Blogs by Pamela L. Dow
A New Blues Powerhouse Has Arrived
4/16/2004 9:40:00 AM
My review of this new blues artists recording
(Blind Pig Records 2003, CD-5087)
Pamela L. Dow
“A New Blues Powerhouse Has Arrived”
by Pamela L. Dow
Like a hurricane churning up the Atlantic coast, newcomer Renee Austin has emerged onto the
blues scene like a storm surge. Her debut recording, Sweet Talk (Blind Pig 2003), has created
quite a buzz within the music industry, receiving plenty of positive feedback from blues
aficionados across the country. Austin delivers a high powered, high voltage performance from
start to finish. Like a stick of dynamite, her vocal strength explodes right from the very first note,
practically taking your breath away. This California born artist, was raised in Austin, Texas at an
early age, and eventually moved north to Minnesota, where her music career first began. Quickly
becoming a fan favorite of the Twin Cities indie scene, she swept the Minnesota Music Academy
(MMA) honors with an independent release, Dancin’ With Mr. Blue, taking home best blues
album, best blues singer and best female vocalist awards. The folks at Blind Pig Records wasted
no time signing Austin, recognizing her full potential as a talented singer/songwriter. Sweet Talk
contains eleven tracks, traveling across a multitude of blues formats, from gospel, country and
soul, to boogie, honky tonk and jazz. Seven of these are original songs penned by the artist,
sharing personal stories about love, both lost and found. Her Texas roots haven’t been ignored
and can easily be heard throughout this latest effort. What immediately stands out on Sweet Talk,
is Austin’s dynamic vocal range and emotional intensity. She sings from a place deep within her
soul, grabbing your full attention and never letting go.
Sweet Talk starts off with a bang, right from the opening track, “Not Alone”. This hard driving
blues tune, highlights some great harp work by Joe Cook, as Austin belts out a gritty vocal
performance, that will keep your toes tappin’. The following track “Pretend We Never Met” is an
enjoyable duet with veteran blues icon, Delbert McClinton. Both artists compliment each other to
perfection on this country flavored R&B tune. Their duet sounding very natural, as though
they’ve collaborated together on numerous occasions. The tempo dramatically changes on, “Pour
The Sugar Slowly”, a sexy, sassy funk tune, with a great call and response exchange between
Austin’s sultry voice and lead guitarist Kevin Bowe. The following track finds Austin exercising
the gospel influence of her youth on “Bottom Of A Heart”. This high spirited tune, would
motivate any congregation to jump to their feet. “Fool Moon” is a pleasant change of pace,
allowing Austin to stretch out vocally on this jazz flavored tune. “Bury The Hatchet”, disguises
itself as a slow shuffle, then suddenly detonates into a smokin’ roadhouse blues number.
“Unraveling” is a stunning example of Austin’s vocal artistry on this contemporary blues track.
She applies her incredible range with a rich balance of emotional accents, as Dave Jensen sizzles
in the background on trumpet. As if saving the best for last, the final two tracks on Sweet Talk, is
a showcase of Austin at her finest. Both tunes are stripped down to the basics without all the bells
and whistles. She absolutely shines on, “Ain’t Nobody”, a honky tonk tune highlighting the
expressive sincerity of her voice, with Bruce McCabe tickling the ivories. “Black Pearl” is a
swampy, sultry, delta blues tune, finding Austin articulating this style with complete authority.
Sweet Talk is an impressive collection of blues music with plenty of punch. Austin’s energetic
performance and vocal application can dominate any musical format put in front of her. My one
concern with this new release, are the numerous blues styles being presented. Many sounding very
similar in strength and intensity, at times distorting the specific style and its message. Time and
experience will certainly mold Austin into this genre, and tame her vocal prowess to legendary
status. There’s nothing pretentious about this young artist, her new CD is pure heart and soul.
Austin’s talent is a force to be reckoned with, this latest recording is sending a message, telling
everyone she’s here to stay. Sweet Talk is definitely worth your time and attention, a CD you’ll
listen to again and again.
(C) 2003 P.L. Dow
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