Ladies Special Edition Summer

Rory Block - A Woman's Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith
Block's output in recent memory has been her Mentor Series, a set of six albums paying homage to players like Son House and Reverend Gary Davis, bluesmen that she met as a teenager that have influenced her throughout her career. Now Block debuts her Power Women of the Blues series with this 10-song tribute to Bessie Smith. Smith, often referred to as "The Empress of the Blues," recorded between 1923 and 1933 and Block, singing, playing guitar and bass, stays true to the "old timey" feel of cuts like "Do Your Duty" and "Kitchen Man," which is filled with sexual innuendo. Smith didn't write all of her songs but she favored racy lyrics, witness cuts like "Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl" with words like "I need a little hot dog between my roll," and Block does a great job of conveying the playfulness of these songs. The songs Block covers here represent only a small fraction of what Smith recorded during her career, and undoubtedly Rory would love nothing more than for this album to inspire fans to seek out some of those originals. Available July 6.

Victoria Ginty & Ladyhawke - Unfinished Business
The funky groove of "Do Me Right" opens this album and the Los Angeles Music Critics have certainly done Ginty right; they nominated her for "Best Blues Artist 2018," partially based on the song having hit #1 on the RMR National Contemporary Blues Chart. Fans will likely be doling out plenty of accolades of their own after giving Unfinished Business a spin and being mesmerized by the slow simmering sensuality of "Every Night, Every Day," floating with the southern soul of "Hard to Move On" and sitting solemnly (at first) during "Take Me Down," a cut that begins as a sparse and chilling spiritual but that eventually bursts into a joyful slice of R&B that nicely represents a post-baptismal rush.

Dana Fuchs - Love Lives On
On first listen to Fuchs' cover of the Otis Redding chestnut "Nobody's Fault but Mine" you're going to swear that you're hearing a long-lost Janis Joplin cut. Fuchs has an earthy and occasionally gravelly quality to her vocals that often recall the late Joplin, and the swaggering R&B format that Fuchs works in here is also in line with Janis's style. Most of the cuts here were co-written by Fuchs and her guitarist Jon Diamond (the pair also produce the effort) and recorded in Memphis and the set has that city's distinct flavor, whether a weepy cut like the title track or a sax-enhanced dance groove like "Sedative." Fuchs closes the effort with her take on the oft-covered "Ring of Fire," slowing down the Johnny Cash classic and showing that she's equally at home working in the Americana genre.

Vanessa Collier - Honey Up
Collier is known for her prowess on the saxophone but she makes the listener wait a bit on opening cut "Sweatin' Like a Pig, Singin' Like an Angel" as she holds off until song's end to break out the sax and wrap the song with a frenetic flurry of notes that hint at what's to come deeper into the album. Collier has a great singing voice too and she showcases that aspect of her talent on the quasi-gospel of "Don't Nobody Got Time to Waste," a cut that bops along at a good clip over the buoyant organ playing of William Gorman, and again the sax riffs are saved for the ending. The sax comes more to the forefront on the funky title cut, an R&B burner that recalls something that the Average White Band might have done. As you might anticipate from a cut called "Percolatin'," Collier shines on sax throughout on the instrumental while also allowing Gorman and bass player Nick Trautmann space to solo on the exceptionally earthy cut. Collier has recently racked up tons of awards and nominations in the blues community and it is easy here to hear why. Available July 6.

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