Blues Bytes

August 2002

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Surprise

Alice Stuart
Can't Find No Heaven
Burnside Records

Alice StuartOf the truckload of blues CDs released each year, there are very few triple-A amazing discs. Alice Stuart's Canít Find No Heaven (Burnside) is in that select company and ranks as one of the finest recordings of 2002. A shoe-in for a comeback nomination, itís also a strong contender for album of the year. 

 

Alice Stuart broke into the biz in the 1960s, opening for the likes of Mississippi John Hurt, Muddy Waters and Doc Watson. She cut her first disc in 1964 and played gigs with Commander Cody and Asleep At The Wheel in the late 1960s. In the 1970s she recorded a pair of albums for Fantasy and opened for Albert King, Elvin Bishop, Van Morrison, Michael Bloomfield, Jerry Garcia and others. After a break to be a mom in the 1980s, she jumped back into the fray with a pair of albums released on her own label in the '90s.

 

Records rarely stop me in my tracks and leave me speechless. This is such a jaw-dropper. With a voice (and guitar) as expressive as Bonnie Raitt's, as crystalline as Emmy Lou Harris', and as traveled as Rosalie Sorrells', Stuart soars through 11 exquisite cuts that equally showcase her formidable acoustic and electric guitar work.

 

She writes in the liners, "I think song-interpreters have lost some credibility and importance in the eyes of many. This craft is not given the proper respect it deserves. I regard myself as a song interpreter as well as a songwriter." From the opening re-worked "Big Boss Man"Ē to the closing "Night Patrol," she offers a selection of originals and interpretations that consistently dazzle.

 

Backed by bassist Fred Chalenor and drummer Kevin Cook on most tracks, guests include Paul deLay harping on a trio of tunes, Louis Pain on B3, Terry Robb (who co-produced with Stuart) on guitar and bass, Janice Scroggins seriously rockiní the piano, and Duffy Bishop on backing vocals.

 

Her interpretations of Skip Jamesí "Hard Time Killing Floor" and "ďRather Be The Devil," along with a beautiful version of Furry Lewis' "I Will Turn Your Money Green" showcase her superbly picked acoustic guitar in tandem with her voice. She plays a pretty impressive telecaster elsewhere, but this is where she shines. 

 

She serves up an impressive take on Fred McDowell's re-titled "Drop Down Daddy," and completely re-does Mance Lipscomb's "Sugar Babe." Her "Blues In The Bottle" and "I Ruined Your Life" are two of the flat-out bluesiest blues songs of the year. 

 

My CD player calls this the disc to beat in 2002. Extraordinary ainít the half of it. This is transcendent!

--- Mark Gallo

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