Deanna Bogart,
Just a Wish Away
(Blind Pig, 2014)

This is a good time to be Deanna Bogart. A long-established, multiple award-winning singer, pianist and sax player, Bogart on this album appears to have taken a quantum leap ahead of her already well-developed musical persona. Just a Wish Away shows us an artist at the peak of her considerable powers, a confident singer-writer-arranger with a sure vision and the chops to communicate that vision to an audience.

Although Bogart has never been a slouch at recording and her previous albums have been fine, this just might be her best yet. On it, she expands from her blues-rock-jazz background, bringing out the touch of New Orleans that has always been present in her music. The horn sections remind me of Allen Toussaint while the addition of the occasional pedal steel and lap steel guitars keep the arrangements from falling into a predictable bag.

On this album, Bogart has assembled a great band, bringing in Harry Connick Jr.'s Bonerama horns, Marty Rifkin from Springsteen's band and Scott Ambush from Spyrogyra, among other masters, to build a sound palette that doesn't deviate all that much from she's done on recent albums but definitely pushes it forward into new territory.

Her deep, smoky and soulful voice resonates with the band; from the unity achieved in the voice and instrumental arrangement blend, you'd think they'd been a performing unit for years.

As for the songs, let me single out "Back & Forth Kid," a ballad in which she talks to an old flame, wondering what he's thinking now. It doesn't lament what the singer has lost; instead it points out to the ex-flame what he has lost, but in a compassionate, rather than angry, tone. "Fine By Me" rocks like crazy while the lyrics in "What is Love Supposed to Do?" take wonderful twists. The album closes with a New Orleans marching band trad jazz arrangement of "Bye Bye Blackbird" that is simply nothing but fun.

In addition to the originals, Bogart comes up with some great covers. Doyle Bramhall and Stevie Ray Vaughn's "Tightrope" get a good workout, while Sly & the Family Stone's "Hot Fun in the Summertime," featuring Bogart on the Wurlitzer organ, sounds brand new. Bogart has a way of finding something unique in her interpretations of existing songs that makes them interesting in ways different from the way they were interesting before.

As I said, this is a good time to be Deanna Bogart. It is also a good time to be a fan of hers.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

13 September 2014

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