There is a long tradition of vocal duos in country and folk music, with groups like Sugarland and Shovels and Rope continuing to see success and popularity with the formula. Tiffany Pollack, an acclaimed New Orleans jazz singer, and Eric Johanson (performing courtesy of Whiskey Bayou Records), former lead guitarist for Cyril Neville, have teamed up to bring that winning tactic to the blues and roots world on their new album Blues In My Blood. Eleven tracks of original and select standards showcase the depth of each one’s talent with a new collaboration that is fresh and natural. The Louisiana natives, who each have been building a strong career, met when Pollack was reunited with her biological family at 25, and discovered they are cousins and third-generation members of a musical family with a rich history. After years of the cousins’ mothers pushing for them to work together, the duo project has come to fruition for a very personal family project in celebration of the blues.
The opening track ‘Blues In My Blood’ sets the stage for the passion play, recorded and produced in New Orleans by Grammy, Emmy, 4-time Telly and 2-time Global Music Award-winner Jack Miele at The Music Shed Studios. The roaring Southern Gothic blues tome recants Pollack’s life story and her journey to discover the true origin of her musical gifts and a desperate longing that that has haunted her soul from birth. The mournful tone of Johnny Sansone’s harmonica echoes the heartfelt vocal from Johanson on the lover’s lament ‘Memories To Forget.’ He then shows of his formidable slide guitar skills on the southern fried funk burner ‘Keep It Simple,’ sparing with Pollack’s scorching vocals. Life experience often makes for profound art as exemplified in the sorrowful tribute to a fallen soldier ‘Michael,’ delivered form the unique prospective of the undertaker, a role Pollack played while working in the mortuary business. Her vocals weave a spell on us that is only broken when the 504 Horns join the Jazz Funeral Procession in the New Orleans’ first-line tradition. The duo joins together on the chorus of the politically charged blues rocker ‘Diamonds On the Crown,’ followed by a lovely reading of a deep cut from The Rolling Stones’ album Beggars Banquet, the lilting country ballad ‘No Expectations.’
Pollack then bravely steps into the shoes of Nina Simone, paying tribute to the jazz legend by digging deep into the classic ‘Do I Move You?’ with sultry finesse. The introspective ‘Slave Of Tomorrow’ is a heady dish of southern jam rock and the gently swinging blues ‘Get Lost With Me’ has a classic Memphis style that features a searing solo from Johanson. Pollack soars on the cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River,’ staying true to the original, while adding just enough of her own fire to put her mark on the masterpiece. The album’s finale is a gospel-fueled reinvention of the freedom song ‘If I had A Hammer.’ The duo trade verses and slow the tempo to allow in-depth focus on each phrase and emphasize the importance and truth in the lyrics written by Pete Seeger in 1949 in support of the progressive movement.
This inspirational duo of Tiffany Pollack and Eric Johanson bring an indie, roots-based approach to the blues, both honoring and expanding the traditions they learned growing up in Louisiana. Their powerful songwriting is a gift that flows from the undeniable blues in their blood.