Church House Blues
True North Records/New Sun Records
Crystal Shawanda is an indigenous Canadian born in the Wiikwemkoong First Nation, an unceded territory, on Manitoulin Island in northern Ontario. She moved to Nashville and signed with RCA Records in 2007. Her debut album “Dawn of a New Day” reached the top 20 on the Billboard Country Album Chart, and she toured with Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley. After leaving RCA Shawanda followed-up with the independently produced “Just Like You” and won Canada’s prestigious Juno Award. She wound up performing at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration.
Shawanda admits “the whole time I was singing Patsy Cline on stage, I was singing Etta James at home”, “I veered towards the blues because that’s the music I love to sing”. This is Shawanda’s fourth blues album, and second for True North Records. Her widely acclaimed last album, 2018’s “Voodoo Woman” elevated her status and caused comparisons to KoKo Taylor, one of her influences. Other influences include Mavis Staples and Etta.
Vocalist Shawanda is accompanied by her husband, and collaborator, guitarist and Producer Dewayne Strobel. Among the all-star musicians assembled are bassists Dave Roe, Michael Dearing, Jonathan Nixon and Hinkie Hamilton; drummers Louis Winfield and Darren James; saxophonists Dana Robbins and Miqui Guitierez; keyboardists Peter Keys and Jesse O’Brien; harpist Stephen Hanner, and backing singers The McCrary Sisters. The album was recorded at The Layman Drug Company, a recording studio in Nashville Tennessee.
Four songs were co-written by Shawanda and Strobel including the assertive “Rather Be Alone all the magic is gone”; the bittersweet ballads “When It Comes to Love” and “Bigger Than the Blues”, and “Blame It On the Sugar”. These are fabulous vocals. “Hey Love” was written by them with Nashville songwriter David Norris. Norris also co-wrote the title track “Church House Blues” with Lowell Gaines, and Shawanda who sings “dancing in the aisles at the roadhouse we played last night”.
“Evil Memory” is a cover of a song written by Tommy Stillwell and Larry Grisham, the core members of The Beat Daddys, and first recorded by them in 1992. Stillwell left the band three years later but sits in on guitar on this new version. Shawanda is emotive on this dramatic scorcher.
“I Can’t Take It” was co-written by Nashville songwriter Morgan Alexander, drummer Darren James, and KG Green, and it’s another great vehicle for Shawanda. “Move Me” is from Vanyah Venhuizen. “New Orleans Is Sinking” is a cover of a song first written and recorded in 1989, by the members of the Canadian rock band “The Tragically Hip”.
We get to know Shawanda on this great new release. For her full story, please view the accompanying video.