What a pity that when Christine Ohlman is recognized, it’s usually from her association with the Saturday Night Live band. Most people are missing out albums filled with her dynamic songwriting and powerful vocals, but perhaps the fifth time is the charm. Fifteen years removed from her debut album, The Hard Way, the Beehive Queen has not only recorded her strongest effort to date, but an album that should pepper several best-of lists in December.
The songs on The Deep End draw as much upon gospel and urban doo-wop as they do blues and Americana, perhaps reaching the apex on the hypnotic title track. “Love You Right” sounds like it was ripped from the catalogue of the Del Lords, while the acoustic “Girl Growing Up” recalls the soulful power of Dusty Springfield. “The Gone of You” (in band and demo versions) is a bluesy, poignant tribute to loss; both producer Doc Cavalier and guitarist Eric Fletcher died since her last album. Musicologist Ohlman has long had the rep for unearthing little-known gems; here the standout is the emotional soul chestnut “Cry Baby Cry” (a duet with Dion). Other spirited guest turns employ Al Anderson, Marshall Crenshaw, Levon Helm, Eric Ambel, and Ian Hunter.
“I surrender to the rhythm in my blood”, Ohlman sings in “Like Honey”. Me too, Christine, me too.