Miss Blues - Bad Prospects
9 songs; 39:05 minutes; Library Quality
Styles: Straight Blues, Female vocal
Imagine discovering Muddy Waters. Actually, at some point, we all did. That is how I feel about being introduced to Dorothy Ellis, known as “Miss Blues.” She is currently well known regionally in Oklahoma as a singer, songwriter, and author, but right from the first listen to her third CD, it is clear that here is an artist with depth and special talent. The first time you heard Muddy Waters, didn’t you just feel it and know it? Same here!
The album liner notes provide no bio information, but her websites reveal that Miss Blues had been performing for around 60 years before she released her first recording. Liner notes are also usually full of hyperbole to be taken with a grain of salt. Not this time, take this as the gospel truth: “Miss Blues is a traditional blues artist you must get to know.” For purists, here is a gold mine of a find! By the way, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2004.The liner notes continue, “She is rapidly becoming known by blues [fans] the world over, and for good reason. She is the real deal all the way to the bottom of her soul. Her vocals are spellbinding, and with her heart-wrenching delivery of each song, she paints a tapestry that takes the listener on a journey through the pain and suffering that has been the first-hand story of her life.” From a Carl Gustafson interview, Ellis is quoted, “I developed a primal scream crying out for, and to, all my sisters, who sometimes suffer in silence with no-good men folk….”The album, with nine songs of which seven are written by Miss Blues, is further made a winning standout release by her crack band, The Blue Notes. Robb Hibbard deftly plays most lead guitar, Chris Henson plays some rhythm guitar and lead on the great, jazzy instrumental track he wrote, “Midnight Cry.” Don Skinner co-produced, wrote and sings “It’s Gonna Rain,” and plays bass on all tracks. Joe Skinner is the other co-producer who also drums on several cuts, trading off with Mike Hardwick. Mark Lyon – rhythm guitar, Ron Harmon along with T.Z. Wright - keyboards, Robert Riggs - harmonica, Frank Zona – Saxophone, and Jim Johnson – rhythm guitar on one track – round out the studio crew.
“Blood Running Cold” opens the set with an instantly likeable full band sound. Then, the voice seals the deal! “...she gives you something you actually need, an honest voice in a distorted world.... expressing the pain and feeling of those who suffered,” writes Gustafson. In this song about a relationship going wrong, you realize, visualize and actualize that this woman has lived the blues.
“Billie’s Blues” comes next, a slow, moody blues with Robb Hibbard showcasing his fret board talents. Similarly, track three, the title track, is a slow number about poverty and struggle.
“Rub Board Boogie” with Miss Blues as a rub board expert has Joe Skinner on the accompanying organ instrumental. Too bad it is only one minute and forty nine seconds long.
Love turns to hate in another Ellis original “Trapped (in a bad situation).” This may be the best cut, but it is really hard to like one more than the others – that is how good this CD is!
“Bad Prospects” is a title that reflects the mood of the lyrics, but “Abnormally Great Prospects” would be the apropos phrase for chances of finding a real, deep-blues CD! Simply, do not miss this one!
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