Ilana Katz Katz – In My Mind
It’s like finding another Scarlett Rivera – blues-roots fiddler/singer-songwriter Ilana Katz Katz has gone from Boston’s subway platforms to world stages. While Bob Dylan found Scarlett Rivera in the late 70s walking with her fiddle case in Greenwich Village, he took her off the streets to play gypsy violin on his “Desire” LP. Ilana was plucked from a crowd to play with blues guitarist Ronnie Earl.
One interesting tune “Woman, Play the Blues,” is impressive because I seldom hear the blues played via a dominant fiddle/guitar so well. Ms. Katz’s voice is perfect with a low-down tone that is as much seductive as it is provocative. The song works & most importantly she showcases it in such an original manner. She’s a natural, & a classically trained violinist to boot.
In My Mind (Drops Oct 8–Regina Royale Records) is an 11-cut CD produced by Ghost Town Blues Band’s Matt Isbell (guitar/BGV/handclaps/tambourine). Matt recorded these with a haunting tint to the arrangements. Ilana provides sensitivity, & highly imaginative musical sweeps (“Nine Souls”). Amazing stuff.
“Won’t Pass Me By,” is an old-fashioned strut with deep bass tones (Chris Matheos) that follows the lead of Ilana’s fiddle. This tune could’ve been a great one for the late Billie Holiday. Exceptional. The lyrics work within the framework of the vintage circuity of this melody. Nice.
What I appreciate here is what many singers lack today – a signature sound, that’s recognizable as an original. There’s Ricki Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Allison Krauss & if you listen close Ms. Katz has that magical tone – she sounds like no one.
Her voice mixed generously with the bass-bouillon in the musical broth, crisp fiddle sawing, snap of drums, stellar vocalizing, melodies that aren’t old-styled as much as they are simply dipped in nostalgia with a twist. “Time To Go,” is excellent. But “Downtown With the Devil,” is superb. Captivating.
An Appalachian flavored “Hangman’s Reel,” is tastefully performed & this is where Allison Krauss & Ilana cross paths. Simply shimmering.
On this CD Ms. Katz (vocals/fiddle/shaker/porch board/handclaps) is joined also by Johnny Burgin (guitar), Stephen Dougherty (drums), & Kevin Houston (handclaps/BGV/Tympani and produced by Matt Isbell.
Adding some bluesy-jazz tones to “Ain’t No Way,” & far from cliches, Ms. Katz provides all the proof needed that despite her blues roots she is a diversified & versatile artist. “Bad Child,” simmers soulfully. Her intonation on these tracks is irrigated by the blues/soul tradition, her intuition: spot-on. Ms. Katz adds a Stax studio/Steve Cropper feel to “Well, Well Blues,” sings it straight with breathy prestige & warm tonality. In a word, these are all impressively done. I like this.
Photography courtesy of Laura Carbone. The 41-minute CD is available @ https://www.ilanakatz.com/