The blues can be extremely difficult to play without sounding derivative. There have been so many great performers that have come before, and because it is such a defined genre, it takes great strength of personality to leave a distinctive imprint on the music.
Virtuosity and talent notwithstanding, if you can't put your own distinct flavour into the blues you just become another one in a series of guitar players, singers or harmonica blowers. It's hard to describe what that quality is, but you know it when you hear it. B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters, Bob Brozman, Ry Cooder, and Leon Redbone are musicians who reach out and grab you with their performances. But they are rarities, with most of today's contemporary blues players being highly skilled, technically sound, but missing that certain something that separates them from the pack.
Sue Foley has been playing blues music professionally for 18 years, and will be releasing her tenth album, New Used Cars, on April 11, 2006. There is no denying the woman can play the guitar, from the Led Zeppelin style blues-rock of the title track "New Used Cars", to the "Beast Of Burden"-sounding "Do It Again".
But therein lies the her weakness - the material all sounds so familiar. I don't want to listen to a song by one person and immediately be reminded of another performer's work. I know that the blues are a tradition-based music, a particular sound based around a progression of specific chords, but within that framework there is still room for innovation.
Ms. Foley is to be credited for writing, or collaborating on, all the tracks on this CD. Too many blues players are content with slavish imitations of versions of songs that have been done for years. However there has been no attempt to explore any of the avenues of blues expression that have been opened by some of her contemporaries.