Laurie Morvan Band - Fire it Up!
Screaming Lizard Records
12 songs; 54:28 minutes; Suggested
The circumstances surrounding my reviewing of the Laurie Morvan Band’s third CD are completely different. Normally, I review one CD per week by spending a week listening to the CD and then moving on to the next album, rarely returning. This time, I received “Fire It Up!” at a Friends of the Blues’ live show on August 11, way before its official release date. I played seven of the cuts on our radio show over the next seven weeks and then put it in the station library. In late November, I received the assignment to review this Illinois born and raised, California resident’s CD, causing me to go back and listen to it all over again – some twelve weeks later.
This return engagement has allowed me a more subjective approach, and even deeper appreciation. I thoroughly enjoyed the guitar driven CD the first time around, but this return has refreshed my memory, first, about how well rehearsed and fantastic the harmony vocals are. Laurie sings lead vocals on all twelve songs, which she wrote, and is joined on background vocals by co-producer Lisa Grubbs and Carolyn Kelley. These rich vocal arrangements and focused three-part harmonies throughout the entire CD are one of the things that set this band with rapidly-rising-stock apart from the pack. For example, check out “Good Girls Bad Girls.” Not only is this song replete with their sexy, intertwined voices, but it also has great lyrics, “...the good girls are just the bad girls that ain’t been caught.”
Secondly, I was reminded what a creative guitar player Laurie Morvan is. Just sample the opening twenty seconds of the first track, “Nothin’ But the Blues.” Laurie does some intricate, fast paced finger picking (as opposed to power chording) that demonstrates why labels, like “Blues-Rock,” are so inadequate in defining what an artist produces. This opening could be adapted to many other genres like Classical, Country, and Bluegrass. Instrumentally, Laurie plays as a power trio with the dedicated and integral Pat Morvan on bass and Kevin Murillo on drums. Studio guesting are Sammy Avila – B3 organ and David Matthews – B3 organ and piano.
“Nothin’ But the Blues” was the first track we played on the radio because it says what my co-host and I believe, “Nothin’ but the Blues can make you feel this good / And I think everybody should get to feel this good....” Across the entire set, Morvan continues to amaze and entertain with thoughtful string work achieved through intense practice and years of experiences. On her website, Laurie explains the source of her acumen: “...my ability to practice for long, long hours and never get bored. ...[when] I got my first Stratocaster: it was red and shiny and sexy, and I was home baby! ...in a road band as its lead guitarist/vocalist ... We played 5 nights a week in clubs, casinos, hotels, .... I would play guitar 4 to 5 hours every night at the shows and practice 3 to 4 hours every day in my hotel room. I was ravenous about that guitar.”
Thirdly, Morvan’s wonderful song writing and song crafting abilities were re-highlighted. I can actually understand what she is singing, and personally, I have a long history of not being able to accurately hear lyrics (you know – did Jimi Hendrix say “...kiss the sky...” or “...kiss this guy...”?). Thoughtfully, Laurie has included all lyrics in the liner notes, but I didn’t need them. From soul baring (“You Don’t Know About Me”) to social commentary (“Livin’ in a Man’s World”) to humor (“Skinny Chicks”) to sexy double entendre (“Come on Over to My BBQ”), Morvan lays it all out in the open. On her website, she explains, “A songwriter's willingness to be vulnerable is both her most important tool and most frightening responsibility. ...you are exposing your own weaknesses and hurts and trying to convey it all in a way to which others can relate. You may wonder why anyone would want to do this. I have to admit, sometimes I wonder about that myself! ... sharing the inner workings of my world is truly an attempt to reach out to others who may have had a similar experience or feeling and connect with them.”
The top quality Blues-Rock music in this set is being critically recognized. As proof, “Fire It Up!” has been named a finalist – Top 4 – for the 2010 Blues Foundation Best Self-Produced CD. The winner will be named in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge. This makes two in a row, as her second CD, “Cures What Ails Ya,” was also a finalist in the 2008 Best Self-Produced CD, and her band was a live-performance finalist in the International Blues Challenge.
Laurie says, “We are a made- in-the-USA band striving to live the American Dream, and I can feel it coming like a firestorm racing up a kindling filled hillside!” Catch the heat; this band is launching. Watch for them at festivals next summer.
Editors Note: the four finalists in the 2010
Blues Foundation Best Self-Produced CD competition are:
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine 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 www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL
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