The Norman Transcript

Sound Advice by Doug Hill

March 5, 2014

Review of new releases by The Bluesmasters and Deb Ryder

Musician: The Bluesmasters

Album name: The Bluesmasters Volume 3

Why you should listen: It takes some brass to call your band The Bluesmasters. This 7-piece group has the strength to pull it off. Similar to the metal brass, the Bluesmasters are an amalgam of talents that combine to be a powerful force. It’s a project that was conceived by Nebraska native and session guitarist Tim Tucker in 2007. He’d been working with Starship vocalist and front man Mickey Thomas and got the idea to veer off from rock into another genre. Volume 3 is the group’s continuing evolution and still includes Thomas albeit in a lesser role. The focus of this disc naturally is Tucker’s mighty guitar work along with Hazel Miller’s stunning vocals.

It’s a side project for Miller, too. She’s the award-winning boss of Denver’s Hazel Miller Band and has been a celebrated presence on that scene for 25 years. Miller’s lead vocals are featured on over half of Volume 3’s ten tracks and it wouldn’t have been a mistake to hand over the whole shebang to her. She hollers, bellows, growls, moans and sings so sweetly it’s enough to make a grown man melt into a puddle on the floor. Hazel Miller is the epitome of influential African-American female vocalists who have dominated popular music for over a century. Tucker’s guitar on “One I Need” is right there alongside Miller’s soaring heartfelt voice egging her on into the stratosphere. It’s a good match of talents that’s paired up well throughout the entire disc. Concluding with Eddie Money cover “Baby Hold On” featuring Thomas’ vocals was an odd choice considering the 1978 hit is in no way, shape or form a blues song. It was a less than masterful stroke in an album that otherwise lives up to its name.

 

Musician: Deb Ryder

Album name: Might Just Get Lucky

Why you should listen: This is Deb Ryder’s debut album which is amazing considering her extensive blues music resumé. The Topanga, California-based singer/songwriter is originally from Chicago where her pop, Allan Swanson, was a blues musician. Ryder’s family moved to LA and her biography credits neighbor Bob Hite (1943-1981) of Canned Heat for sharing his record collection which provided an immersion in the blues. She was opening for big blues artists back in the 1970s at club The Topanga Corral and at one point none other than Etta James took the young woman under her wing. Ryder had a career as a studio vocalist for TV commercials and other people’s back-up singer but never made her own record until now. It was about time.

Ryder has great growling blues style. She’s a vocal stylist in the genre’s shouting school of rough and ready songstresses. Ryder’s singing recalls Dorothy “Miss Blues” Ellis’ less than gentle, liable to bust-you-up- side-of-the-head fool flavor of blues. Her throaty renditions on these 10 all original compositions bring to mind the sound of ripping velvet asunder. First shot out of the box is “Get a Grip,” laying down the law to a trifling man about familiar feminine complaints. Ryder is married to bassist Ric Ryder and this song has the ring of authenticity. It should be acknowledged however that he gets loving thanks for encouragement in the liner notes. The title track is unreservedly the album’s strongest. Ryder showcases a smoky torch song capability with tender expression that bears little resemblance to the rocking shouters. On the other hand, the equally erotic appeal of her husky “I got what you need/ You know you want it” on “Come On Home to Me” is undeniable. It probably wasn’t a matter of luck that Ryder finally made her first disc but undoubtedly the timing was right and it’s a good thing she did.           

The Bluesmasters Volume III

Deb Ryder's Just Might Get Lucky

 

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Sound Advice by Doug Hill