5

Karen Lane Organ Project: Two Steps from the Blues

Geno Thackara By

Sign in to view read count
From intimate singer-songwriter crooning to bossa nova, Karen Lane and her versatile voice have graced many a stage in quite different contexts. The blues have always been an ingredient in there as well—albeit an infrequent one usually represented by the occasional encore—so it was probably inevitable that this facet of her personality would get its own outlet at some point. She cites Sarah Vaughan's Sarah Sings Soulfully (Roulette, 1963) as a lifelong staple and inspiration for this recording, while also paying an obvious tribute to Bobby "Blue" Bland's iconic Two Steps from the Blues (Duke, 1961). Unfortunate acronym aside, the Karen Lane Organ Project is an ear-pleasing outfit paying soulful homage to the spirit of those albums without drifting too close to imitation.

This Two Steps essentially shows the other side of the coin to its namesake; where Bland was raw and loud, Lane and an able crew offer a low-key listen that's good for a late drive home or the last nightcap before bed. Pete Whittaker's touch on the Hammond organ is subtle while steady enough to justify its prominence in the band name. It's not really featured more than anything else, as it happens. He's happy to trade conversational solos with the Grant Green-ish stylings of Dominic Ashworth's guitar, while John Hoare's trumpeting effortlessly shifts from airy to earthy based on what a particular song needs. He makes an especially upbeat addition to the leisurely swing vibe of "Easy Street" before the gang's rotation of solos turns it into the album's biggest (i.e. most mid-tempo) relative toe-tapper.

With the band's tasteful backing and material from unimpeachable sources like Nina Simone or Stevie Wonder, Lane creates a cocktail-lounge mood of the most pleasant kind. Her clear alto is all sugar and smooth edges. She can be jaunty during "Hand Full of Soul" or quietly seductive on the smoky title track, often happy to keep it simple or bend a note to squeeze a little more expression out of it. Everyone's willing to share space and the chemistry is just as restrained as the arrangements need. There's nothing really wild or surprising here, but by the time you're winding down at the end of the night, something quietly smooth should be just the thing instead.

Track Listing: Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'; Don't Explain; A Handful of Soul; Two Steps from the Blues; Easy Street; I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry; All Night Long; Gravy Waltz; Make Sure You're Sure; He Was Too Good to Me; Sugar in My Bowl.

Personnel: Karen Lane: vocals; Pete Whittaker: Hammond organ; Dominic Ashworth: guitar; Nic France: drums & percussion; John Hoare: trumpet.

Title: Two Steps from the Blues | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Krushgroove Productions


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Slægt CD/LP/Track Review Slægt
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 24, 2017
Read An Eye on the Future CD/LP/Track Review An Eye on the Future
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 24, 2017
Read Cherry ‎– Sakura CD/LP/Track Review Cherry ‎– Sakura
by John Sharpe
Published: September 24, 2017
Read Blow, Strike & Touch CD/LP/Track Review Blow, Strike & Touch
by Glenn Astarita
Published: September 24, 2017
Read Elusive CD/LP/Track Review Elusive
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 23, 2017
Read Transitions CD/LP/Track Review Transitions
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: September 23, 2017
Read "Eleven Cages" CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 1
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 30, 2016
Read "From the Heart" CD/LP/Track Review From the Heart
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: December 20, 2016
Read "First Set" CD/LP/Track Review First Set
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 29, 2016
Read "The Magnificent Thad Jones" CD/LP/Track Review The Magnificent Thad Jones
by Greg Simmons
Published: November 10, 2016
Read "Goin' Your Way" CD/LP/Track Review Goin' Your Way
by Doug Collette
Published: November 6, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.