Karen Lovely,
Fish Outta Water
(independent, 2017)

For the past five years, Seattle-area blues singer Karen Lovely has either been nominated as or won Female Artist of the Year in the Blues Music Awards. This album, her fourth, will probably add more honors to her collection. She's good, and it is a good one.

Lovely, equally at home with hard blues or Americana, offers up a set of original songs that utilize hard blues, soul and Americana, all wrapped in a single package. Although Lovely obviously finds inspiration in classic blues -- her approach to the music brings to mind Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith more than it does contemporaries like Susan Tedeschi -- she is in no way hidebound. Lovely has internalized her influences and developed her own way of being in the world and being in the music. She is an original.

She can go from the Chicago-style Willie Dixon-like tune "Twist My Fate," to the country-soul of "Punk Rock Johnny Cash" without blinking and make both sound natural to her and fresh to an audience.

There are no covers on the disc. All of the songs are hers and Lovely's lyrics are serviceable, even if her tunes are sometimes reworkings of classic melodies. Still, when she sings these songs, even the familiar melodies sound new.

In a time like ours,when most of what is packaged as blues is mostly rock, it's nice to hear someone who still manages to keep the tradition alive, even as she extends it.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

29 July 2017

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