Fiona Boyes and the Fortune Tellers: Lucky 13

Aussie guitar phenom cuts a joyous swath through electrified raunch, haunted 12-bar vamps, New Orleans swing and rockabilly stomps... if you didn't see the album cover, you'd swear she was black, 50-something and weighed at least 300 pounds.

Fiona Boyes and the Fortune Tellers

Lucky 13

Label: Yellow Dog
US Release Date: 2006-08-08
UK Release Date: 2006-08-08

The rule has always been that if you're a woman and you want to play the blues, you'd better be a good singer. Fiona Boyes is a fine singer, gritty and soulful and comfortable in many styles, but she is a much better guitar player. In fact, you might have to reach all the way back to Memphis Minnie to find a similarly skillful axe-woman. Or you could forget the whole gender game, because it's a dead end. Fiona Boyes can play with anyone, male or female, Australian or Delta-born, traditionalist or modern blues interpreter. She's the real thing.

You don't have to take my word for that. She's a winner of the Blues Foundation's International Blues Challenge, and she's played at nearly every major blues festival in the U.S., as well as those in her native Australia. She's also good enough to attract a strong team, too, Bob Margolin (who once played with Muddy Waters) on guitar, pianist Marcia Ball and saxophonist Kaz Kazanoff. It's a very solid band, led but not overwhelmed by Boyes, and one of the joys of this record is when the supporting players cut loose. Sure, "Red Hot Kisses" showcases Boyes' eerie slide guitar and sultry voice, but it would be half the song without Margolin's soft mournful singing and the intricate interplay between their two guitars. And similarly, "Big Bigger Biggest" wouldn't swing at all without the big band heft of Kazanoff's Texas Horns or the incendiary piano solo mid-cut.

The songs are quite varied. "Chicken Wants Corn" has the electric swagger of Muddy Waters, while "Stranger in Your Eyes" smoulders with Southern heat, a distaff take on Robert Cray. "Rockabilly on the Radio", a cut borrowed from Jack Smith and the Rockabilly Planet, is exactly as hip-shakingly rocking as you'd expect, while "Good Lord Makes You So", slouches and whispers with swampy authenticity. And what can you make of the wonderful "Celebrate My Curves", written by fellow Aussie blueswoman Lil' Fi, except that it's good to be a woman of voracious appetites and damn the consequences.

The centerpiece though is Boyes guitarwork, which smokes and caresses, insinuates and stomps. From the slow-rocking riffery of "Chicken Wants Corn", through the very last bend and pull-off on "Homesick Blues", Boyes makes her guitar talk in an amazing range of dialects, distinct in themselves, but all part of the greater language of blues. Her work is never show-off-y, as is sometimes true of technically adept players, but rather seems to sing. There are notes in "Good Lord Makes You So" that hang in the air like smoke, twisting and evolving even as they fade. It's a virtuouso display, but one that works in favor of the song.

It's a man world, truly, but there's always been room for another great guitar player. So move over boys and watch your language. Fiona Boyes will be staying quite a while.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.