[9 May 2011]
PopMatters PopLocal Features Editor
Graná Louise represents a species often forgotten among the many reissues of blues and jazz legends: the contemporary blues singer. Louise (whose first name is pronounced Gra-Nay) has been singing in clubs and at festivals for years, and she was the winner of the ‘09 Chicago Blues Challenge. As must any contemporary musician working in such a long-established tradition, Louise displays impressive versatility, tackling blues numbers from every part of the musical map. Gettin’ Kinda Rough, the singer’s second full-length and her first for Delmark, showcases Louise’s rough-and-tumble voice in its many guises, from the soul classic “Can’t Stand the Rain” to the traditional ballad “Stagger Lee” to the blues rocker “Hey Joe”. She handles them all with ready energy, but Louise shines brightest during the CD’s last half, recorded during a live set at Blues Chicago. She clearly feeds off the crowd’s energy, and her bawdy interjections and free ornamentation feel more natural in a live setting than they do during the studio numbers. Gettin’ Kinda Rough may not be essential listening for the music historian, but it’s one argument that blues lovers don’t always have to live in the past.