With its classic-rock sound, Deborah Coleman’s Soft Place to Fall seems inspired by Chrissie Hynde and Jimi Hendrix more than Bessie Smith or B.B. King.
That's not to disparage the album. On the contrary, Soft Place to Fall is a fine blues-rock release, and Deborah Coleman is a polished guitarist, a passionate singer and a very attractive woman. If the best tunes here find their way to commercial radio or VH1, Coleman may land on the pop charts. It certainly would be a refreshing happenstance if an African-American blues woman became a crossover success. Coleman has the potential, and Soft Place to Fall has the right sound.
Daughter of a Navy man, Deborah Coleman was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, and spent her formative years at various ports of call throughout the U.S. Though it's not reflected in her music, Coleman's original inspiration was the '60s TV band The Monkees. (At age 43, Coleman is older than she looks.)
Like Chrissie Hynde, Coleman’s persona is that of a tough and intelligent lady who knows she’s sexy and isn’t afraid to flaunt it. "Confused" is the best song on Soft Place. With its churning guitars and anthem-like melody, it's very evocative of Hynde and the Pretenders. Another standout track is the Muddy Waters-like "I'm a Woman" featuring Coleman's sassy vocals and a blistering guitar break. Of her three original compositions, the finest is the mellow title track, which is remindful of Mark Knopfler.
The remaining eight tracks are conventional blues-rock pieces, but Coleman's spunky vocals and searing guitar work lift them above the ordinary. There's an infectious quality to Coleman's music that makes you want to hear more, and her band is a hard-driving ensemble equally comfortable with blues and rock.