Kelley Hunt's band knocks you back a few steps in the exuberant intro measure to This Time, becoming an organic unit pulsing with life, setting up an insistent throb, grabbing all and sundry by the torso to set us spinning on a bluesy dance floor. Sure it's funky and bottom-line boogie-esque, but the cut's also infectious as a Soul Train git-down. I'm not sure what John Jackson's running on his guitar outboards alongside the wah-wah, but he obtains a unique sound that grabs ya before you even know what's happening, striking and compelling. At first, when opening the liner and spotting Hunt in leather jacket and Vampirella eros-bangs haircut, I thought "Hmmmm, Cassandra Peterson meets Chrissie Hynde and Suzi Quatro!", but that ain't the case, y'all.
The mixture of Motown, New Orleans, delta, and, every so often, barroom booze-up is a constant throughout The Beautiful Bones. More than once, I was reminded of Eden Brent, one of the Yellow Dog labels' premiere talents in a jaw-dropping roster, but also of a serious gospel singer buddying up to Bonnie Bramlett, Golden Hour and Release and Be Free prime examples, with the McCrary klatsch a cool-ass backing choir. And, yo, that'd be one swingin' church I'd happily attend despite my eternally resident grinning atheism. Kelley plays a nice little pinanner too (that's 'piano' to Northerners), organist Mark Jordan often subtly coloring up the ground beneath her pedals, engineer Michael Esser placing the electric keyboard perfectly, letting it swell up for emphasis and then fade back not as a rhythm axe but instead a small quiet orchestra not noticed until you see that you're floating, as in the wistful ballad Let It Rain.
This is, by my count, Hunt's sixth release, and she's recruited a fan base to more than accommodate her discs, her latest Indiegogo, a Kickstarter gig, on this one well exceeding the goal. Small wonder, and the chugline When Love is at the Wheel shows the composer-player-chanteuse knows how to lasso in ever greater numbers in a song that zips along with fire on railroad tracks headed for the West Coast and its Hollywood heart. The Kansas native may dig the Gulf and Southern sound more than any other, but she also catches up with the wider world, the better to tour all and sundry back to the heart of things. This is blues, make no mistake, but it's blues that goes beyond what's too often in danger of becoming far too narrowly idiomatic. Yep, I really like that kind of blues too, but The Beautiful Bones reminds us that rock was definitely a later presence within it, that much more came well before, and that some of the entirety is too easily sacrificed in a haste to please a sometimes simplistic market…except, of course, for the work of people like Kelley Hunt.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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