The Ice Queen
Canadian guitarist/singer Sue Foley returned to Austin, TX where she got her start as blues woman and laid down these sessions with special guests Jimmie Vaughan, Billy F. Gibbons, and Charlie Sexton. This, her 15th album, marks Foley’s debut for Stony Plains and her return as a solo artist. Inspired by the famed “Jungle Show,” of which she is the only female member among a cast that includes Vaughan, Gibbons, Chris Layton, and producer Mike Flanigin, Foley entered the studio in San Marcos with her Texas pals.
“When I was a teenager I idolized Jimmy Vaughan and Billy F. Gibbons,” Foley says. “They’re both legends now so this feels like a historical event (at least it does for me). And I grew up sitting at the feet of players like George “Big Beat” rains, Derek O’Brien and The Texas Horns. I spent many nights watching Charlie Sexton and the Arc Angels with Chris Layton. I learned and grew more musically in my years in Austin than at any point in my life. The fact that all these mega talented musicians have graced my album is beyond anything I hoped for. I am still pinching myself.”
What Foley left out of that quote was that she began recording at age 21 for Antone’s, the famed label and historic nightclub that launched the career of Stevie Ray Vaughan and put Austin on the map as a blues mecca. Since then she won the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy, a Juno Award in 2001 and holds the record for the most Maple Blues Awards won in addition to several Blues Music Award nominations.
This album was recorded mostly live in the studio and is ambitious in scope, making it a bit uneven as Foley balances guitar-driven upbeat electric blues with mellow, acoustic blues that touch on jazz and even country. The latter do exemplify her guitar picking and a sultrier vocal approach. Foley wrote or co-wrote ten of the dozen tunes, choosing also to playfully cover Bessie Smith’s “Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair” and A.P. Carter’s “Cannonball Blues.”
Foley kicks it off with the Bo Diddley flavored “Come to Me” alternating guitar licks with Sexton who plays slide. He joins her again for the bluesy “81.” For the rampaging “Run,” and the slow burning title track, Foley is accompanied only by bass and drums. “The Lucky Ones” has Jimmie Vaughan duetting with Foley as they trade guitar licks while “Fool’s Gold” features Gibbons on guitar and harmonica. Vaughan plays again on the Bobby “Blue” Bland styled “If I Have Forsaken You,” which also features The Texas Horns. Foley gets jazzy with ‘Death of a Dream” and performs both the flamenco ditty “The Dance” and “Cannonball Blues” alone on her acoustic guitar.
Foley’s intent on such a wide range of styles might have been better served if she stayed a bit more focused but they do make for the unexpected. Yet, the sequencing certainly helps as the fiery guitar slinger gives way to the acoustic picker – as if going from flying down the interstate to navigating lively city streets to slowly meandering through a country road.
- Jim Hynes.