Album review: DANA FUCHS – Bliss Avenue

Ruf [Release date 22.07.13]

If blues is too often predicated on the tried and tested theme of: ‘my baby done me wrong’; then Dana Fuchs cleverly extends such familiar subject matter from an autobiographical source and into universal themes that we can all relate to.

‘Bliss Road’ doesn’t so much deal in irony as cold eyed reflection, but with a positive sting in the tail.

So while Dana is barely three verses into the title track before she declares: ‘I’ve got no prayers – you used them all up, God heard my despair and he wished me good luck’,  and the narrator ends up with no place to go, its her survivors instinct and positive spirit that ultimately lifts the album as a whole from ranks of despair.

That and a wide musical canvas that takes in some Faces style swagger on ‘How Did Things Get This Way’, the smoking groove of ‘Livin’ On Sunday’ and the soulful feel of ‘So Hard To Move’.

If anything her diversity is the very thing that holds her back from nailing a definitive sound, because though the album has a linear thread to it, the different musical ideas sometimes feel as if they have been thrown at the wall to see what sticks.

But this is counter balanced by her thematic consistency, the quality and substance of her lyrics, her strong song writing partnership with guitarist Jon Diamond and ultimately her own visceral vocal performance, which glues together an album of emotional depth.

By the half way point of the album, the jangling guitars of the catchy ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’ almost makes a case for radio play status, before the country tinged twang of ‘Rodents In The Attic’ cleverly employs an edgy rhythmic feel to evoke the tension of the lyrics. There’s also a similar country feel to the sardonic lyrical twist of another relationship song ‘Nothin’ On My Mind’

Dana is at her best on the slow building rock ballad ‘Baby Loves The Life’, as she attacks the expansive chorus with real venom.  The southern rock feel of the reflective ‘Vagabond Wind’ would surely have graced FM radio a few years ago and she rocks out on the riff driven call and response of ‘Keep On Walkin’, which boast another uncompromising spiky opening refrain: ‘You feed your faith with my delusion, Can’t keep your mouth closed when you chew, Get on with your self pollution, I breathe much better when you do’.

For a performer who appeared on Broadway as Janis Joplin, she’s never too far removed from the kind of emotive performance to be found on ‘So Hard To Move’, which is a lament for her late brother. But the main different is that Dana’s troubled narratives come with a sense of resolution, even if the closing track ‘Long Long Game’ is a reflection of the doubled edge call of the road.

‘Bliss Avenue’ is a fine album that is ignited by the passion of its making and shaped by  meticulous pre-planning and a confident self production.  And if it’s not quite Dana’s definitive calling card, it still has enough of an emotional pull and lyrical resonance to set it apart from many other current blues-rock oriented releases.  ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)

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