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Fiona Boyes - Blues Woman

Yellow Dog Records

15 songs; 52:09 minutes; Suggested

Style: Solo: Acoustic fingerstyle guitar, resonator, slide, vocals, & foot percussion. Band: Chicago Blues, Texas Blues

This past summer at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, it was my pleasure to meet and chat with Fiona Boyes. She was sitting at a bar prior to a Guitar Workshop appearance. She wasn’t drinking anything with alcohol it in however; she was having coffee or tea. She spoke of jet lag from a flight from her native Australia, insomnia ("I was changing guitar strings at 5 a.m."), and the need for some caffeine.

Through our brief conversation and her workshop and subsequent stage appearances, I gleaned her love and total immersion in her music. For example, she enthusiastically encouraged a young man at the workshop who was sitting on the front row with an acoustic guitar across his lap. Throughout, there was a confident exuberance that infected the audience.

Boyes is quoted, "I am very proud to be part of the Blues tradition. I believe that it is vital and exciting and growing, and I’m doing my best to help keep it that way." As I have stated before, isn’t that a wonderful testimonial to the power, richness, and impact of the roots of all Roots music, Blues? Australia has developed a multitude of artists and festivals in a thriving Blues scene, and they can rightly brag about the crossover-the-ocean artists that have made a name in the U.S. - none bigger than Fiona Boyes.

For newcomers: In an accomplished manner, Fiona Boyes can play Acoustic Country Blues and finger pick with the best. She can also play an electric guitar and slide in competence worthy of anyone’s band. She is a songwriter who sings with an instantly likeable style. Boyes' previous Yellow Dog Records release, 2006's "Lucky 13" was a Blues Music Award nominee, and Boyes has received BMA nominations each year since 2007. She also won the solo/duo competition at the 2003 International Blues Challenge.

"Blues Woman" is all about Boyes’ depth as an artist and the musical odyssey she’s taken since her earliest recording release in 1990 with her band named The Mojos. Its songs showcase Boyes’ ability to write (13 of 15 songs), sing, and play guitars on anything in the blues realm with total honesty. But, for my money, use the "program" feature on your CD player and rearrange the order of the tracks.

Start with the fun, cut number eight, "The Barrellhouse Funeral" with Watermelon Slim playing harmonica and the part of a Hell-fire and brimstone Southern preacher while Marcia Ball adds a bouncy piano solo. Fiona’s resonator guitar opens slowly, but the song is a romping, humorous story with a moral, too. Ever been to a solemn funeral where the preacher becomes so unpopular that he winds up with scuff marks on his head?

Go with track nine next ("Place of Milk and Honey") with Fiona singing frankly honest vocals and playing a smoking acoustic guitar featuring some of her finest slide. The only other players are Ronnie James on upright bass and Jimi Bott on drums and washboard.

Featured on my radio show this week will be track fifteen, "Old Time Ways" with Fiona "trying to maintain the integrity of the blues tradition while making [her] own stories." Pinetop Perkins at age 96 on piano certainly helps with the old style, which includes some classic lyrical double entendre.

More of Fiona’s essence is found on "Juke Joint on Moses Lane" in which she is solo with resonator guitar and stomp box singing about the Bradfordville Blues Club outside Tallahassee FL.

The remaining tracks are varied as producer Kaz Kazanoff works each song based on its subject matter. Other musicians include Nick Connolly on B-3 and piano, guitarist Derek O'Brien, and The Texas Horns consisting of Kazanoff and Al Gomez ("Do You Feel Better").
Boyes explains. "... I wanted to make a really muscular, exciting electric guitar driven album that explored as many different regional styles as possible." Boyes shows off Mississippi Hill Country style on "Howlin At Your Door" and plays some Robert Ward sounding electric on "Look Out Love!," a grooving shuffle. And, catch her surprising Patsy Cline like vocal on "Do You Feel Better."

It is all Blues purist quality, but there is enough variety in this CD for picking and choosing. What one discovers is simply this: Fiona Boyes’ body wasn’t born in the Delta, but her soul was!

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Thursdays from 7 - 8 pm and Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL

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