Blues babe delivers ‘80s style pop
OLGA Whatever You Want (219 Records)
Olga Munding brands herself as a “blues babe” and has the track record to back that up, having spent much of the past decade working to raise awareness of pioneering blueswoman Jesse Mae Hemphill. So the big, full-bodied pop of Whatever You Want is definitely a departure and a calculated nod toward the mainstream for the New Orleans-based singer-songwriter.
Known simply as Olga to her fans, the former Boulder resident and KGNU DJ recorded the album with North Mississippi All-Stars drummer Cody Dickinson, who played many of the instruments and co-wrote the 11 songs, which are coated in an ’80s pop vibe awash in synthesizers,
“Just Take Your Time” is the song gunning for hit single status, a bouncy piano-based tune with gorgeous harmonies and an oft-repeated chorus that wraps around you as the sound of bells punctuates the melody. The title track and “Time for Somebody New,” (which features Munding belting it out like a diva in the mid-section) also would sound quite at home on KBCO.
Among the standout tracks – with a more eclectic, blues-laced instrumentation featuring slide guitar and recorder – is “They Want More,” a song about our endless desire for everything. “It Is What It Is,” another song about coming to grips with change, offers a great showcase for Olga’s smoky voice and recalls Fiona Apple and the recently departed Amy Winehouse.
Whatever You Want is a digital-only release, available through at iTunes and www.laolga.com .
THE SOUL OF JOHN BLACK Good Thang (Yellow Dog)
John “JB” Bigham has refined a blend of ‘70s soul laced with contemporary blues and rock over the course of his solo albums as The Soul of John Black. On Good Thang, the third outing on from the former guitarist and keyboard player for Fishbone, Bigham does a great job delivering on his brand.
It’s hard not to invoke Al Green while listening to these tracks, especially when you get to the sweet soul ballad, “How Can I,” a mid-tempo track dripping with sensuality as Bigham digs into that bedroom swagger (a flavor that comes back later in the disc with “Dream (Turn Off the Phone).” The mood shifts abruptly with the reggae riff of “Oh That Feeling,” a kiss-off that pulls no punches and more than hints at the volatility and potential for violence of a failed relationship. Bigham’s slide guitar solo punctuates that feeling with venom. The brooding “My Brother” visits a similar dark place but with a greater sense of wariness. The protagonist of this song, which sets acoustic guitar to a funky keyboard riff, seems all but ready to surrender to the tragic events that are unfolding.
By contrast, “Strawberry Lady” sounds almost light-hearted, but unlike the title track, this song is more about longing than about celebrating love realized. Bigham does a great job marrying the traditional blues sound of a Dobro to a R&B dance beat. “Lil Mama’s in the Kitchen” shares with the title track the feel of what a great soul-pop single should sound like, and it has the lyrical depth of those great Sly Stone songs, a sung from the perspective of a man who is about to become a father.