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Issue 1089

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Review

Dana Fuchs: âBliss Avenue.â (Ruf Records)

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UK release date 22.07.2013

I have seen Dana naked. Yep. Well, to be totally accurate, topless. Well, to be less economic with the truth; clasping both hands over her modesty. OK. Ok. Not in the flesh, but in a series of exclusive hot photos she has had shot recently. I was sent some to run in my regular column, âSimon Redleyâs Bluesville,â in this monthâs magazine.

This was to accompany an item where I praise her new album âBliss Avenue,â and remark on the startling similarity of her voice and that of the late Janis Joplin. If I had a tenner for every time someone has said or written, that a female singer sounds like Joplin, I think I could retire early. But in this case, it is true. Dana really does. But this is not a case of: âTonight Matthew, I am gonna be Janis Joplin.â This is Dana being Dana. It is innate and part of her vocal make-up ,that she uses those pipes in the same way Ms Joplin did. She has soul, she has grit, she can be raunchy, she can rock out. But above all else, Dana Fuchs was born to sing THE BLUES. She was also born to make this record.

Now I am going to make a confession here, which may shock or irritate some people. I care not. It is me being honest. I have never been a fan of Janis Joplinâs music. I can appreciate that she was good at what she did, if you like that kind of thing. But I never have. Until now.

Dana is beautiful; both physically and vocally. There is an inner spirit that makes me feel sheâs got several sides to her, and not all of them have been exploited yet in her music. In other words, there ain't chuff all predictable about who she is, or what she does. This Floridian singer-songwriter has delivered three albums thus far in her career, and it is strong stuff. If you are looking for something to put on your iPod to wake up gently to, perhaps opt for something a little less in your face. Unless you have damn good health insurance. Ms Fuchs has big cojhones and uses them for great effect here. The songs are co-written with her long-time guitarist Jon Diamond. The material is a hand-in-glove fit for Dana, and I suspect that she is a perfectionist when it comes to what she ends up putting her vocal to, and what ends up on her records. I doubt any amount of bullshit or stroking would change this chickâs mind once it is made up!

In fact she says: âIf thereâs one line that sounds thrown away or dialled in, it has to be re-done. Every word needs to express the emotion of the song, or no one will get it, and it leaves me cold.âShe says she purged her soul on this album, in a starker more naked way. Lyrically and musically. Ahhh, I see now why the naked photos.

She broke down in tears singing some of the songs on here; as they were so close to her heart and the emotions flooded out of her. But that surely adds to the honesty of the piece. It is real. It is raw.As it should be when singing anything, but most defintely when you want to taken seriously if you dare to call yourself a blues singer. You cannot fake it. We will always know.

The 12 tracks get fine treatment from some fine US players. In Jon Diamondâs smoking and sensitive guitar playing, the perfect foil for Danaâs vocal skills. In Jack Daleyâs nailing of the bottom end. In Glenn Patschaâs sublime Hammond, Wurly and piano licks. With in-the-pocket drummer Shawn Pelton, as Dana says: âkeeping the train on the track.â Much value added by background singers Tabitha Fair and Nicki Richards. Dana, Jon and Tim Hatfield producing.

Itâs got soul, roots, Southern rock and of course, bundles of blues. I can even hear some country influences in her phrasing, and the structure of the songs and arrangements at times. Thatâs cool by me. Dana began her singing career at a very young age, fronting a local band at a roadside Holiday Inn, before upping sticks at 19 to move to New York. Around the same time, tragically her older sister took her own life, after which Dana threw herself into her music and the NY blues jam circuit. At one of these jam nights, she met session player Jon Diamond who had toured with Joan Osborne, and they teamed up and formed the Dana Fuchs band. They soon began creating a buzz and packing venues across the big apple. Two years later they began writing together too, and the magic really started to appear. In 2001 she was asked to star in the Broadway production of âLove, Janis," the hit musical about Joplinâs life and career. Playing JJ four nights a week, she caught the eye of Hollywood director Julie Taymor, who snapped her up for the part of Sadie in the Sony movie about the Beatles, "Across The Universe.â With her vocals featured heavily on the platinum-selling soundtrack, the attendance at Dana Fuchs band gigs rocketed.

The band released its debut album in 2003, with sounds drawn from the 60s Stax/Volt R&B era, Lucinda Williams and the Rolling Stones. With the lyrical eloquence of Tom Waits and Dylan. Thatâs Bob not Thomas! 2011âs âLove To Beg,â spread the word far and wide about Danaâs amazing talent, and over here it was warmly received by music fans and critics. So how can she follow that? Simply; with this album âBliss Avenue.â It is one of those discs where at first listen you think you have got it pegged. But wait; on second and subsequent spins you discover other layers and choose a different track each time as your fave.

Over here for just two UK shows in London and Wolverhampton in October, I am pretty sure this album will ensure both those gigs have the sold-out signs outside, and punters removing limbs for a ticket. But I think it a safe bet sheâll keep her top on. As long as she sings like she does on this record, Dana Fuchs can wear a bin bag for all I careâ¦â¦â¦â¦â¦â¦.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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