River Rag,” Flower’s only solo. All the other songs feature Flower collaborating beautifully with her guests. Especially praiseworthy are her duets with pianist Janice Scroggins on “When I Get Home I’m Gonna Be Satisfied” and “On Revival Day/There’s Going to Be the Devil to Pay.” On “The Ghost of the St. Louis Blues” the horns lend a smoky 1920s nightclub ambience, and the classic Hoagy Carmichael ballad “Up a Lazy River” sports a fiddle accompaniment that would have made Stephane Grappelli happy. “Temptation Rag” is a tour de force that builds from stately to lilting and lively. “Portland Town” touts the virtues of that Pacific Northwest haven despite its proclivity to precipitation.

Throughout, Flower tickles, strokes, and caresses the strings impressively on acoustic, bottleneck, and lap steel guitar. Her playing respects the songs and her fellow musicians, and never overwhelms. Her vocals are not powerfully emotional, but fit well with the tunes.

[This review originally appeared on the BluesWax website.]