As much as I love getting great discs from my favorite Blues/Zydeco artist, I have to admit my greatest thrill is having a CD come in from some 'unknown' (to us) artist and have it totally shake up my world. When I put this CD on, the only thing I had to go on was that Seattle-based John Stephan, a very talented and wise veteran of the music wars, said, "Oh yeah, there's this woman here in Seattle who's got a new CD out…Charlene Grant…it's pretty good…but then I co-produced it." Well, the CD arrived a week later and I must say that I am floored by Charlene Grant's talents: singer-songwriter, bassist, arranger and producer - wow! This woman is a total multi tasker, but what is most impressive is that each talent she displays is at a level few can compete with. I was so amazed that by the third song I was on the phone to her to congratulate her. I was stunned to find out that this was her debut disc! Seldom had I heard (in over 35 years) a debut disc with this much verve, charisma, entertainment power and overall talent. This woman has just kicked the door open to a career as a top-flight world stage entertainer. She has given us a disc that crosses all genre boundaries and will definitely garner major radio airplay, not just on Blues shows, but Rock, Pop and Folk as well. You cannot pigeonhole this woman's music into a specific category as she incorporates so much into her sound and that's a good thing. This fantastic collection of witty, engaging and totally enjoyable tunes will appeal to all who cherish true talent and Real Music. I can see several tracks becoming favorites with deejays and audiences alike, as Charlene knows how to convey (with humor) her observations on life and human quirks. She took a unique and very smart approach to production/recording as she told me, "I wanted to build each song separately with a different combination of musicians instead of having just one band play on everything and I think it came out okay." Okay? It's a bloody masterpiece! I won't try to restrain or control my unbridled enthusiasm or astonishment on this one. Charlene Grant is an amazing talent, plain and simple, and if she has the ability to get this disc distributed and promoted and into the hands (and ears) of the many people that can make a difference then she will have both a big selling CD and songs getting mega exposure. I can see virtually everyone over-thirty, who appreciates great music, digging this diverse collection.
Anyhow, enough gushing…the opening track, "The Business of Love", tells you right off the top that we're dealing with a one-of-a-kind talent. Check this: "You give all your money, your soul and your heart, and you're out of business if it all falls apart…that's the business, the business of love…" The level of musicianship is way up there, actually the performances and arrangements are far better than 99% of the big label releases that I hear these days. With John Firmin ('Johnny Nocturne') on saxes, John Stephan (guitar), Andrew Larsen (Hammond B-3), Charlene (bass), Kevin Cook (drums) and killer background chorus from Charlene and Ava Stephan, we end up with a perfect track. Hit song potential here. (I see a video.) "That Would Be Me" opens with Joel Foy's unique guitar sound and lots of piano tinklin' from Eric 'Two Scoops' Moore, the dean of Seattle Boogie-Woogie. "Train Wreck", a relationship song, features absolutely wild slide guitar from John Stephan (his solo is unbelievable) and again Charlene delivers the goods. "Life's Too Short" is an ode to a self-centered partner (ex-partner?) that is pure poetry. Grant should be, by rights, making a good living from her songwriting and she's also a fine vocalist and bassist: all of which stand out on this song… "Well, I blocked your telephone number so when you find out you can't get through you're gonna show up on my doorstep sayin' I got to talk to you…" all riding on top of a sexy, funky groove with throbbing bass and swirling B-3 and those super background vocals and horn arrangements. Another hit. "Ever Since My Baby's Been Gone" starts off with goodtime accordion (Hugh Sutton) and it's the only non-original of the 12 tracks. Charlene delivers a tongue-in-cheek vocal full of histrionics and it's a whole lot of fun. "Don't Try and Change Your Man" is a hoot thanks to Grant's observations (or experiences!). Really nice pickin' on acoustic guitar (Stephan), National (Foy) and Greg Roberts on mandolin. "Say the Word", a duet with classy harpman John Marshall, is a snappy and very danceable ditty. Marshall's harmonica work is sublime. Nice use of maracas too! "Spark an Old Flame" is a masterpiece of love rekindled. Wonderful stuff and again I see this one having mucho radio potential. "Theory of Laundry" is another relationship analysis (with much humor) on the decline of relationships: "Give him all you got, but don't do his laundry…pick up the dry cleanin', just don't pick up the socks…". Charlene has a sense of humor that dwarfs many of today's performing comedians. "Take That Job (and Love It!)" is a case in point. What a great time! The closing track "Love Doctor" is a tour-de-force, Blues-y number that feature fantastic musicianship from all involved (Jack Cook, John Stephan, Greg Roberts, Les Merrihew, Eric 'Two Scoops' Moore and Grant).
Well, I hope that I've managed to convey the magnitude of this woman's talents
and the incredible listening pleasure one gets from this brilliant debut. Charlene
Grant should be a household name in North America with anyone and everyone who
values Real Music and exceptional talents. As Muddy Waters would say, 'She's got
it!' 6 Bottles, our highest rating, for a CD that should become a hit and long
time classic. Few artists have excited me as much (can't you tell?). …Andy Grigg