It's the rare blues recording that's suffused with honest emotion. Michelle Willson really seems to pour out her soul on Tryin', particularly on the ballads.
Known mostly as a jump-blues singer, Willson also tackles cabaret-style jazz and slow graceful soul on this, her third release. Credit producer Scott Billington for surrounding Willson with a crack band of veteran musicians, most from New Orleans, including Johnny Vidacovich (drums) and James Singleton (bass) from Astral Project, and a fine three-man horn section. Willson's clear, emotive vocals and David Limina's jazzy piano really steal the show here.
Massachusetts native Willson has selected a fine collection of bluesy tunes, three of which she co-wrote. Best cuts includes a wistful song by Dan Penn ("I Guess You Didn't Love Me Enough"), a verbose digression in blues hipsterism ("Half Past The Blues"), a clearheaded ballad written by Penn and Spooner Oldham ("Life Rolls On"), a soulfully restrained Dr. John-Doc Pomus collaboration ("Responsibility") and a very moving cover of a Los Lobos tune ("Someday").
The remaining tracks deliver lusty blues (Joan Osborne's title track), gospel-inflected soul ("Each Day"), jump blues ("Ay La Bas," "Bring It Home To Me"), and jazzy R&B.
Most blues singers are posturing, but Michelle Willson really seems to feel what she sings. On Tryin' To Make A Little Love, she makes you feel it, too. Incidentally, this is one blues release that should also appeal to jazz fans.