With seven releases (5 CDs, two DVDs) under her curvaceous belt, Ana Popovic has become very much an in-demand concert act 'cause, sweet Jesus, can she ever play the unliving hell out of that axe of hers, not just as a shockingly gritty and savvy female player, but also as a singer with verve and laser beam insistence, a tartly yowling she-cat letting the toms and various slinky denizens of the back alley know just who's boss. Popovic's playing, though, is what has sold this statuesque blonde: a blazing, wailing, funky, hellfire-laced finesse that drops jaws the moment she opens up and rips. I reviewed her fiery Trasimeno Lake DVD concert (here), and Unconditional follows hot on the heels of that stunning disc. And to give an indication of just how attractive her concerts are, she's playing a Blues Fest in Long Beach, down the road from me, and I practically tore my own head off when I realized it was the same date (Sept. 3) as the Nektar / Brainticket gig I'd a month ago bought a ticket for, up in Hollywood (Key Club). I'm driving myself and friends, so I can't cancel. Thus, I sold my soul to the devil in exchange for a clone that will go to the L.B. show and can laugh off my earlier vexation. Have your cake and eat it too, I always say (and when Dan Scratch discovers critics don't have souls, I get my second laugh).
For this disc, Popovic has put a lid somewhat on the smoldering fire of past work to concentrate a bit more fully on traditional licks and her daunting vocal work through a blue soul. Her well-famed fretwork, though, is no better shown than in a killer glass finger duet with Sonny Landreth during Slideshow. Reset Rewind then fashions itself after The Band's The Weight, laying down in Arkansas wheat fields to bring out a folky side not often displayed. Your Love Ain't Real becomes a hoppingly funky startler that percolates as though a family of bush foxes tap-dancing across hot pavement (yeah, I know, a mixed metaphor, but it fits) to get to the cool underbrush. Like Slideshow, it, too, contains a way cool middle eight embedded in an already snappy number.
Like her previous release, Unconditional is nothing less than slaved over, crafted until every corner shines, every bar and stanza smoking with chops that few women in the world possess, or luxuriating in a sensual azure heat on a balmy afternoon in the delta headwaters. And speaking of women, uh, listen, guys, this chick is not only eating our breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but she's managing to slink in and grab the midnight snacks as well! We gotta do something or pretty soon, we'll have to settle for Cheerios three times a day, wondering why we ever bothered to leave grade school, dammit! And in that, I'm not sure I'd put her beside Clapton for, say, a guest shot, too many stylistic differences and temperance contrasts in that pairing, but I'm telling you, she coulda stood beside Stevie Ray and provoked a legendary fretfight. Yep, she's that much more in Vaughn's arena than Eric's.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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