BLUES411.COM/SEPTEMBER 2012 By Jimi Patricola
Paula Harris – Turning On The Naughty
Ms. Harris made it into the finals of the 2012 International Blues Competition, and in doing so walked away with third place for the Band competition. That’s no small task, cause the talent at this event is off the charts – it is a blues lovers bucket list item, ’nuff said.
‘Turning On The Naughty’ is the title track and it reeks with the promise of steamy sex, nylons and just good old doing the wild thing. “can you feel me on your sheets, just like a cat in heat’ pretty much sums it up. No subtle innuendos here, for the naughty is turned on and the naughty will not be ignored.
Ms. Harris has a voice that harkens back to the days of Big Band thumpers. Full of brash, throaty, unbridled passion at all levels and styles. On ‘Damn Your Eyes’ she starts out singing almost to herself as she begins the crescendo of sound that tears into the heart and bears for all the vulnerability that exists at the core of this burner.
A rollicking version of Shep (Purple People Eater) Wooley’s ‘Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore’ is a tale all too familiar to many of us these days as the effects of living and aging are taking it’s unrelenting toll on us. What Ms. Harris does with this is pure fun and frolic, undoubtedly bringing a smile to a our group situation.
Ms. Harris’ band is solid collection of top notch artists, featuring Derrick “D’Mar’ Martin on drums whose uncanny sense of rhythm and beats stands alone. Mr. Terry Hiatt brings his reputation as a guitar players player and shows off his full compliment of influences and styles very nicely with the band. Joey Fabian brings aurally animated bass lines to the mix, and Simon Russell filling up the sound with his excellent keyboard work. Dang if any artists need a band to back them up on the west Coast – you should look these cats up.
Slowing things down to true torch level and serious late night blues music we have ‘Some Of My Best Friends Are The Blues’ Mr. Fabian’s work on the upright bass sets the stage as Mr. Russell’s keyboard fills and melody weave a web of desperation and solitude for Ms. Harris to employ her ample vocal gymnastics to full advantage and our delight.
A funky side of the blues is visited thru the ‘Gates Of Hell’ when they are opened. Snappy and a percussion lover’s dream this song lays it straight on the line to the man who done her wrong as the Devil himself is proud of what that man done done to her. Syncopated and pointed this is one of my favorite tracks on the release.
To visit the like of Robert Johnson’s ‘Dust My Broom’ take a whole lot of moxie, and has the chance of turning into a train wreck for many reasons. Doncha worry none here, the moxie is backed by talent and a funky twist that starts at 0:01 of the track. Mr. Hiatt throws down some funky chicken scratchin’ that sets the stage for an assault of the traditional version but in doing so makes it modern and the song a strong vehicle for expression of the lyrics.
Ms. Harris is a superb vocalist, song writer and interpreter of the music she sings. Her ability to take center stage and hold the attention is amazing indeed. Her live performances are heady, slinky and down right sexy, and this release gives us a glimpse of those live events and bodes well for her future in our beloved genre. She mixes Funk, Blues and Jazz with ample attitude and sheer joy, there is no room for disappointment with this lady when she sings the blues.
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
Where Blues Thrives
As I often do, when I first put this CD on I listened to it without the sleeve notes/booklet and in the absence of any of the publicity material that accompanies most promotions these days. Before too long I realized that much of what I was listening to came with a jazz-type inflection that reminded me a great deal of the likes of Billy Holliday and/or Sarah Vaughan. There is a lightness and a contrasting depth and breadth to Ms Harris’ singing that gives her an outstanding edge over many of her contemporaries who have only two modes, quiet and what Taj Mahal accurately described as “Shouting In Key”.
When I looked at the blurb material there it was; Paula worked for two years at The Top Mark, a well-known and respected jazz venue in San Francisco. Paula hails from South Carolina and has as they say “paid her dues” in residences, specials and a regular gigging schedule. One reads about her that on stage she has, "shakin'-all-over dance moves, a flirty personality and a contagious smile" Well of course, one can’t tell any of that from a CD. But, aside from the fact that a smile must be infectious and not contagious, there is still something in Ms Harris recorded performance that makes her stand out. A finalist in this year’s International Blues Challenge, (she came in Third in 2012) Ms Harris deserves much success.
The album comes with a slew of fine musicians in her band (the Beasts of The Blues), a commanding horn driven combo(the Big Ass Brass) featuring Mic Gillette on trombone and trumpet, Tom Poole on Trumpet and Tom Politzer on sax, Derrick “D’Mar” Martin on traps, Terry Hiatt on guitars, Joey Fabian on bass and Simon Russell on keys. The band supports Ms Harris to the nth degree.
The song are delightful ranging from the outright funny like the Dick Feller song, “I Just Don’t Look Good Naked Anymore Blues” which Paula received publishing rights for due to the extensive changes she made to the song.(Feller also wrote the Jerry Reed classic “Lord Mr Ford”. Don’t know it? You have missed something special.) On to the funky "Touch Of The Blues", Paula’s own song. She turns her hand to "Dust My Broom" (which comes on like a New Orleans bit of Rhumba funk), and to Etta James classic, "Damn Your Eyes" And much much more.
I really like this CD and it will get some airplay on my shows. Recommended.
Reviewer Reviewer Ian McKenzie lives in England. He is the editor of Blues In The South (www.bluesinthesouth.com) a monthly flier providing news, reviews, a gig guide and all kinds of other good stuff, for people living and going to gigs along the south coast of England. Ian also produces and presents three web cast blues radio shows; one on www.phonic.FM in Exeter (Wednesdays: 1pm Eastern/ 12 noon Central, 10am Pacific) and two on KCOR (www.kconlinereadio) on Fridays at 12noon Central (Blues and Blues Rock) and Mondays at 4pm Central (Acoustic Blues).
Blues Blast Magazine
Issue 7-11, March 13th, 2013
Written By: Ian McKenzie