Texas Queens 5
Vizztone Records has been on a
hot streak over the last year, producing many of
the best blues albums in the past 12 months.
But, man oh man, I never expected this album.
Bloodest Saxophone has been around the Tokyo
music scene for 20 years, with the ambition "to
rule the world with the saxophone." They've got
a whole bunch of previous horn-dominated albums,
including one with legendary sax player Big Jay
It was Dialtone Record's bossman
Eddie Stout who had the brilliant idea of bringing
Bloodest Saxophone to Texas and teaming them up with
five stellar female blues/soul singers, and the
result of this mad scientist experiment is the
outstanding Texas Queens 5. Listen to just
one cut, and you'll undoubtedly be nodding your
head, tapping your feet, and saying, "Wow!"
The previous statement is especially
relevant if you start from the beginning of the
album and don't shuffle the order, because Diunna
Greenleaf opens with the calypso-ish "I've Got A
Feeling" with some heavy-duty tribal chanting at the
start of the cut. Man, this one sounds right out of
the 1940s! The five queens then join together on the
Muddy Waters classic, "I Just Want To Make Love To
You." I never thought I'd enjoy any version of this
song that didn't have that classic Little Walter
harmonica solo, but these Texas ladies fill that
void quite easily.
Up next is one of my favorite cuts,
a version of "Losing Battle" that was once a New
Orleans hit for Deacon John, but here Crystal Thomas
makes it her own with tortured vocals on a slow
blues. She's having fun fighting that losing battle,
as she sings, ".... I'm having so much fun trying to
win ..." The outstanding singer Jai Malano jumps in
next with a rockin' version of Rufus Thomas'
"Walking The Dog." Bloodest Saxophone guitarist
Shuji (aka "Apple Juice") throws down some red hot
guitar licks on this one.
A couple of regular Texas cats ---
sax player Kaz Kazanoff and guitarist Johnny Moeller
--- join the party on the wild, wild instrumental
"Pork Chop Chick." This number truly has a wall of
horns blowing away while Moeller contributes tasty
guitar. Lauren Cervantes gets her first chance to
step to the front of the stage on the Louis Jordan
calypso classic, "Run Joe," and she kills it. Mr.
Jordan would be smiling if he heard this version.
One of my favorite albums from 2017
was Samantha Fish's Chills & Fever which
contained her excellent cover of Charles Sheffield's
"It's Your Voodoo Working." Malano's powerful vocals
on this snaky blues puts her version right onto the
top shelf with Ms. Fish's cover. Thomas returns with
the rollicking blues "Don't Move Me," a Roscoe
"Don't Hit Me No More" was done
originally in 1967 by Mable John for Stax Records,
but it would be even more appropriate today as part
of the #MeToo movement. Angela Miller takes the lead
of this slow blues on which she sings, "... If you
hit me, be ready to quit me ..." and "... Talk to me
with your mouth, and not with your hand ..." Malano
returns with the jump blues "I Done Done It," with
call-and-response between both the horns and the
One of the most stirring numbers
here is Cervantes' take on a novelty drinking song,
"The Grape Vine," about how much she likes that
wine, singing, "... Just plant a grapevine over my
grave, and let the juice drip through ..." There's a
incendiary sax solo or two mixed in here (but,
really, I could say that about every cut on this
album, because that's what Bloodest Saxophone was
born to do).
We close with another instrumental,
the slow to medium blues shuffle "Coackroach Run."
Koda "Young Corn" Shintaro tears it up on tenor sax
while we hear some jangly guitar from either Moeller
or Shuji. A nice way to end a red hot blues album.
I'll say it again --- Eddie Stout
made a genius move in teaming up these cats from
Japan with this group of Texas blues singers. More,
--- Bill Mitchell