How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
So many aspiring musicians have taken up the guitar in recent years, it's a rare event when a talented young pianist leads a blues recording session.
Rowena Said introduces the world to Doña Oxford, a clever young pianist/organist and sassy vocalist with a don't-mess-with-me attitude. Best known as the keyboardist in Shemekia Copeland's road band, Doña (pronounced "doan-ya") has also backed Hubert Sumlin, Bernard Allison, Kenny Neal and Johnnie Johnson.
Oxford is a capable vocalist, but her piano playing really distinguishes this CD. She tackles three different styles of rollicking blues piano on Rowena Said, including trilly New Orleans-style R&B on the CD's best tune, an incendiary version of "Just A Little Bit," and on the second-line rave-up "Down in New Orleans." Later she rocks out Jerry Lee Lewis-style on a cookin' version of "I'm on Fire." Then on the original song "It's Rainin'" and on the solo instrumental "Doe's Blues," Oxford's playing is nearly indistinguishable from that of her idol, the great Chuck Berry sideman Johnnie Johnson.
Oxford's best vocal performance comes on the slow blues lament "Red White & Blues," where she drops the hot mama persona to reveal a softer, more soulful side. On the tracks where she plays organ, Oxford seems content to relinquish the spotlight to her capable band Oxford Blues. Guitarist Arthur Nielsen, a fellow member of the Shemekia Coleman road band, delivers two especially blistering solos on the soulful "Bye Bye M' Baby" and "I'm on Fire."
My only complaint about Rowena Said>/I> is that delivers just 37 minutes of music. Desites its stingy length, the CD acquaints us with a talented young blues pianist capable of playing just about anything. Hopefully we'll hear a lot more from Ms. Oxford.
Rating *** 1/2 (out of ****)
TRACKS: Cinderella; Down in New Orleans; Rowena Said; Big Hands, Big Feet; Bye Bye M' Baby; Just A Little Bit; I'm on Fire; Red, White & Blues; It's Rainin'; Doe's Blues
PLAYERS: Doña Oxford (vocals, piano, keys, organ); Arthur Nielsen (electric & steel guitars); Charles Torres (bass); Dan Hickey (drums); Brian Hess (bass); Billy Schroeder (drums); Perkin Barnes, Brenda Perina & Elizabeth Votlucka (background vocals)