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| 15 June 2018 | Reply

New Sun Records
November 2017
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
8 ½ /10

With the perfect balance of warm syrup, raw grit, life & love experience and blues power, Crystal Shawanda has what it takes to take her blues from Canada to the world.

It sure doesn’t hurt that her band is right on the money, a crack team (featuring partner guitarist Dewayne Strobel alongside a role call of excellent musos) with an enviable swing who make it look easy, with a side order of rock n’ roll.

But it’s Shawanda’s voice and delivery which dominates – that’s why her name is on the box.

Voodoo Woman features mostly covers – there’s three Shawanda co-writes, two with Stobel. Covering the likes of Willie Dixon/Howlin’ Wolf (Wang Dang Doodle), Willie May Thornton (Ball and Chain), Koko Taylor (Voodoo Woman), Leiber/Stoller (Hound Dog), Jordan/Foster (I’d Rather Go Blind) isn’t just about having a great voice or guitarist. Far more important – essential – is an emotional connection to the song: without it the version won’t resonate with the listener. It’ll be a pale imitation.

Everything here resonates.

The title track is a wild ride, raw and brutally honest, Shawanda kicks up dust with a hint of her country roots and some ‘woo hoo’ booty shaking. Hound Dog goes way back to Big Mama for Shawanda’s starting point, and swings and rolls with infectious style as a result, and I’d Rather Go Blind – made famous by the magnificent Etta James – is a stunning tear jerking performance.

Original track Trouble is an R+B belter that evokes the Buddy Guy school of scorching blues, while I’ll Always Love You manages to meld doo wop, girl group cool and a pinch of gospel. Album closer Bluetrain (slight return)/Smokestack Lightning Revisited is as gritty a blues as it gets, Shawanda singing about the Crossroads, the lost highway, and the titular Blues Train with raw blues power.

Shawanda brings a life of love, family, experience and struggle to her music, and with it, she brings a rare magic.

Category: CD Reviews

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