Sunday, September 2, 2018

A woman rules the blues


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A WOMAN RULES THE WORLD--Whitney Shay
Songstress Whitney Shay has been tearing up the stages of San Diego for a few years now, the petite and elegant songstress applying her impressive pipes to a variety of musical styles in a multitude of collaborations. Show tunes, torch songs, ballads, classic rock and roll and soul, and blues are only some the styles the charismatic Shay selects from; in all of them, her voice wails, growls, soars, whispers and croons as the material requires.  Her tone is rich, her inflection and her feeling for emphasis at key points in her songs keep a listener on edge anticipating the next chorus, the next ad-lib, the next hoop, and holler. Shay keeps it moving, driving,  continually moving the pieces on the chessboard.  Shay consistently works with the best musicians available.

 Her new record, A  Woman Rules the World , is no exception, being essentially a blues and  R&B project highlighting Whitney’s vocals, equal parts sass, brass and an elegant sense of grit, with a band of A-List players, including Christoffer Anderson (guitar), Jim Pugh (organ/piano)  Kedar Roy (bass), Alex Pettersen (drums) and Gordon Beadle (saxophones). The outfit, which handles its duties with a seeming organic blend or swagger, swing, and soulfulness, brings a contagious verve to A Woman Rules the World, a record, that, as the title suggests, is a bluesy, gospel-tinged declaration of a woman's right to exclaim her blues.  Shay co-wrote four of the album's ten songs (with Adam J.Eros) and begins this heated session with the unmistakable assertion 'Aint No Weak Woman”. This is a straight-up strut of self-definition, the band bristles and boils over with a sure groove of assertive funk as Shay delivers the news that you underestimate women at your own peril.

The title song, writing credit to one D.LaSalle, amounts to a feminist version of James Brown's  1966 classic, the fatally patronizing "It's A Man's World"; while JB tried to explain away male chauvinism at his song's midpoint with a haphazard tribute to women for their ability to bear children, Shay's reading of the lyric, slowly and dramatically  paced, pushes the condescension to the side and lays out the facts of being  a woman in the world of men. Shay remains true to the gut-feeling requisite of the blues and conveys all this with the sock-it-to-ya conviction.r It’s not a lecture, but a testimonial. The album isn't just inspired polemic, though, but also funky, joyful, very sexy indeed, sexy as in the case with the "Get it When I Want It”,  a funk blues extravaganza with a trace of New Orleans heat that highlights Whitney wittily making it clear that what she needs from a lover has to  be good, great, greater, greatest , consistent and on time.  The emotions Shay handily , slyly and seductively puts across through the lyrics , of course, run  the full range of how one feels in imperfect relationship and in one of her original songs  “Empty Hand”, a soulful, Percy Sledge/Sam Cook like ballad, she addresses a paramour who’s continually let his end of the bargain fall to the floor. Shay’s reads the lyric with a sense of tenderness and genuine affection tempering the anger. “I’m not done with you baby” she wails, seeming to , just for today, give it one more try.

A Woman Rules the World is full of rocking, stomping surprises, ten hot selections grounded in the up-swinging, people moving traditions of blues, rhythm and blues and gospel. Whitney Shay has a voice that channels these styles and creates her distinct verve and originality on the traditions with each croon, holler, soaring high note and low and slow and sexily turned phrase.  The tight and sublime band and the guest appearances by guest musicians Igor Prado (guitar), Aki Kumar (harmonica) and John Halbleib (trumpet)  have made a record that is fun, feisty, ideal for raising the roof and creating convivial mayhem.





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