How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Esther Haynes sings with the same kind of feeling that characterized those seminal blues singers of years gone past. This is no surprise as the objective of Haynes and the many cohorts that join her on this album is to honor singers of the 1920's and 1930's and the songs they sang. "Why Don't You Do Right" recalls Lil Green who popularized this Joe McCoy tune. "Up the Country Blues", with the harmonica of Steve Levine setting the scene, recalls both Sonny Boy Williamson and Sippie Wallace. But there's an added fillip to the way Haynes presents some of the tunes with a touch of bluegrass. Coming from the Southwest corner of Virginia, blues comes naturally to Haynes. Working in the twang of bluegrass with jazz results in an ear pleasing sensation. "Honeysuckle Rose" kicks off with up tempo fiddling by Tad Marks with the mandolin –that's right, mandolin– of Akira Otsuka in the background and then out front. This is a real hoedown. . J. C. Veve, a major contributor to this session, kicks off "Trouble in Mind" with a banjo, giving this track a down home touch aided and abetted by the slide guitar of Nevada Newman and Levine's harmonica. Matters slow down a pace with "Stars Fell on Alabama" as Hayes reveals that she has the emotional ingredients to handle a ballad very nicely. This tune, a favorite of another singer honored by the album, Alberta Hunter, is enhanced considerably by the mellow flugelhorn of Mike Davis. An album highlight is "After You've Gone" where Haynes accompanies herself on the banjo. Sophie Tucker with banjo?
This album probably owes as much to the father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe, as the singers who Haynes is tipping her significant vocal art hat to. Backed by a large number of excellent musicians rotating from track to track, this is an altogether captivating, refreshing debut album that is highly recommended. To visit with Haynes, go to her aptly named web page, www.hokummusic.com.
Track Listing: Honeysuckle Rose; Up the Country Blues; Trouble in Mind; Stars Fell on Alabama; Lady Be Good; Why Don't You Do Right?; What's the Matter with the Mill?; After You've Gone; Billie's Blues; Black Eye Blues; Darktown Strutter's Ball; Mama's Gone, Goodbye; St. Louis Blues
Personnel: Esther Haynes - Vocals/Banjo; Mike Davis - Trumpet/Flugelhorn; Bill Hargreaves - trumpet; Steve Helfand, Gus Johnson - Drums; Brian Keegan - Tuba; Seth Kibel - Clarinet; Steve Levine - Harmonica; Alan Lewine, Richard Seidel - Bass; Tad Marks - violin; Nevada Newman - Guitar/Mandolin/Slide Guitar/Vocals; Akira Otsuka - Mandolin; Dave Robinson - Cornet; Bob Tublin - Guitar; J. C. Veve - National Steel Guitar/Banjo/Vocals