Man o man, Janet Ryan crashes through starting gate on the very first number, He Burned that Bridge, rolling 'n tumbling like Etta James in full fury, horns blaring, slide guitar burning, chords crunching, hot high-five rhythms full-barrel smokin'. On the East Coast, she and the band are highly regarded on the concert circuit and have shared stages with James Montgomery, John Hammond, Dickey Betts, James Cotton, and a wealth of acts far too numerous to list, but, on evidence here, her studio work is just as killer. This is easily seen when Bridge closes down and slides into the balladic What I Like Best, wherein a fuller stage is set for the woman's vocals, instrumentalists fading back a bit so her extremely confident and soulful pipes can frolic and expostulate without all the fire the band manages to stoke up so very hellaciously satisfyingly otherwise.
Mama Soul??? Damn straight, and Mama knows what's what. A duet between her and Etta would torch the venue and bring the fire department running. I don't know what on earth Ryan's been doing all these years, but that voice of hers is unstoppable and stems from a real blues center. She's been around the block and now owns it. Her backing band is equally sterling, steely and jutty jawed, unafraid of their instruments, boogying the audience around the dance floor like Arthur Murray never ever envisioned. This, my friends, is where all the San Francisco 70s cats 'n kitties were heading: Mother Earth, Janis Joplin, Stoneground, Lamb, and others. Janis made it and Janet Ryan also arrived, staking out ground with a bravura impossible to ignore. Gen-yoo-wine.
Jerry Sartain is one hell of a guitarist, phrasing and vocabulary exceedingly judicious, incandescently laid down, one of the very few axehandlers I've ever heard who has a genuine streak of Paul Kossoff in him, but the rest of the lads are whiskey-soaked in the milieu as well, and Chuck Mabrey's keyboards occupy an interesting space resting between hot blues and progressive tints, more than once stretching the atmosphere well beyond the expected. Catch Tired of Talking and you'll hear some of what the later Trapeze (post-Glenn Hughes) and others were aiming for, a landscape bedded in lament but imbued with intelligence and anticipation. Other than Sippie Walace's Women Be Wise, all cuts here were written by Ryan and the band, and each one is compelling. Above it all, though, Ryan's voice shines, and this is one woman who was certainly born to do what she does, no two ways about it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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