Phenix Fire Records
If you haven't yet hopped
on-board the Vanessa Collier bandwagon, now's the time to do it.
This young singer / songwriter / saxophonist is going to be a star.
If not for the pandemic, perhaps she'd already be there. I saw her in
concert just over a year ago, and I've witnessed very few relatively
unknown artists come into a town for the first time and just blow away
the audience like Ms. Collier did on that steamy July night in Phoenix.
The Philadelphia native expands her horizons
on this latest CD, Heart On The Line
(Phenix Fire Records). Her previous three releases primarily showcased
Collier's soulful vocals and energetic sax work, but she really takes
her music in a lot of different directions here, not to mention the fact that
she also produced the disc. The backing band on Heart On The Line
is solid, highlighted by the always stellar guitar work of Laura Chavez.
The album opens with a
funky, soulful rendition of James Brown's classic, "Super Bad," with
Collier adding the right amount of confident sass to the vocals. A
soulful sax intro leads into the mid-tempo original, "What Makes You
Beautiful," a pleasant number that serves as quite the contrast to the
I said that Collier has
really expanded the boundaries of her music on this album, with the
beautiful, subdued "Bloodhound" presented as evidence. She puts down the
sax, instead playing quiet acoustic resonator slide guitar to support
her haunting vocals before the rest of the band comes in. Stunning.
Equally effective is the slow, bluesy "I Don't Want Anything To Change."
another example of how Collier's song selection has gone in many
different directions. There's minimal instrumentation, with William
Gorman's subtle accompaniment on organ and piano making this number a
keeper. Collier finishes it off with a tasteful sax solo.
A version of Randy Newman's
"Leave Your Hat On" is another gem among the 11 cuts, this rendition
being funkier than the original, thanks especially to Chavez's wah-wah
effects on guitar and Collier's commanding vocals. Her voice is just as
forceful on the hard-driving blues original, "Take A Chance On Me," with
a wall of sound being provided by Collier and guest horn players Quinn
Carson and Doug Woolverton. Chavez contributes a monster guitar solo,
The slow, gospel-ish tune,
"If Only," provides Collier with the opportunity to sing about all of
the things in life that she doesn't have but if she did then she'd be
happier. A great sax solo in the midst of the song provides that extra
boost. Collier goes into full-blown torch singer mode on the dirge-like
"Weep And Moan," showing ower and range in her voice on what is
kind of a snaky blues. Chavez is featured again on guitar, while Woolverton's trumpet complements Collier's tenor sax.
The funky "Who's In Power?"
is basically a showcase for Collier to display her immense talents on
the sax, followed by the slow, jazzy soulful blues, "Freshly Squozen,"
talking about a mother dealing with her misbehaving child but still
loving the little one.
Wrapping up this wonderful
album is the horn-drive, funky title cut, with Collier announcing that
she's going home and that she's not putting her heart on the line any
longer. Woolverton is back with a nice trumpet solo and drummer Nick
Stevens lays down a rhythmic, New Orleans-style beat. Driving the song
along is the repeated line, "...feels good to help somebody ...," framed
by rhythmic hand-clapping.
I've been waiting for one of
the big blues labels to latch on to Vanessa Collier, but on the other
hand I'm fine with what we are getting from this star in the making.
Each of her four albums are outstanding, and you can't go wrong with any
of them. My recommendation would be to pick up all of them. You can
thank me later.
--- Bill Mitchell