Sandra Hall
One Drop Will Do You
Ichiban Blues 1507-2
From the opening blast of harp played to a driving shuffle rhythm, it's apparent that this is not what you expected to hear from one of the Ichiban ladies. Definitely not the customary horn-driven R&B/soul stew of Francine Reed, Trudy Lynn or Millie Jackson. For her second album for the label, Atlanta chanteuse Sandra Hall has elected to hoe a pretty narrow blues row, and the result is a harvest of finger-lickin' sound.

When Ms. Hall belts out the blues, her generous physique ("I got big legs, real sexy thighs ... I ain't 38 baby, no damn place"), vocal strength and even her nickname -- Empress of the Blues -- naturally attracts comparison to the reigning doyenne of the blues, Koko Taylor. Hall's vocal range and flexibility, however, are superior, and she shows off considerable songwriting faculties. Ichiban producer Bryan Cole deserves credit for matching Hall up with a boisterous crew of talented sidemen capable of matching her exhaustive energy and letting the pot boil over on high heat.

There's hardly a relent from the dance-fever charge implied in tunes named "Pump Up Your Love," "Boogie Woogie Fever," "Blow Top Blues" and "Party at My House." Along the way, Hall slips in the saucy "Big Long Slidin' Thing" (she's talking about a trombone -- what did you think?). The crowded accompaniment (a dozen musicians appear) is highlighted by the guitar work of Mike Lorenz, who does a perfect B.B. on a cover of King's "Ask Me No Questions" and generally plays leads and fills perfectly matched to the needs of the ensemble. Bob Nelson provides the authenticity of his Chicago-style harp, Jimmy Dawkins associate Henry Parilla bangs out a steady stream of barrelhouse piano, while the League of Decency Horns blows the polish off the brass.

There's a party goin' on here, and if you don't get up and shake to "I'm Hurtin'," maybe it's time to collect on that life insurance. With the current dearth of premier ladies singing the blues, here's selfishly hoping that Sandra Hall sticks to the format in future recordings. With One Drop Will Do You she goes a long way towards legitimizing her nickname.

-- Jack Oudiz

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Boulder, CO, USA.