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Beverly McClellan – Fear Nothing
Junk Drawer Records
11 tracks; 44.02 minutes
Beverly McClellan has been performing for twenty years in the South Florida area but became known to a wider audience when she participated in NBC’s “The Voice”, making the last four in the show and making a single with Christina Aguilera. This is in fact her fifth CD but will undoubtedly make a bigger splash after her TV appearance. The album was produced and recorded in California by David Z with a crack session team: Tony Braunagal, drums; James “Hutch” Hutchinson, bass; Jimmy Pugh, keys; Josh Sklair, guitar. Also on board was Beverly’s regular guitarist, Billy Vasquez. One track was co-written and produced by Keb Mo in Nashville. All songs on the CD are McClellan originals, with Bruce McCabe and Keb Mo as co-writers on a track each, with one cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”.
The CD exhibits an excellent range of material to demonstrate Beverly’s vocal prowess. As you would expect from musicians of this caliber, the playing is outstanding, with several fine solos from guitar and keyboards. Three songs are copyrighted as 2003 so I assume have been re-recorded from earlier albums. Highlights are many, but I would pick out the following in particular:
Track 3 “Ain’t Me” is a mid-paced tune with great interplay between the two guitarists and supporting electric piano. Lyrically we are in the area of failed relationships, but in this case Beverly is definitely not looking back as she tells her former lover that “it ain’t me who was the fall of you, it ain’t me who didn’t see the truth”.
Track 4 “Nobody’s Fault But Mine”. The familiar song is taken at a slow pace and affords plenty of opportunity to study Beverly’s voice, strong but also tender when needed. The guitar solo in the middle matches the feel of the track perfectly.
Track 7. The Keb Mo produced track “Love Will Find A Way Out” has an infectious chorus, with a trio of backing vocalists adding a gloss of soul to the track.
Track 10 “Tender Of The Most” is not blues, but is a beautifully produced song, almost country in feel. Gentle acoustic guitars underpin Beverly’s vocal and the piano takes the solo honors. The title is explained by the chorus refrain: “I never see it coming, I try not to let it all go. When these tender moments pass me by, I will be the tender of the most”
Track 11 “Precious Times” is a song of wistful regret, making clear that it is those intense moments that stay with us in the memory. More great piano in the forefront of the mix while one of the guitarists does his best The Edge (U2) impression and the organ envelops everything in a warm bath of sound – a superb closer to the album.
I have identified these as highlights, but there are no poor tracks here. If you want a rocker, try opening cut “I See Love” or “Can’t Hide Me”. A sad ballad of reminiscence? Try “I Never Will Forget” which takes us on a trip through Beverly’s childhood, aided by beautiful acoustic guitar playing.
This is far from a straight blues album and has as many influences from rock and country as it does blues. It is, however, well worth a listen for the high quality playing and the showcasing of a real vocal talent. Recommended.
Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music.