Mary Flower,
Bywater Dance
(Yellow Dog, 2005)

Bywater Dance is a reminder of the great city of New Orleans. Recorded before the devastation of Katrina in 2005, it features some of the immortals of the Big Easy and perhaps will act as an incentive to people to ensure that the unique culture of that city is not abandoned.

On guitar, lap guitar and vocals, Mary Flower brings us a wonderful concoction of the best of blues -- but not always in a sad style. This is evident from the first chord of track one, "Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me" -- even the title is smirk inducing. The track opens out beautifully at the instrumental stage.

The album contains a mixture of traditional, established and self-penned tracks. The tradition is ably showcased on her gutsy rendition of "Nobody's Fault But Mine," which reveals Mary Flower for the blues queen that she truly is. My favourite among the fruits of her own pen is the final track on offer, an instrumental piece called "Good News Waltz." Her love of playing, singing and performing is evident on the wonderful "Papa's on the Housetop." The pace slows for the beautiful "Last Kind Word Blues."

The poignancy of the album comes home with the great "Brother Can You Spare a Dime." It is hard to listen to this track with out a split-screen vision of Depression-era black-and-white footage beside modern CNN scenes of refugees from natural disaster.

Although recorded when Katrina was but a butterfly wing flapping in a distant jungle, this album is a musical monument to New Orleans -- but also a great listen even if someone had swatted that butterfly.

by Nicky Rossiter
11 March 2006

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