BJ Allen & Blue VooDoo - Heartless
Pure Air Music
11 songs; Time 45:08; Splendid
Style: Modern Electric blues; Female Vocalist
Remember pop radio of the 1960s when you could hear Blues on a regular basis? As an young teen in 1963, I received a Toshiba six-transistor, battery operated, pocket radio – with one monaural ear plug. Listening to KXOK from St. Louis and sometimes, when the signal was good, WLS from Chicago, I heard a virtual smorgasbord of Blues, R&B, Motown, Soul, Country, Rock and Roll, Surf, and Pop(ular).
Well, those days are long gone, and today it is almost impossible to find Blues on commercial air-wave radio. That sad fact is lamented by BJ Allen & Blue VooDoo in the second track, “Radio Song.” Appropriately done as a 12 bar blues with harmonica, the song features lyrics, “I wondered ‘where did all the good music go?’ / So, I turned the dial to the left and then back around to the right... / Turned it every where I could think of / And, still not a good song in sight. / Now, that made me so disappointed...I was ready for some good ole’ rockin’ Blues.” Allen’s solution: “I finally said, ‘Jerry [Fuller], pick up that old guitar and play us a little something we can use!” The moral of the story: “If you want something done right, you just got to do it for yourself.”
While the album moves from fun to funky to soulful ballads and back again, the original “Radio Song” epitomizes their fourth independent CD as the next solid Blues outing since their previous winner, “Hot Wire (My Heart).” Predominately up-and-mid tempo Blues, “Heartless” has more new music. Eight songs are original tunes written by either JP Hurd or Jerry Fuller, and the three cover tunes are favorites from the band’s live set.
BJ Allen & Blue Voodoo are seasoned players from NE Missouri, with no line-up changes from the last CD. Featured more than before in both the group’s name and performances, vocalist, BJ Allen is a sensitive and passionate singer with a dynamic range of styles. From sweet and sultry to sassy and sexy, BJ puts her all into every song.
Jerry Fuller does zinging triple duty on deft guitar, as an observant writer and arranger, and adds keyboards, helping get five instruments out of three players. Underpinning the foundation are David Daniels on drums and JP Hurd on bass. With bold bass lines and a steady groove, these boys are rock solid. JP also blows harp and writes some of the band’s original material.
Starting off with the swinging “Don’t Know What You’re Missin,’” the band becomes a competent advocate for getting off the couch and going out to hear some live Blues music. You can “come on down” to the “Borderline.”
According to track three, The “Borderline” club is “just about a mile south of the ole’ Mason-Dixon Line.” That is where dancers can get as funky as the song done James Brown style with masterful bass by Hurd and overdubbed background vocals by Allen to accompany her lead.
The heart-wrenching title track, “Heartless,” is a 6/8 groove with lush layers of soulful organ and guitar maintaining the mood of a victim of a “scam...[she was] taken by a cheating, lying, no good nothing who was posing a man.”
Other standouts: Jimmy Reed’s traditional 12-bar shuffle “Take Out Some Insurance” with added contemporary lyrics at the end, Dinah Washington’s classic, “Sunday Kind of Love,” with BJ really taking over, the group’s protest song, “Do Something” which cries out for social justice, and the ending gospel-tinged version of Janis Joplin’s “Get It While You Can.”
“Heartless” – YES! Get a clue and take my cue. Because, who do you do blue if you don’t do Blue Voodoo? Not modern radio – true?
Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is
a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly
radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from
4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL