Joanna Connor review….November 25, 2019…..

JOANNA CONNOR

RISE

MC RECORDS  MC 0086

FLIP–BAD HAND (FEAT. MIKE ZITO)–JOANNA IN A–EARTHSHAKER–RISE–SINCE I FELL FOR YOU–MY IRISH FATHER–MUTHA–IF YOU WANT ME TO STAY–CHERISH AND WORSHIP YOU–BLUES TONIGHT-DEAR AMERICA

Forget the fact that Joanna Connor is lovingly referred to as that “middle-aged lady with the scorching guitar.”  She’s one of the best slide players on the planet, gender notwithstanding.  For her first album since 2016 and “Six String Stories,” she carries this bidness on of dazzling guitar licks and wailin’ vocals throughout her latest, “Rise,” for MC Records.  It is ten originals and two covers that allow Joanna to stretch out a bit from her traditional sounds. Herein, she explores jazz, Celtic music, and even a touch of hip-hop.  Her current backing band now features Joewaun Scott on bass, Cameron Lewis and Tyrone Mitchell on drums, Delby Littlejohn on keys, and young rapper Alphonso BuggZ Dinero.

The set opens with one of those shots of contemporary blues, “Flip.”  It’s the lusty tale of a May-December romance, and a young man’s entry into “the Cougar club!”  Alphonso expounds upon the theme with a killer rap break at the end of this one.  “Bad Hand” is next, chronicling young folks and their sometimes-unwise choices, and living with the consequences.  This one has Mike Zito on vocals and guitar, also.

One of our favorites was Joanna’s sultry take on the Lenny Welch Sixties’ chestnut, “Since I Fell For You,” and the misery and pain brought on by love.  “My Irish Father” is Joanna’s Celtic-flavored tribute to her ancestry, and her birth father, a former NBA player.  There are several more excellent instrumentals, including “Joanna In A,” and the jazzy title cut, giving everyone a chance to stretch out a bit.

We had two other favorites, that closed the set.  First up, it’s a good ole Chicago-styled, Elmore James-inspired boogie blueser entitled, “Blues Tonight.”  The set proper closes with perhaps Joanna’s most powerful statement on any of her previous albums.  It’s a topical tune regarding the  state of the union, over the last thousand-or-so days.  Joanna’s slide and vocals are drinkin’ TNT and smokin’ dy-no-mite on the scathing look at the current administration’s apparent disdain for the Constitution.  Alphonso BuggZ Dinero returns on the fiery rap of “Dear America,” which began as a re-working of “When The Levee Breaks,” but turns into a socially-conscious look at society’s biggest problem today, tastefully done without calling his name.

Joanna Connor did most of the writing on “Rise,” and this is arguably the most powerful statement of her career.  It shows her rising to explore the music inside her, with no regrets for putting it all out there for us fans to enjoy,  Bravo, Joanna!!  You said things that have needed saying for quite some time!  Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues And Roots Alliance.

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