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Oregon's Karen Lovely Has Traveled 'Ten Miles Of Bad Road' and Has Stayed Strong [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com on Jan 09, 2016 01:53 PM EST

This isn't your grandmother's blues. Sure, vocally, Oregon's Karen Lovely takes her cues from Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Janis Joplin. These 13 original tracks, though, widen those standard blues progressions into another animal entirely. It's more a mellow soul groove from a great new singer and a hotshot band of Los Angeles studio stalwarts. The result is 10 Miles Of Bad Road (Kokako) and if you want to traverse that, you have to be strong. Lovely is strong.

She'll tell you like it is when she says "Ignorance (It Ain't Bliss)" and she pops you again in the tongue-in-cheek closer, "Frank The Spank." Yet listen to "Cross The Water" and you'll find a thoughtful beautiful sentiment expressed in the kind of honest terms anybody can understand. When she gets serious and starts pleading and testifying for someone, anyone, maybe the Lord above, or the Devil below to "Save Me," you can't help but feel her yearning, her passion. Lovely is the type of singer who not only gets her point across, but does it with a certain sophisticated flair. Don't get confused because this is hardly gutbucket blues. This is uptown, feel-good, cosmopolitan soul music with most of the primal brute blues force sandpapered away into a nice sheen of city-girl provocation.

Hey, any time you can get such cream-of-the-crop musicians as Grammy-winning producer/drummer Tony Braunagel (who has added his touch to the music of such notables as Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal and Robert Cray), lead guitarist Johnny Lee Schell, bassist Hutch Hutchinson, Hammond B-3 organist/piano player Jim Pugh, Fab T-Bird king Kim Wilson on harmonica, bassist Reggie McBride and four voices joining in harmony, you've got yourself a party. This particular party is upper-class though, fit for some swanky nightclub in New York or L.A. with champagne that runs at least $100-a-bottle. Blues purists beware. No, this isn't your grandmother's blues. It ain't even mine. Caveat Emptor, baby. Still, it's polished, professional and, as such, good every great once in awhile.

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TagsKaren Lovely, REVIEW, Kokako Records, Bessie Smith