Picture yourself in a dark basement bar, sitting at a small round table, only enough room for your drink and your date’s. Her purse is dangling loosely from her seatback while the ice melts into your whisky and cigarette smoke drifts into the air. Now turn on The Real Deal. Feels right, doesn’t it? “Music could be so joyful without going to hell!” Sharon Lewis declares in the liner notes to her debut album with Delmark Records. You can practically hear her scream it in between songs.
She calls herself “the real deal” and that is certainly true – you can feel the honesty pouring from her veins on most songs – especially her original tunes like “What’s Really Goin’ On” and “Angel”, which open and close the record, respectively. Unfortunately, the cover tracks she chose, though, of course, sung with soul, are poorly executed. The reggae twist on Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine” is an interesting idea, but the band toys around too much and Lewis doesn’t hit the notes or pull on the right strings, a similar affliction hits her take on Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love”. Despite those few missed connections, Lewis & Texas Fire still managed to create an album that is full of soul, and deep rooted in the blues – whether or not purists agree. It’s just like she says, “It’s all blues if it comes from the heart.”