By Nick Cristiano
“I’m a force of nature,” Sue Foley declares on “Hurricane Girl,” one of the three originals on her blazing new album, Pinky’s Blues out October 22 on Stony Plain Records. It’s no idle boast. The Canada native and award-winning blues guitarist/singer has proven herself to be just that since her 1992 debut, Young Girl Blues, which introduced a blues firebrand who married killer guitar chops with a voice that oozed both sex and innocence. It’s no wonder that, still in her early 20s at the time, she showed she could hang with the big boys in the music hotbed of Austin, Texas.
All these years later, she’s still putting her own indelible stamp on the music. Pinky’s Blues – the title refers to her nickname for her trademark pink paisley Telecaster – is a relatively stripped-down affair. Foley, bassist Jon Penner, and drummer Chris “Whipper” Layton handle the bulk of the work, with producer Mike Flanigin adding organ on two tracks and Jimmie Vaughan playing rhythm guitar on “Hurricane Girl.” The 12-song set was cut live in the studio in three days, giving the music a thrilling immediacy while highlighting Foley’s all-around talents.
Those talents include writing. Here, however, Foley shifts her usual balance from originals to non-originals, because the aim of the set is to pay tribute to some of her and her accompanists’ favorite blues and roots sounds. One of her own numbers, the hurtling boogie “Dallas Man,” continues that theme: It was inspired by thoughts of all the elite and groundbreaking guitarists who hailed from the Dallas area, from Blind Lemon Jefferson to T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, and Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan. “Just can’t catch that Dallas man,” she sings.
On numbers such as the propulsive, Elmore James-style “Hurricane Girl,” Frankie Lee Sims’ “Boogie Real Low,” and Willie Dixon’s “When the Cat’s Away, the Mice Play,” Foley brings fire and swagger. But on Angela Strehli’s aching “Say It’s Not So,” she reveals a more tender and vulnerable side. The same goes for the Jimmy and Lillie Mae Donley swamp-pop ballad “Think It Over,” with Foley’s shimmering guitar weaving around Flanigin’s Hammond B3 to enhance the sultry vibe.
The two instrumentals also highlight Foley’s range. The self-penned title track, which leads off the album, is a string-bending exercise in fat-toned muscularity. Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s breakneck “Okie Dokie Stomp,” on the other hand, shows off her fleet-fingered dexterity.
“Two Bit Texas Town” is another number by Strehli, a first-rate Lone Star soul-blues singer herself. The song fits the theme of the album perfectly. Mentioning Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Jimmy Reed, it’s about being inspired by the power of music to dare to dream of a bigger and better life.
“They were mighty, mighty men … they laid it on so cool,” Foley sings. She lays it on pretty cool herself, and with Pinky’s Blues she again honors the legacy of such giants and the inspiration they provided by using her talents to keep the music fresh and vital – to make you think pink when you think blues.
Watch “Hurricane Girl”
Pre-order link for Pinkey’s Blues
Sue Foley website