Carolyn Gaines’ New CD, The Thrill Is Gone, has the up-and-coming blues singer reviving the classics but in her own “Blue Jazzy Way.”
She welcomes guests such as guitarist Ric Jaz and saxophonists Grady Gaines Sr. and Grady Gaines Jr.
Carolyn Gaines knows the blues! She was born in the blues world. Her father is Roy Gaines, one the great guitarist-singers like B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Buddy Guy. Carolyn is also the niece of saxophonist Grady Gaines Sr. Carolyn founded the Blues Schools programs for kids. She has developed into a powerful blues singer. Her previous recording, Beware Of My Dog, revealed her to be a highly expressive and rough-sounding vocalist in the tradition of Ma Rainey, Big Mama Thornton and Koko Taylor: while sounding very much like herself, infusing the blues into each note that she sings.
Is Gone, released on Polka Dot Records, features Carolyn
Gaines in sparse settings that perfectly fit her country blues approach.
Guitarist Gino Baronelli is a strong asset throughout, including two duets with
Carolyn on hit songs of Buddy Guy’s (“I Got Dreams To Remember” and
lead guitarist Ric Jaz makes a guest appearance on “God Bless The
Child” with Carolyn’s cousin Grady Gaines Jr. The Thrill Is Gone
guest appearances consist of her uncle Grady Gaines Sr. and Ric Jaz.
Blues diva is
joined by a bassist on five of the dozen songs (three of which also have
organist Moe Bleek), pianist Charles Sherman on three tracks, and there are a
few appearances by Glen Doll on harmonica, and Carolyn’s legendary uncle
84-year old Grady Gaines Sr. and her talented cousin, Grady Gaines Jr. on
saxophones. Having two members of the Gaines family join her on this
memorable set was a particular thrill for the singer.
While one may look at the song list and expect
predictable versions of such tunes as Muddy Waters “I Got My
Mojo Working,” Bobby Blue Bland “Stormy Monday,” and
Etta James “I’d Rather Go Blind,” Carolyn Gaines does not believe
in merely copying the past. She performs those songs like Janis Joplin’s uniquely vocals
and the others in her own very individual way. Unlike nearly every other
version, her rendition of “I’d Rather Go Blind” sounds
nothing like Etta James, and how many female singers perform songs by
Buddy Guy (“Damn Right I Got The Blues”) or Jimi Hendrix?
The intimate settings (which do not include drums)
are a throwback to early country blues yet Carolyn Gaines gives each of the
songs her own contemporary spin, growling out some lyrics while occasionally
purring. The performances, which she lists as being inspired by the likes of
B.B. King (who made “The Thrill Is Gone” famous), Buddy Guy, Ma
Rainey, Otis Redding, Billie Holiday, Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, Etta James,
Bobby Blue Bland, and Robert Johnson, are quite unique. Carolyn worked Jimi
Hendrix hard rock ”Hey Joe” to become her own Woodstock style
of rock n’ roll with new blues.
Starting out with a fairly quiet but heated Grammy
Award for Best Contemporary Blues Buddy Guy’s “Damn Right I Got
The Blues,” Carolyn Gaines performs such numbers as a haunting
rendition of “Deep Morning Blues” (recorded by Ma Rainey in 1923),
“God Bless The Child” (which is much more lowdown than the versions
of Billie Holiday and Diana Ross), and her fresh takes of such standards
as “The Thrill Is Gone” (her tribute to the King of the Blues),
Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters “I Got My Mojo Working,” and Bobby
Blues Bland “Stormy Monday.”
Listeners who think that they have heard every
version of those tunes will be surprised by Ms. Gaines’ variations which
sound very different than what one might expect.
Throughout The Thrill Is Gone, ‘’Carolyn Gaines shows
that she is one of the most important new voices of the blues.’’
Scott Yanow/Jazz journalist and author of 11 books
including The Jazz Singers