|If memory serves correctly, I saw Boston's premier blues belter Miss Toni Lynn Washington
close down last year's annual September weekend party known as the San Francisco Blues Festival. Her gospel-trained,
R&B nurtured (she toured early on with Jackie Wilson and Sam and Dave), "worrying" vocals had the
sun-struck crowd rocking, dancing, clapping and digging the tempestuous moment. Not bad for 66 years old, I recall
The good times continue on her NorthernBlues debut project that brilliantly teams her up with ace guitar slinger Duke Robillard and his hip-bumping, horn-studded band, singing a slew of covers on her bluesiest outing to date, especially on shouters such as Bessie Smith's rousing "Back Water Blues", the devilishly stomping Gamble-Huff title tune and deep-soulers "Are You Happy Now" (great distraught guitar), Earl King's forlorn "Three Can Play the Game" and Ruth Brown's ballsy "It's Love Baby (24 Hours of the Day)." More modern efforts like "Take Me to the Basement" and a Washingtonian interpretation of the smooth soul classic "Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday" also is impressive.
Washington is an accomplished jazz ballad stylist as well. Extended covers of standards like the bittersweet "Angel Eyes" and "Willow Weep For Me", where she resiliently highlights every accentuation in the lyrics, pauses for some molten single-note guitar soloing and concludes with a long whispering murmuring, head-tossing vocal exploration of loneliness, both manage to cool things off nicely.
Recorded live at a pair of New England locales - the notorious Duke's Mood Room in Pawtucket, RI and Sudbury, MA, the laid back Club 39. Produced by Robillard and versatile keyboard player Bruce Bears with track-by-track commentaries from Washington. An impressive outing.