Tag Archives: koko taylor

70. ANGELA LEWIS BROWN “Set Me Free” (2015)

The album cover (Pic: ALB)

The album cover (Pic: ALB)

Well first, I think I’d better start by saying: ‘Wow, what a voice!’ And second, I’m asking myself why I hadn’t heard of this remarkably talented singer before now? It was Blues aficionado Sarah Reeve that first suggested that I listen to the music of singer Angela Lewis Brown. I heard a few samples on Soundcloud and was very impressed, I must say. Contacting the lady, I learnt that she was finalising an album for release in early October; and she kindly sent me a download of the completed album when it was ready; plus a CD copy for review too. I’ve heard some quite breath-taking female Blues singers in the last couple of years (as a brief look at the contents list on my site will testify); and Angela certainly fits that description without a doubt.

Set Me Free is a collection of ten great, original Blues songs, penned by the lady herself; and mostly at the Soul end of the Blues spectrum. Fellow music writer Nigel Foster, recently compared her to such greats as Dana Fuchs and Beth Hart. I totally agree; but I’d add Anastacia, Duffy, and even Taylor Dayne to the list of divas that she reminds me of.  Yet for all that, she is no copy-cat; having an undeniable singularity that enables her vocals to be brutally gritty, or beautifully tender as is necessary for each song. There are nuances in her vocal style too, that are unique and delightful to pick out.

Her song-writing is superb too: ‘Blues Blues Lovin’ is the fine opening track; and right from the start there is no doubt that we are listening to a lady who sings full-throttle, and with genuine passion. That vibe continues with the title track ‘Set Me Free’. Again impressive vocals and some great musicianship from the band.

‘Summer Nights’ slows things down a lot. It could be a moody Paul Rodgers song – musically and lyrically, as well as vocally. Simple in construction, yet effectively passionate; its a cathartic release for the angst-ridden soul.

‘I’m Feeling Good About Me’ is a fun song that I particularly like. The vocal melody during the bridge and chorus didn’t go where I expected it to go, leaving me pleasantly surprised; and marking it out for me as one of many highlights of the album. Its catchiness could possibly make it a hit single.

This is followed by ‘Hopeless’. Its another great soul-laid-bare number. Nice sympathetic guitar; and I must say I particularly liked the backing vocals on this one, which seemed entirely appropriate for the emotion within the song.

‘Better Man’ lyrically shows Angela empowered as a no-nonsense woman; ridiculing a disappointing ex-lover. Great guitar and harp on this one. Vocally it appropriately conveys the anger that she feels. I wouldn’t want to upset this lady! The song with the shortest title ever, ‘I’, comes next. It follows the same theme of the unashamedly independent woman – ‘You ain’t talkin’ to me like that’ she sings!  It has a great funky groove to it.

Once more we are then taken in to the world of emotional pain in the haunting ‘Ice Cold Tears’. Again its simple but effective in its construction; but would strike a heart-rending chord with anyone experiencing the confusion felt in some love crisis. Lovely lead guitar fills here.

The penultimate track ‘That’s You’ is a fun, funky number that would go down well live; and finally ‘I’ll Be There’ ends the collection. It is a beautiful Soul song, and I could also see it being a hit single. It is perhaps a surprising choice as a final offering; yet provides an understated, uplifting and above all, satisfying finish to a quite remarkable debut album.

On all tracks, the vocals, backing vocals and instrumentation are appropriately and impressively arranged. And consistently throughout the album, it is clear that Angela’s vocals are sung from the heart. The same can be said about her lyrics too.

Angela has delved into various MOBO-based genres in the past; but seems to have found a comfortable niche for herself within the Blues – it seems to suit her; and vice versa. She was apparently first turned on to the Blues after hearing Koko Taylor‘s earthy classic, ‘Ernestine’; and this opened a whole new world of music for her.

The CD comes in a standard Jewel Case. It has a simple, yet distinctive cover; with a little interesting info; photos; credits and thanks etc on the inner; but no lyrics. It was recorded, mixed and mastered at Bluebird Recording Studios, Lytham St. Anne’s, Lancs – and a good job they’ve done too.

