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Vanessa Collier: Meeting My Shadow

James Nadal By

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During the golden age of rhythm and blues, the saxophonist, who often doubled on vocals, was the leader of the band, and the star of the show. Fast forward, and we find Vanessa Collier who is all of the above, and also a genuine quadruple threat. With an honored degree from Berklee, and having spent several years honing her sax skills with bluesman Joe Louis Walker, her sophomore release Meeting My Shadow shows her terrific ability on blues toned alto and honking tenor sax. She also composed and arranged most of the material, and has a soul soaked voice coupled with remarkable stage presence.

A mysterious wah-wah effect sets up "Poisoned The Well," the funky opener which has Collier overdubbing most of the instruments. Veteran horn man Marc Franklin does the arranging on "Dig A Little Deeper," where the tenor sax serves as propulsion. "When It Don't Come Easy," goes into that magic place where gospel meets soul at the rivers' edge, Collier revealing her powerful voice. The sax comes back with a vengeance to kick off "Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime," a barn burner with great honky-tonk piano by Charles Hodges leading into a howling sax solo.

In one of the few covers, U-2's "When Love Comes To Town," retains its rock roots, but is taken for a bluesy ride. Adhering to the original arrangement, the classic R&B heartbreaker, You're Gonna Make Me Cry," is where Collier's voice really shines, for it is in these wrenching ballads that the true singer in her comes out. It's back to the jukejoint on "Whiskey And Women," a rollicking honker where she is obviously right at home. The syncopated back beat of New Orleans is the foundation for "Meet Me Where I'm At," and "Cry Out," takes it back to the funk. The sanctified Sister Rosetta Tharpe hymn "Up Above My Head, I Hear Music In The Air," retains its sacred inclination, and spirals up to the pearly gates.

The record ends with the pensive "Devil's On The Downslide," a soulful ballad where Collier again proves that she has an emotional maturity in her voice well beyond her years. Combine that with her other attributes, and Meeting My Shadow is proof that rhythm and blues is alive and well, and in good hands.

Track Listing: Poisoned The Well; Dig A Little Deeper; When It Don’t Come Easy; Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime; When Love Comes To Town; You’re Gonna Make Me Cry; Whiskey And Women; Meet Me Where I’m At; Cry Out; Up Above My Head, I Hear Music In The Air; Devil’s On The Downside.

Personnel: Vanessa Collier: vocals, alto, soprano, and tenor sax; flute (1), Fender Rhodes (1), Wurlitzer (1, 3, 11), clavinet (1), percussion (1), organ (2), Shuitar (3); TK Jackson: drums, percussion, organ (5), backing vocals; Daniel McKee: bass; Laura Chavez: guitar, resonator guitar; Charles Hodges: organ (3, 9, 10, 11), clavinet (3, 9), piano ( 4, 8, 10), Wurlitzer (9); Marc Franklin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Josh Roberts: slide guitar (3, 5); Brenda Jackson: organ (6); Lenny Bradford: bass (1); Nicholas Stevens: drums (1).

Title: Meeting My Shadow | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Ruf Records

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