Saturday, October 30, 2021

Sue Foley - Pinky's Blues

Sue Foley may be Canadian by birth, but after 30 years living in Austin, her latest album Pinky’s Blues has ‘Texas’ stamped all over it.  It was recorded in Texas, with Texan Hammond organ maestro Mike Flanigin doing the knob-twiddling, and there’s a guest appearance from guitar legend Jimmie Vaughan – hailing, of course, from Dallas, Texas.  Hell, the lady probably wears boots labelled ‘Made In Texas’.
But leave all of that to one side, and the sound of the album still hollers ‘Texas blues’.  It’s there in the feel of ‘Hurricane Girl’, one of the best tracks on offer, which may have a sturdy, stop-time thing going on, but still has drummer Chris Layton and bassist Jon Penner bringing the swing. 
Happiness is . . . Texas blues and a pink guitar
Pic by Todd Wolfson
Meantime the guitars of Foley and the aforementioned Vaughan ripple, shiver, and skim over the top, and if her vocal doesn’t have the command of Etta James declaring she’s a ‘W.O.M.A.N’, it’s still satisfying assertive.
There’s a cinematic feel to songs like ‘Two Bit Texas Town’ and ‘Southern Men’, as if David Lynch were demanding stacks of twang.  The first is an interesting bit of storytelling, but fizzles out a bit.  The second is stronger, with a rumbling, sub-Diddley rhythm, an interesting tune, and a spooky guitar break, though the limitations of Foley’s girlish voice start to become apparent.
She’s better on the romantic slowie ‘Say It’s Not So’, bringing a breathy quality to bear as it opens with just guitar and vocal, while Penner adds a moody bass line to Layton’s restrained drums.  And Foley’s playing here on her guitar 'Pinky' is resonant, human, old-school stuff perfectly tailored to the song – unlike the fade-out that undercuts the emotions.  She delivers a suitably aching vocal on the shimmering ballad ‘Think It Over’, which reaches for the soulfulness of Sam Cooke, assisted by Flanigin’s hesitant and romantic organ solo.
There’s good stuff too in the brisk shuffle of ‘Dallas Man’, with its nagging riff, even if it feels a bit perfunctory.  ‘Stop These Teardrops’ is a great find for a cover too, a catchy slice of shoe-shuffling blues with a stuttering guitar line, penned by (Miss) Lavelle White.  And the jazzy swing of ‘Boogie Real Low’ sounds just like the kind of old-time 50s bluesy rock’n’roll it is, even if the vocal seems almost like an afterthought.
The quickie instrumental ‘Okie Dokie Stomp’ is slight but fun, with Foley’s ducking and diving, witty guitar nicely complemented by the snap and swing of the rhythm section, and Layton’s cymbal stings.  Meanwhile the closing Junior Wells cover ‘When The Cat’s Gone The Mice Play’ is essentially ‘Messin’ With The Kid’ Mark II, without Wells’ convincing growl but Tex-ified by slipping in bursts of Freddie King’s ‘Sen-Sa-Shun’.
I do like a bit of Texas blues.  It’s direct, uncomplicated stuff, in which great guitar playing often seems like ego-free fun around the expression of simple emotions.  There are weaknesses evident in Pinky’s Blues – Foley should have been pushed harder on the vocal front, and a few songs should have been rounded out more definitively.  But it’s still an outing to raise a smile and warm the heart.

Pinky's Blues is out now on Stony Plain Records.

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