Red Hot and Local

Geneva Red and The Roadsters - Alley Ways
(Full Cyrkle Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

Story by Tony Bonyata

Just because Chicago is the undisputed home of the blues, that doesn't mean that talented blues musicians can't be found right here in our own backyard.
Harmonica player, vocalist and Lake Geneva resident Geneva Red has just released her debut Alley Ways, a smokin' little record that is filled with the sound that made the Windy City famous; electrified Delta blues. Covering bluesmen such as Muddy Waters, Mose Allison, Big Bill Broonzy and Jimmy Reed it's apparent whose big shoulders this chip has been chiseled from.
Instead of emulating the vocal stylings of female blues artists before her such as Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey or Koko Taylor, Red's vocal's, while probably still not fully realized, range from dry and seductive on "Baby What You Want Me To Do" and "Your Mind Is On Vacation" to Southern roadhouse queen in the Marcia Ball tradition on Muddy Water's "Sugar Sweet".
What Red does have down to a finger-lickin' science, however, is her amazing harmonica playing. With heavy influences from her mentors and pioneering blues harmonica players, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter and Junior Wells, Red creates wonderfully textured tones and sumptuous phrasings. On Dizzy Gillespie's "Birk's Works" she breathes a sultry moodiness over the hypnotic fret work of guitarist Jackie 5 & Dime. Along with her tight backing band The Roadsters, featuring bassist and vocalist Mark Sorlie, Dean Malsack on piano, drummer Elgin Anderson and 5 & Dime on guitar, they manage to transform Duke Ellington's jazz production "Thing's Ain't What They Use To Be" into a rip-roaring Chicago-styled blues free-for-all. On the cover of Eddie Boyd's "Vacation From The Blues" Red's vocals and raucous harmonica conjures up all the heat and humidity of the Mississippi Delta while the Roadsters lay down a frenzied rhythm that Red rides out with a smoldering harmonica solo on the self-penned "Red's Romp".
Sure, she's probably never been evicted for not paying the rent, had to climb out a lover's bedroom window when his wife came home or labored long and hard in the fields, but don't tell her, because it sure as a hell sounds like she has.

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