Ndidi Onukwulu,
No, I Never
(Jericho Beach, 2006)

It's been awhile since a new artist has caught my attention, and this one nearly slipped on by. It was a hot spring day and I was stopping off at a coffeehouse. Her music was playing loudly from the hip proprietor's stereo, and I stood there listening to the strains of "Wicked Lady." I asked the girl behind the counter who was playing, and after some digging around she found the box and I wrote it down.

This British-Columbia-born singer began at an early age, singing in talent shows before eventually leaving her home for New York City to cut her teeth on the open-mic circuit. She's experimented with different kinds of music including hip-hop, rock and electronic before settling back to her first great love: the blues. Now based in Toronto, she's been doing concerts and performances at festivals before catching the attention of a representative of the Jericho Beach label.

Ndidi Onukwulu is joined on her first album, No, I Never, by Madagascar Slim (three-time Juno award winning guitarist) and a competent band that complements her cool seductive voice. Her lyrics evoke heavy imagery, often having a deep personal edge to them. They speak of experiences and personal pain, but without ever whining.

Her bluesy songs range in tone and style from the heavy humid New Orleans voodoo parlor feel of "Wicked Lady," with its Animals'-style organ and use of words, to the straight vocals of the more traditional "May Be the Last Time, I Don't Know," reminiscent of chain gangs. She claims to be influenced by the sounds of the early 1920s to '70s and has a love for the likes of blues legends Big Mama Thornton and John Lee Hooker. She often plays covers of her favorite songs when on stage. I can only hope that one day in the future she will release an album with them on it.

The album opens with "Horn Blower," which is kind of out of synch with the rest of the album with its upbeat rhythms and playful lyrics. She then dives headfirst into "Water," an uncompromising bluesy song about an unfaithful woman who drives away her man only to regret her cheating ways and want him back. "Hush" is possibly the most haunting song on the album, a darkly echoed lullaby.

I have been really enjoying this CD and look forward to hearing more from her in the future. Maybe with a bit of luck I'll get to see her in concert later this year.

by Stefan Abley
22 July 2006

[ visit Ndidi's website ]

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