Deborah Coleman
Where Blue Begins
Blind Pig 5048

Opening with the infectious guitar riff and soulful vocals of "Love Moves Me," Deborah Coleman announces that she's back with another solid blues barrage on Where Blue Begins, her sophomore effort for Blind Pig. Much like last year's I Can't Lose, Coleman's muscular guitar attack is at the forefront, but so are her vocals and songwriting. Backed by long-time Luther Allison cohort James Solberg, Coleman has enough intensity and heat in her playing to start a forest fire.

Two other Allison alumni join the proceedings - Mike Vlahakis on keyboards and drummer Robb Stupka, joined by John Lundberg on bass, and it's a tight unit that delivers support for Coleman's songs. Vlahakis' playing is understated but excellent on "The Dream," while Stupka and Lundberg provide rhythm support that keeps finding the right grooves on songs like "Travelin' South." Musical guest Joanna Connor also adds superb slide work to Solberg's "Nobody to Blame."

By doing a few more cover tunes this time around augmenting her seven originals, Coleman demonstrates there is nothing timorous about her singing; her vocals can be both tough and tender. A cover of Jane Siberry's "Hain't It Funny" evokes a young Etta James with smoky vocals that simmer with passion. Later, Coleman's take on Louis Jordan's "They Raided the Joint" approaches jazz stylings. Yet she never strays far from gritty vocals, and she is at her emotional best when delivering lyrics on her own songs such as "Do You Want My Love."

Coleman is getting better as a songwriter, too. There's confidence in the way she plays with old themes and still has a way to make them new. "On the Hunt" features the line "15 minutes of fun cost 15 years heartache" and proceeds to tell about a woman who is going after her man for cheating on her.

Musical influences occasionally creep in unexpectedly; "Goodbye Misery" opens like an Allman Brothers tune and includes some scorching slide work. There are other '60s and '70s echoes in spots, but they only heighten the feeling that Coleman is aware of her predecessors but has chosen her own blues path. Where Blue Begins demonstrates that Coleman's previous efforts on were no fluke. This is a solid performance which should be a welcome addition to any blues collection.

- John Koetzner

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Boulder, CO, USA.