Blonde Blues hail from the blues heartland of North Carolina and ‘Envision Nu Blues’ finds the band having a decent stab at honing their own style. It’s an album that has its moments, but for the most part flickers rather than burns.
Blonde Blues take their name from their blonde vocalist and song writer Cindy Adams. She’s a good lyricist as evidenced by the heartfelt ‘Satisfied’ and the poignant ‘Gingerbread Man’. And yet in spite of the PR detailing her song writing ambitions, she only contributes two songs and a co-write. Guitarist Ross Osteen actually tops her with three and his mellifluous vocal is well suited to understated and slow burning songs such as the reflective ballad ‘If I Told You’.
Buddy Guy’s ‘Hammer & Nail’ and Al Kooper moving ballad ‘I Luv U More Than U’ll Ever Know’ are approached with a reverentially rather than confidently. But then Buddy’s ‘Best Damn Fool’ is given a touch more bluster, and Cindy duets impressively on the chorus of Doyle Bramhall11′s ‘Say One Thing’, which also features a great wah wah solo from Ross Osteen.
‘Envision Nu Blues’ sounds like the sum total of a decent bar band exploring their own style. They might ultimately fall just short of the mark, but their songs are works in progress with enough potential to keep you interested.
The best self penned moments come with the piano led, stop-time dynamics of Rick Siller’s ‘Shakin’ Off The Blues’ and Cindy’s emotive ‘Gingerbread Man’ with its funky electric piano line. The Siller/Adams penned ballad ‘Rain’ is the closest they get to their own signature style, as Cindy sparkles over an uplifting piano solo, a tic-toc rhythm and a much brighter production by Michael Martin.
Ironically, everything seems to work much better when they are less worried about blues and more focussed on the actual arrangement of a song. Ross’s slow shuffled ballad ‘If I Told You’ is a case in point, as he places the emotional impact of the lyrics at the centre of the song to great effect.
‘Envision Nu Blues’ is an ambition attempt by a band that has overcome several line-up changes, to record new music on its own terms. In Cindy Adams they have a vocalist capable of bringing real expression to even the most mundane of material, a considerable asset when you are still finding your collective way as on this record. *** (3/5)
Review by Pete Feenstra
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.
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