Ally Venable has been racking up awards in East Texas, where she’s from, and a listen to No Glass Slippers will help you understand why. She is a songwriter, guitar player and singer, and at 17, this is her debut album.
Venable is backed up on No Glass Shoes by a very capable band, consisting of guitarist and keyboards player, Bobby Wallace, bassist Kris Wallace, and percussionist Daniel Dolive. Venable is a formidable guitar player herself. Five of the 8 tracks on the album are originals, and she wrote a completely new arrangement for the Alberta Hunter classic, “Downhearted Blues,” that sounds nothing at all like the original while keeping the words intact.
As is often the case with music out of Texas, Venable often blurs the line between country and blues. This is true on the first cut, “Trainwreck Blues,” which is a steady-rolling country blues that shows off both her voice and her guitar skills. “No Glass Shoes” isa highlight of the album in addition to being the title track, with its toughly realistic lyrics , bluesy guitar and gritty vocal.
‘Woke Up This Mornin'” ups the tempo to deliver full-out blues-rock. It’s another tough lyric, and frankly, while the guitar work is awesome, I felt that Venable’s voice is not quite mature enough to handle this type of song alone. As with other songs on this album, like the cover of “Messin” With The Kid” and “Love Me Like a Man,” she would benefit from background singers here and there to give them some body. Of course, on both songs she is begging comparison to the originals and few solo vocalists could math those performance, so another voice or two would have benefited her until she has a chance to mature a bit. On the other hand, both of these songs have exceptional guitar work and “Love Me Like a Man.” has some spectacular harmonica.
“Wise Man” suits Venable’s voice nicely. It is a mid-tempo number that flows smoothly and really showcases Venable and the band without pushing too hard. “Too Much Too Soon” also is a good fit, ironically, since lyrically it could be an acknowledgement of exactly what I feel about this album, overall,which is that she is indeed trying on some songs to do too much too soon and pushing herself too hard.It has some delightful harp work, as does the next one, her interesting interrpetation of “Downhearted Blues, which takes Alberta Hunter’s magnificent song and gives ti a new country-blues tune. It’s not a bad song and it certainly shows ambition, but i personally would have preferred to hear the song in its original arrangement. It just didn’t need to be changed.
Overall, this is a worthwhile effort for a first album by one so young. Expect to see Ally Venable get better and better as her career progresses. I would also like to see her lighten up a bit and add more songs that are not so full of angst, but hey, she is a teenager!
It’s a good album. Check it out!