REVIEW: Whitney Shay’s “Stand Up” Mines a Standard Funk-Blues Vein


San Diego’s blues chanteuse Whitney Shay mines a standard funk-blues vein. Done effectively with all the necessary nuances of the genre. Whitney debuted in 2012 & with her new Ruf Records’ release Stand Up! (Feb. 28), it seems all has been expertly maintained in an old school rhythm & blues showcase.

With a Bonnie Raitt tip of the hat Ms. Shay’s “Someone You Never Got To Know,” has lots of blues meat on its bones. With soul in her voice, she follows a groove line with energy, & makes it all stew with flavor. Ms. Shay sings in a cultivated well-articulated blues style akin to Genya Ravan (Ten Wheel Drive), Karen Lawrence (1994, Blue By Nature), Rory Block or Tracy Nelson (Mother Earth). She also has fiery blues instincts. What she lacks? A little of the diversification of Holly Cole. No matter.

That aside, her band is superb on every track. Red Young (keyboards), Laura Chavez (guitar), Chris Maresh (bass), Brannen Temple (drums on 8 tracks) & Tommy Taylor (drums on 4 tracks). Derrek O’Brien (crisp slide guitar on “Equal Ground,” & plays alongside Laura’s lead guitar with excellence). The Texas Horns pump up “P.S. It’s Not About You,” & butters up listeners that may have missed the old Mother Earth with Tracy Nelson. A bit retro, but ballsy. This is what sets a good bar band apart from a pro unit. These are pros.

Ms. Shay tightens her warm tone for the slower soulful-ballad with a brief decorative sax solo on “I Thought We Were Through.” If Billie Holiday were alive – this one she’d do.

The 12-track Austin, TX well-seasoned album was produced by Kaz Kazanoff.

Guest vocalist Guy Forsyth appears on “Far Apart (Still Close) & returns (on resonator guitar) for “Boy Sit Down.” A fine Dixieland type music sparkles with blues-great Marcia Ball adding a solo piano turn. It may not be blues-challenging as The Butterfield Blues Band, but the ingredients for excitement is always present.

At times, Ms. Shay’s voice is golden like Shawn Murphy’s (Little Feat). I like how she goes gritty without getting raw (Janis Joplin). Throughout the performance, the musicians drive hard. The Texas Horns (Kaz — tenor sax, John Mills — baritone sax/flute & Al Gomez – trumpet) cook throughout “You Put Out This Flame” as fiery as Janis’ band on “Kozmic Blues.”

Laura’s guitar has the soulful Steve Cropper tonality — purity of presence perfect for this music. It’s one thing to have a voice, good musicians but to maintain a tight danceable groove over the congregation – that’s professionalism. “I Never Meant To Love Him,” has shades of Etta James/Sam Cooke, performed with expertise. Shay hits notes with the riveting clarity of the late Minnie Ripperton.

Whitney said “…the purging of sad experiences.” Yes, that’s what her music does & hers are all well-written songs by Whitney & Adam J. Eros.

The 43-minute LP will be available at CDBaby.

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