Lighter Side of The Blues
Sandwich Factory Records
Raised in Southern California Val Starr began singing and playing guitar when she was twelve. It was the bands of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and female singer/songwriters Carole King and Joni Mitchell that were her early influences. Her mom loved the theater and Starr’s unique songwriting includes touches of girl group pop and musical comedy.
Starr’s musical career began by working for record labels. Later she turned to radio promotion and moonlighted in rock bands at night. In 1983 Starr married bassist John Ellis and the family relocated to the San Francisco Bay area. In 2003 they moved to Sacramento and started participating in local blues jams. “I found the blues and with it I discovered my voice. I had been singing covers for so long, imitating other singers, I forgot what my own voice sounded like. I may not have the typical female blues whiskey voice but I know I was always meant to sing and play the blues”.
Starr and Ellis formed Val Starr & The Blues Rocket and released their debut “Cool Ride” in 2012. They followed up with 2014’s “Blues Away” and 2016’s “Woman On A Mission”. Their last recording was 2017’s well received “I Always Turn The Blues On”. The band’s personnel include Starr, rhythm guitar and vocals; Ellis, bass and slide guitar; Timothy Brisson. lead guitar; Frankie Munz, harmonica; and Paul Farman, drums. Guesting are Todd Morgan, keyboards; Horacio Socarras, percussion; and saxophonists Danny Sandoval and Saxophone Zot. They have shared the stage with Tommy Castro, Coco Montoya, Rick Estrin, Chris Cain, EG Kight and others.
On eleven of the twelve songs Starr has written both the music and lyrics. She opens with the shuffle “Say Goodbye to the Blues (Like You Mean It)” and we get to hear Starr’s theatrically styled vocal and the band with twin saxophones and organ. “Sactown Heat” is a blues about the summer heat in Sacramento “I guess I’ll have to stay in today…my poor old dog is a hiding he won’t even go out to play…livin’ in the valley. ain’t no way to beat that Sactown heat”. Other humorous tunes include “If She Can Get A Man (Anyone Can)” and “24 Hour Blues”.
“Mister Bassman” is Starr’s love ballad to her husband and a tribute to bass players; the unsung heroes of the blues. “Big Boss Man” is the blues standard written by Al Smith and Luther Dixon and recorded by Jimmy Reed in 1959; with new lyrics from Starr. On “The Blues Doesn’t Pick or Choose” Starr and the band rock.
Starr’s story songs are a thoroughly enjoyable light hearted groove. A rising star indeed.