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Peaches Staten – Live At Legends


9 tracks; 58.58 minutes

Peaches Staten started out by getting up to sing at Rosa’s Lounge where she was working as a waitress. Positive crowd reactions encouraged her to branch out and over the intervening years she has established herself on the Chicago scene as well as touring in Europe. Peaches has a powerful voice and also plays washboard from time to time. This was the last CD recorded live at the old Legends (23 May 2010), many of the tracks coming from an earlier independent release entitled “Time Will Tell”. Of the nine tracks, four are originals, the rest coming from the likes of Alberta Adams and Chico Banks, as well as covers of “I’d Rather Go Blind” and “Bad Case Of Lovin’ You”.

Peaches’ band The Groove Makers is made up of veteran players in other Chicago bands: guitarist Mike Wheeler and bassist Larry Williams play with Big Ray & Chicago’s Most Wanted as well as Big James’ Chicago Playboys; drummer Cleo Cole also plays with The Playboys and keyboard player Brian James is another of Chicago’s Most Wanted. Swississippi label boss Chris Harper sits in on harp on four cuts.

The CD is superbly recorded and the vocals are crystal clear. Most of the tracks are extended, giving plenty of space for the musicians to demonstrate their mastery of their instruments. The album opens with a pair of original tunes. “Long Distance Phone Call” is a catchy opener with strong organ and guitar solos at its heart. Peaches is missing her man and is determined to speak to her man, even if it is at 2.00 a.m.! “Don’t Rush Me” is a deeply soulful tune which gives us plenty of opportunity to hear Peaches’ voice at close quarters – Peaches says at the end of the tune that “it’s always nice to have some space”. This is a lovely tune riding on a cushion of gentle keyboards and sympathetic backing vocals.

Chico Banks wrote “It Must Be Love” for Mavis Staples and you can see how the song would have worked for Mavis but Peaches makes it her own. The keys provide something of a horn arrangement for the song, Mike Wheeler’s wah-wah adding drama to the tune. Chris Harper joins in on the next tune, another original entitled “Gotta Find My Man”. This one is definitely in New Orleans style, with the washboard busy alongside the keys and drums keeping your feet moving all the way through. I can imagine that the dance floor must have been full for this one on the night!

“I Know You Love Me Baby” is introduced by Peaches as being by Tina Turner though is credited on the sleeve as being BB King and Saul Bihari’s “You Know I Love You” – I think that I will take Peaches’ statement as the accurate one, as I can certainly imagine Tina singing this in her earlier days. No matter, Peaches’ version is a stomper, with Chris Harper’s harp to the fore. The cover of “I’d Rather Go Blind” is the longest track at over 10 minutes and opens with a spoken introduction, asking the audience about being really in love before the song we all know so well starts for real at about two minutes in, sparsely accompanied by just piano and guitar before the rhythm section joins in. The band supports Peaches brilliantly throughout, from the subtle guitar and piano fills at the beginning to the excellent extended solo that Mike Wheeler provides in the middle of the song.

For those who, like me, know Moon Martin’s “Bad Case Of Lovin’ You” from Robert Palmer’s version, Peaches’ interpretation will be something of a departure as most of the rock elements of Palmer’s version are stripped away in a much funkier approach. More strong guitar and synth horns push this one along. The final original in the set is “Hole In The Wall” an uptempo stomper which appears to be about Peaches preferring to leave home improvements to others! Mike Wheeler conjures up another stirring guitar solo and Chris Harper returns for this and the final tune, “Keep On Keepin’On” which Peaches introduces as an Alberta Adams song, though here it acts as a vehicle for all the band members to take a bow and a short solo - a solid, uptempo closer to the set.

This was my first opportunity to hear Peaches Staten and I was impressed. She has a powerful voice, but never seems to force herself into the hoarse/growling tone that some female blues singers appear to find necessary. Her band for this date was exceptional and the recording is excellent – a CD well worth investigating.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and is currently planning his trip to the Blues Blast Awards in October.

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