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Jennie DeVoe - Strange Sunshine

Rubin The Cat Records

12 tracks/45:38

This recording has minimal blues content, no matter how far you care to stretch the genre’s boundaries.

Having said that, Jennie DeVoe is a singer/songwriter possessing a deep, powerful voice with plenty of range. For her fourth independent release, DeVoe and her band went to Bath, England for the recording sessions with producer John Paris, who has worked with PJ Harvey and Tracey Chapman. DeVoe wrote all of the lyrics and had a hand in formulating the music with guitarist Paul Holdman and several friends.

From the photos in the cd booklet, DeVoe appears as a hip flower child who is forty years too late for the party. Her compositions speak to real life situations but tend to be too quirky for their own good. Some tunes are ultimately interesting due to DeVoe’s vocal prowess. When she unleashes her voice on “No Damn Man”, she creates a fitting tribute to Aretha Franklin that bristles with emotional intensity. Another highlight is the lone cover, Shannon Curfman’s “Foolproof”. DeVoe shouts and hollers with conviction over Greg McGuirk’s Hammond B3 organ. “I Break Down” features another strong vocal from DeVoe as she wrings every bit emotion out of the soulful ballad. On “Nobody Loves You”, she proves that she can dial down the intensity and still be an effective singer. The closest track to straight blues is “The Healer”, with DeVoe repeating the title phrase a bit too much for my taste.

The band delivers a solid musical foundation throughout the recording. There are a handful of solo passages that serve as brief interludes for DeVoe’s vocals. At times, she brings to mind Rickie Lee Jones but with a huskier voice. This project is a very solid release that keeps the spotlight on a very talented singer. But Jennie DeVoe does not sing anything resembling traditional blues - so proceed with caution.

Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL

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