“Anything you can do I can do better”. Now I wonder why that lyric would come to mind when listening to the latest Ruf Records’ Blues Caravan release? It maybe because Time Bomb features three women Blues players who prove that the only equipment you need in order to know your way around a guitar’s fret board can be bought in a store.
For the third year running, German Blues label Ruf Records has gathered three performers from its label and banded them together to tour and record. This year’s Blues Caravan is made up of three woman Blues guitar players; Sue Foley, Roxanne Potvin, and Deborah Coleman, whose very existence probably make some men nervous. If after hearing these three women play you still think that lead guitar is the preserve of men only, you either need your medication adjusted or a hearing aid.
Of the three, Sue Foley is the most established both on and off the stage. Two years ago she co-produced a two-disc set for Ruf Records called Blues Guitar Women that showed just how many women have been laying down hot licks, and for how long they have been doing it. Deborah Coleman has been around a while now too, but is just starting to attract attention with her strong urban blues guitar work and honest vocals. Roxanne Potvin is the new women on the block, having just put out her first CD, but has already proven she has the acumen and talent to play with anyone.
Time Bomb may not be the appropriate name for this assembly’s production because there is no waiting around for the fuse to burn down and the fireworks to start. Right from the opening title track — “Time Bomb,” an instrumental where all three women take turns laying down leads — things are beginning to sizzle. For the next nine songs, the women spell each other off, taking lead vocals and guitar duties of every third song until they come together again on the final track “In The Basement.”
Along the way, we hear songs that display their versatility and virtuosity with their two instruments of choice: guitar and voice. Although all the music on the album is worth listening too, each woman has one song that pushes her a little bit further into the limelight for reasons other than just being the front person.
For Roxanne Potvin, it’s her second song on the album and fifth on the disc. “Strong Enough To Hold You” is a gospel tinged love song, which shows off the fullness and strength of her voice. Listening to it, you can’t help but feel the depth of emotion and sincerity that this woman is able to imbue a song with. As that voice matures, she’s going to be able stand on stage and blow an audience away simply by opening her mouth and singing from her heart.
Deborah Coleman is a rough-cut diamond so sharp that she’ll cut you if you’re not careful, but she is who she is and doesn’t apologise for it. Her music is as direct and honest as she is, and she makes no bones about it, either. “Talkin’ Loud And Sayin’ Nothin'” is as fine a piece of R&B tinged urban blues as you’re going to hear from anybody, anywhere. Pumped along by a great B3 organ line by Mark Licktieg, you can’t help but move to and be moved by this song.
On one level it could be an anti-love song about false promises from a partner — but it could also just as easily be about all the false promises that society gives a woman no matter who she and where she comes from. There are lots of people in this world who are “Talkin’ Loud And Sayin’ Nothin’.”
Sue Foley’s sound is so polished and established it’s hard to pick one song over another, not that all her songs sound alike, but they are all of equal strength. But the one that caught my ear the most was “Show Me,” where she fools around with her voice. I don’t know if it’s through an effect box or if she’s doing it on her own; however it’s been done, it shows a certain comfort and relaxation that I haven’t heard from Sue on record before, and it’s nice to hear.
She’s always been a highly skilled and polished player with a great ear for music, and a phenomenal appreciation for her genre, but on occasion she seems to have taken it all too seriously. On this album she sounds like she’s remembered that one “plays” music and it must have that element or it gets stale real quick. It was really nice to hear, because if there is anybody who deserves to enjoy being a woman Blues guitar player in this world, it’s her.
In fact, one of the great elements of this disc is it’s playfulness from the music on out to the packaging. Look at the cover and tell me what it reminds you of — come on it’s not hard — think big hair and the 1970’s. Listen to them whooping it up in the background of “In The Basement,” when all three are playing and singing together. If they’re not actually playing together, they’re at least in the same room listening to each other and cheering each other’s solos.
You boys out there who’ve ever felt threatened by women are in a lot of trouble now. Another myth of supposed male dominance has finally been ripped to shreds. Three of those people doing the ripping can be heard loud and clear on Time Bomb It’s too late guys, the clock’s done ticking and the explosion has gone off — try to be a little gracious in defeat.