Not long ago I reviewed Tab Benoit’s new album and recalled how some blues records seem to fall flat on their face when compared to that performer’s sizzling live shows. I recalled seeing Marcia Ball in Providence, Rhode Island and then found myself utterly disappointed in the transfer of her energy to the studio. Sue Foley rings some of these same bells for me. I partially blame this knee-jerk reaction on my brother, who has a great passion for that coterie of Austin blueswomen: Sue Foley, Toni Price, Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton, among others (I know they’re not all from Austin…but they’ve got that eclectic Austin thing going on in their music). Somehow I find that so many of these women produce music that, though distinctive, ends up sounding like the way that tight-ass honkies dance to James Brown (that’d be both me and my brother!). But this is my own, rather shallow, interpretation. Here I have a chance to review something from this extensive collection of blueswomen and I can try and exorcize the ghost of my brother’s music collection (and all our family history too, of course).
Sue Foley deserves so much more than my own issues with my brother’s tastes. Foley is much more than a blues player. She can croon, swing, and rock. There is no doubt that Foley excels on her gritty boogie woogie numbers. When she rolls and croons on her slower numbers, she sometimes comes across as almost simpy, a little like excellent coffee made a little too weak. Regardless, throughout the whole of Love Comin’ Down (and all of her career), she plays a ferocious guitar. Undoubtedly, Foley is one of the finest guitar players on the blues circuit. She can soar through monstrous solos and follow them with beautiful soft fills. On Love Comin’ Down, Foley swings through flamenco (including a sensuous electric solo!), gritty boogie woogie, quiet love songs, sassy struts, and flaming electric blues cuts. She is truly multi-talented. While, Foley’s latest effort did not make me any more of a fan of her music than before, I now have a greater respect for her astounding guitar chops.
This album is not flashy, Foley’s guitar work does not fly up and hit you. Rather, the more you listen to her, the more your jaw drops. Slowly, you begin to realize the extent of her abilities and her music takes on a whole new aura. The Texas honky-blues shuffle still doesn’t really appeal to me, but Love Comin’ Down is so much more than that. Foley has spread her wings into a whole arena of blues-influenced music. I have been pleasantly surprised. Now I don’t know if I want to give up this CD to my brother like I said I would.