Blues Bytes

Pick Hit

December 2022

Malaya Blue
Blue Credentials
Blue Heart Records

Malaya Blue

British blues singer Malaya Blue is back with another excellent album, Blue Credentials, like her previous release produced by Dennis Walker who passed away not long after the sessions were recorded. Ms. Blue is adept at seamlessly integrating straight blues, blues/rock and soul into her music, and she's done it again with this album.

My review of Blue Credentials, starts with one of the most powerful songs I've ever heard, with every line touching a raw nerve. I was debating which album to feature as this month's Pick Hit, but after listening to "Howlin' Mercy" a couple of times, this one just had to be my selection. It starts with simple acoustic dobro picking from Brett Lucas, and later in the song we get keyboards into the mix to increase the intensity. It's a very, very haunting song as she packs emotion and agony into the story of a young girl being stalked by the father who has abused each of his daughters. I've never included every lyric of a song in a review, but here it is if you wish to read it. Caution: this is a very intense and graphic song about the abuse of a young girl.

How do you follow a song like "Howlin' Mercy?" Malaya chose to close out with a happy, mid-tempo blues, "Messin' Around," about youthful fun like messin' around, breaking the rules, and acting like fools. We needed a feelgood song after the previous intense number.

Now, back to the beginning of the album. Opening this show is a slower blues/rock, "Your Act Has Worn Thin," featuring heavy guitar work from Lucas, before she jumps into a mid-tempo funky blues, "Wrong Kinda Love," on which Malaya's strong voice soars through the octaves and we get nice organ accompaniment from John McCullough. She then shows her versatility out a jazzy soul ballad, "Oh What A Fool," with really nice blues guitar from Lucas.

"The Time We Had" starts with gospel-style piano before cruising along as slow, jazzy soul, followed by the more up-tempo "Curious," with a big dose of soul emanating from Malaya's voice. The tempo slows again for the bluesy "I'm Having Blues Again," with Lucas effectively using a slide piece on his guitar.

This album seems to gain momentum with every song, so by cut number eight, "Good Intentions, Bad Results," we're getting funky again, especially with the drumming of Sam Kelly. Lucas opens the up-tempo rocker, "Bring Me Your Sin," with acoustic dobro before everybody starts to rock out. Malaya packs plenty of sass into her vocals. Slowing down the pace is the snaky blues number "Set Me Free," with a powerful blues guitar solo from Lucas.

Mr. Walker was the lone writer of the incredible but disturbing "Howlin' Mercy," and it certainly deserves a Song of the Year posthumous award for him. Every other song on Blue Credentials was written by some combination of performers and/or producers. Former Robert Cray bandmate Richard Cousins appears on bass, and has also been instrumental in bringing Malaya Blue to a higher place in the blues world.

This one deserves to be heard.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

 

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