Some fine musicians were invloved in the recording of the album: the multi-instrumentalist Chris Carter; Alisdair Pickering (on Guitar); Zanny Lee (Backing vocals); Ashley Hurst and Dunbar Delmar (both on harmonica). Bassist Steve Underwood (of Shakatak) is apparently now also in Angela’s band too. These musicians have all done a fine job. The guitar-work is especially good; but although the guitar enhances the songs, this is certainly not a guitar-based album – it is a vocal album; the whole collection being a  vehicle for Angela’s remarkable natural talent.

I’ve not seen Angela perform live yet, but based on what I’ve heard on this album, I can see a great future for the lady for sure. If she is not included as a nominee for ‘Female Vocal’ and maybe ‘Song-Writer’ at the British Blues Awards next year, I’ll be amazed! If you like female vocal and high quality Blues with a Soul vibe, and sung with a passion, then I recommend Set Me Free – you’ll love it! PTMQ

The album will be released on 2nd October 2015; and will be available from Angela’s website…


65. TANYA PICHE & ROBERT LUCAS “Wang Dang Doodle”

Tanya on tour in Southern Germany 1990s (Photo: Tanya Piche)

On tour in Southern Germany 1990s (Photo: by kind permission of Tanya)

Back in the ’90s, Blues singer Tanya Piche spent eight years working in Germany; where, at a gig in Heidelberg, she met the late Robert Lucas of legendary Blues band Canned Heat.  The two of them hit it off really well, and he invited her to tour with the band in L.A. So off she went. (Well, you can’t say no to an offer like that!) Once there, they had a great time; and in Orange County, California, they recorded five songs together. Unfortunately the dats of three of them have since gone missing. ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ however, is one of the survivors, and is thankfully now in Tanya’s possession. What better song to release then, as a tribute to Robert (who passed away in 2008), and all other deceased members of Canned Heat?

‘Wang Dang Doodle’ is of course the old Blues classic originally penned by Willie Dixon; with well known covers by Howlin Wolf and by Koko Taylor among many others.  Its one of those old Blues staples that can be reworked time and time again. Tanya and Robert’s version is both traditional and original at once; and that’s what I look for in a cover – a fresh interpretation of the song that inspired it in the first place. Its nice to hear the same old song; but its great to hear it revitalised in this version too.

(Photo by kind permission of Tanya)

Tanya, all revved up for a smokin’ set at Dave Spark’s Rockin’ Blues Night at The Anchor Inn, Benfleet, Essex, in September. (Photo by David Warne; used by kind permission of Tanya)

This take on the song owes a lot to the Howlin’ Wolf version more than any other, I think; and its a fantastic showcase for Tanya’s voice. She has handled it very well indeed. Her vocal is belted out in a gritty, mean and sassy style – no wonder she has earned the nickname ‘The Female Howlin’ Wolf’! Robert’s guitar playing is superb as you’d expect; with great subtly and timing – a joy to listen to; and its wonderful to hear ‘new’ material from him too. Their version of ‘Wang Dang Doodle’ has had a few spins on Blues radio shows lately, and is therefore attracting some well merited attention, I’m glad to say.

So, what other projects has Tanya got lined up? Well, she reformed her band just last April, and they’re already getting noticed, and have recently played five BB King tributes. They play original material as well as covers. I haven’t even seen them live yet, but I’ve been told to expect ‘…a high energy, authentic, unique sound and stunning performance’. She told me that the band have a new song out soon, called ‘Good Morning Mr.Postman’ which she said ‘…is dark and spooky for Halloween!’ They will also soon be in the studio to do a live recording of four other original songs. There is also some talk of a semi-acoustic radio session coming up. A busy time ahead then. I’ve got a feeling that we’ll be hearing a lot more of Tanya and her Band in the next few months. She’s sounding optimistic about the future – and she’s sounding good! I’m wondering now, if she’ll be on the shortlists for next year’s BBA’s?

The Tanya Piche Blues Band will be appearing at the next Dave Spark’s Rockin’ Blues Night at The Anchor Inn, Benfleet, Essex, on 4th September 2015. And there will be a special appearance by none other than Tanya’s ‘Blues Sister’, the twice BBA nominated, Katie Bradley too. Support is from Canvey Island’s up and coming R’n’B outfit Bif Bam Pow!  PTMQ

Tanya is also mentioned in my recent article on Malaya Blue (See entry #64) Here is a video of ‘Wang Dang Doodle’