Blues Blast Magazine, USA, Issue 8-10 March 2014'The Blues Don't Scare Me' Album Review:
“Well played and produced… The band is hugely experienced on both the blues and jazz circuits... Zoe’s vocal here is again outstanding…”
On the second CD from UK band Blue Commotion the band is Zoe Schwarz on vocals, Rob Koral on guitar, Si Genaro on harmonica, backing vocals (and rap!), Pete Whittaker on Hammond, Pat Davey/Rodney Teague on bass and Paul Robinson on drums. Sue Hawker provides b/v on four tracks and a horn section of Ian Ellis on sax and Andy Urquhart on trumpet appears on four tracks. Apart from a cover of Billie Holiday’s “Billie’s Blues”, all the material is original, mostly Schwarz/Koral compositions with Sue Hawker providing lyrics for one song and Phil Coles another. The band is hugely experienced on both the blues and jazz circuits; for instance drummer Paul Robinson was Nina Simone’s drummer in Europe for many years. The material is varied, running across ballads, blues and R n’ B with some jazz influences adding to the mix.
The CD opens with a strong ballad in “I Believe In You”, the longest track on the album, the lyrics an encouragement to ‘go for it’, possibly a message from Rob to Zoe (or vice versa); either way it’s a strong song to open the CD. The instrumental elements are spread out as first Pete gives a fine account of himself in a Hammond solo, then after further vocal verses Rob solos fluently. Next up is the jaunty, almost country blues of “Liberated Woman” which is propelled by the fast hands of drummer Paul. Si added just a little colour to the first tune but takes the main solo on this one. The title track is more of a rocker and Zoe gives us her ‘rock chick’ persona here as the band is augmented by the horns for this one and the solos come from Pete and Si.
“I’ll Be Yours Tonight” is a quieter piece led by Rob’s lovely plucked chords and Si’s atmospheric harp accents. Against this gentle musical background Zoe offers herself to her lover: “I can’t resist you now, show me your best move. Kiss me now, I’ll be yours tonight”. Upping the ante even further the band then give us “We’ll Find A Way”, possibly the strongest song and vocal performance on the album (and that’s saying something!). The song is almost the opposite of the previous cut as the two potential lovers have so many differences that a union seems unlikely: “…we’re a mile apart, like the desert sun and the arctic ice. Baby, baby, we’ll find a way”. Rob’s short solo is perfect for the song as it shimmers across the speakers before giving way to Pete’s church-like organ. Zoe then returns to tell us that “..there’s something that binds our souls and knits our sleep, we’ll find a way”. Superb.
The two lyrical collaborations follow. Phil Coles’ lyrics for “Lucifer Is Blue” work very well in Zoe’s mouth, recounting that the inner devil has been made blue by a frustrating relationship. Having seen the band live recently I know that this is a tune on which everyone solos and here Paul’s drums threaten to let loose before returning to the main theme. Sue Hawker’s “Just Another Day” is a slow blues concerning the mundane everyday life that so many of us lead, always hoping that there is something more exciting to come. “Your Sun Shines Rain” is another song about jealousy and failure to understand a partner. It’s an uptempo stomper which is immediately followed by an excellent reading of Billie Holliday’s “Billie’s Blues” on which Si’s harp and Pete’s Hammond solos are followed by a delicate acoustic solo from Rob, the verses being supplemented by the horns. Zoe’s vocal here is again outstanding, more than doing justice to Billie’s memory.
The album then closes with three different styles: “Come Home Sweet Baby” has an insistent riff and contains a rap as well as harp from Si. Not sure that the rap really works but it offers a different slant on what is otherwise a pretty straight mid-tempo blues. Whilst many of the tracks here demonstrate some jazz sensibilities “Pebble In My Pond” is the most pronounced, especially in the cooler vocal and organ accompaniment. Closing track “Say It Isn’t So” is another of the tracks with horns, an upbeat tune with strong vocals and backing harmonies, Rob and Pete both providing stirring solos to close out the album.
Well played and produced, this is an album from a band working hard to break through in the UK and is well worth a listen.
- Words by: John Mitchell