Dona Oxford, |
Dona (pronounced doan-ya) Oxford sings the blues and she's pretty happy about it. This isn't the dark, wallow-in-your-tears variety of blues, but rather the blues of New Orleans and Chicago: the barrelhouse, boogie-woogie, rock 'n' roll blues.
A long relationship between guitar player Arthur Neilson and Oxford has created a perfectly complementary, tight band sound. Bass and drum lines adeptly flesh out the tunes, but the excellent musicianship on keyboards and guitars is what strikes the listener. Neilson's scorching guitar is heard in the first seconds of the first track, "Cinderella," and doesn't stop for the next 35 minutes. Oxford plays both organ and piano in a variety of styles with easy virtuosity and arresting enthusiasm. Whether the tune is a rock 'n' roll pounder or a blues ballad, this band handles it with dynamic competence.
Oxford's versatile vocals are a big contribution to nine of the ten tracks on the disc. Her capable contralto voice can yell and growl and belt out lyrics in grand blues style. On "I'm on Fire" (a cover by the venerable team of Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer), she whoops and squeaks right along with Jerry Lee Lewis style boogie-woogie piano rhythms. When the music slows down, such as on "Red, White & Blues" and "Bye Bye M'Baby," Oxford shows she can slide that voice around and get a little blue too.
Oxford has written eight very good songs. They are so faithful to their respective styles that I was surprised to find only two covers. It is heartening to hear so much feeling in the original music of a contemporary blues-rock performer. If it's up to Dona Oxford, we'll all be happy about the blues for a very long time.