Nine years ago I had the opportunity to review a solo album by Tina Schlieske. While I appreciated her powerful, soulful vocals, I opined that the album’s mix of “blue-eyed soul with southern rock and a dash of country” had “a ‘been there, heard that’ feeling, full of evocations and lovingly replicated trappings but little freshness.”
I don’t know if it’s the passage of years, a fresh burst of songwriting inspiration, the reunion of the singer with her old band The B-Sides, or some other factor, but to my ear, Tina and the B-Sides‘ new album Barricade turns that all around.
Schlieske’s gutsy singing and songwriting both owe much to her predecessors in bluesy soul (blue-eyed and otherwise) – Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin. But while any or every one of the 12 songs on Barricade may remind you of something, they sound anything but tired.
There’s a gratifying variety, for one thing. There are several hothouse rockers. “Call My Name,” powered by Meat Loaf-esque vocal harmonies and Schlieske’s 12-string guitar, is one of my favorite tracks; except for the clean recording and tight arrangement, you might have fooled me into thinking it came out of Woodstock. “More Than That,” another standout track, fuses Janis Joplin with “Jean Genie”-era David Bowie. And the plaintive wail of the title track builds to a crunching midtempo rave-up, reminding me a little of Delta Rae, who were probably barely born when Tina Schlieske first revved up The B-Sides.
But there’s also the sly, Randy Newman-like wink of “Fervor”; the gently heart-tugging, folksy melody of “Blue”; and the catchy and heartfelt, Dobro-driven “Let Me Make It Up to You,” another of my favorites. The ballads pack a particolored punch too, the flowery, psychedelic, Pink Floyd-esque “Sweet Release” and the soulful “Let It Be Me” (not the Everly Brothers song).
Schlieski even channels Prince’s cheeky vocal style in the funky “Bother Me (Come On Over).” And a cover of Bob Marley’s “Guava Jelly” showcases the band’s good-vibe multipart vocal harmonies.
One or two tracks overstay their welcomes – darkness takes a little too long to fall in “When Darkness Falls.” But for the most part, if there’s too much of anything on this disc, it’s too much of a good thing. Maybe some of the fresh sound comes from the spirited mixing skills of Andrija Tokic, producer of Alabama Shakes’ debut CD. Whatever it is, if this Minneapolis band makes its way to my part of the map I’ll be doing my darnedest to go see them.