Zora Young: The French Connection (2010)
In Zora Young's case the "connection" isn't superficial, and her twenty plus tours of France prove it. Bobby Dirninger is the principal instrumentalist on this album and he's made the journey (or should that be pilgrimage?) only the other way around. It's clear that his transatlantic trips haven't been wasted either, as he provides Young with a backing which is both in the pocket and loose enough to suggest a musician who knows instinctively that there's more to the blues than histrionics.
It's the live tracks that really bring this point home. Muddy Waters' "Honey Bee" gets an edge of big-city-sophistication but still manages to bridge the urban/rural divide quite nicely, with Young both sassy and vulnerable in a fashion that's far from common. Presumably it's Philipe Devin handling the guitar duties on this one. His slide work is clean and dirty at the same time in a manner that just fits.
Young and her cohorts play with fire in handling "Wang Dang Doodle," and while their rendition is agreeable enough, it lacks the incendiary quality of Howlin' Wolf's take on it. The reasons for this might warrant an article in and of itself; suffice it to say that the heat generated here results in blue flames that could easily be extinguished.
Young's own "Toxic" is an example of singer and composer in perfect unison. The winning combination of sorrow and sass is nailed from the onset, and it's clear that she knows the value of understatement. The band is right there with her too, with even the seeming incongruity of a trumpet solo adding something to the brew.
"Just A Closer Walk With Thee" might seem out of place here, but it proves that as a singer Young is about a whole lot more than power. Her seemingly lazy phrasing has the effect of squeezing far more out of a lyric, while the band, more than anywhere else on the disc, demonstrates that the language of the blues is truly international.
History is manifested in the reading of Ma Rainey's "See See Rider," reminding us that regardless of social change the subject matter remains timeless.
Track Listing: Better Be Ready; Goin' To Memphis; Wang Dang Doodle; I'm In Love With You; Honey Bee; Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You; Just A Closer walk With Thee; See See Rider; In The Ghetto; Mystery Train; I'm Movin' On; Toxic; Goin' Back To Memphis (version 2); Rock Me Baby.
Personnel: Zora Young: vocal; Bobby Dirninger; guitars, piano, organ, percussion. Benoit Ribiere: organ (1, 4, 6); Emmanuel Bertrand: pedal steel guitar; Thierry Padiou: guitar; Pierre Nouhaud: guitar; Francis Campello: bass; Antoine Fontaine: bass; Mathieu Gayout: drums. Dominique Raillat: alto sax (2, 7-10); Catherine "Cajoune" Girard: ukulele, washboard; Eric Lyda: cello; Domenico Stocchi: bass; Barbara Degrima: bass; Alain Miraucourt: percussion; Olivier Bridot: trumpet (3, 5, 11, 12, 14); Jerome Cornelis: sax; Philipe Devin: guitar; Fred Boulanger: bass; Abraham Cohen: drums.