Blues in My Heart (20th Anniversary Edition)
This writer fondly remembers the Australian finger-picking blues singer-songwriter from about a dozen years ago when she performed live on my then radio show. One couldn’t help but be struck by her undeniable talent, both playing the guitar and singing, yet the overriding takeaway was her vivacious, enthusiastic, joyous demeanor. Simply said, she made quite a favorable impression. Too often you’ve heard an artist’s records, admired the talent, and looked forward to a live show and/or a meet and greet, only to be disappointed. It’s so refreshing when the complete opposite takes place as it did in Boyes’ case. So, if you haven’t been introduced to her yet, we are taking you all the way back, (Wow! Twenty years passed quickly) to her debut, Blues in Your Heart, in 2000, originally released just in Australia, but now remastered and available in a deluxe CD package complete with a 22-page booklet with insights on each of the 16 selections and more.
Boyes is the only Australian ever recognized by The Blues Foundation in Memphis, earning eight BMA nominations. She was the first woman and non-American to win the IBC in Memphis. She has won countless awards in Australia as well and amassed a strong global following. She is still most active and her most recent recording, Voodoo in the Shadows may have garnered more awards and acclaim than any in her career. Quoting Fiona, “Blues in My Heart is an acoustic album of fingerpicking ragtime blues…the 16 tracks capture a unique performance moment, much like the historical recordings of the early players I so admire.” Fiona has some company in the form of Karen (Kaz) Dalla Rosa (harmonica), Gina Woods (piano) and Paula Dowse (drums and percussion). The booklet includes her diary style liner notes, photographs, and original folk art.
Ten of these are originals, with covers from acoustic legends such as Leadbelly, Rev. Gary Davis, J.B Lenoir, and Tommy Johnson mixed in with two others. She references those “early players I do admire” in her own songs and the covers, they being Matthew “Dutch” Tilders, a powerful Australian finger-style guitarist who passed in 2011, in the opening title track, a major college influence via Leadbelly’s “Pigmeat,” Memphis Minnie in “She Could Play That Thing,” her Blues Society President in “I Let the Blues In,” and her first band, The Mojo Blues Band in “Angel” and again in “Hokum Rag.” All the songs have autobiographical and/or personal anecdotes, making for most enjoyable reading in the booklet.
Boyes has a joyous, free flowing style that makes every one of these songs a worthy listen and, of course, her fingerpicking is top notch. (check out the instrumental “Hokum Rag”) One of the most interesting passages relates to the Rev. Gary Davis song, “Mean World.” In her words, “Many people are surprised to discover that I am married to an Anglican priest, while I play the ‘devil’s music.’ This is the unlikely song that did the deed…I was playing acoustic blues in the corner of a small biker bar in Melbourne…I figure I may aw well please myself and play this song for the lovely fingerpicking. It is certainly not your usual ‘bar-fodder’ blues tune! To my surprise, one guy at the bar sand along. He was part of a small imposing group: large, long hair, big beards, leather jackets and bike gear…..My surprise was complete when the guy singing along at the bar stayed for the whole gig, chatted most articulately in the set breaks, and then gave me his business card which read: Reverend Steve Clarke. A fascinating and complicated man, The Preacher, as he is widely known in the Blues world, is – or has been – a biker, academic, educator, music promoter and booker, Dean of an Anglican Cathedral, social justice advocate, Quarter horse and Border Collie breeder and modern jazz saxophonist. Suffice it to say, The Preacher keeps them guessing…At the time we met, he’d just returned from England, where he’s delivered an academic paper on ‘Spirituality and The Blues,’ using this same Reverend Gary Davis song as part of his presentation. So, in fact, there’s a nice twist: Reverend Gary Davis introduced me to Reverend Steve Clarke.” They have been married since 2002.
That story was just too good to pass up. The same can be said about the music which requires little analysis or description, just your ears.
- Jim Hynes