Heart on the Line
Phenix Fire Records
Vanessa Collier hails from Clarksville, Maryland. Collier attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston where she graduated with degrees in Performance, Music Production and Engineering. In 2012, after graduation, she spent eighteen months touring the US and Turkey with the Grammy winning Joe Louis Walker. In 2014 Collier released her self-produced debut “Heart, Soul and Saxophone”; her mixture of blues, rock, soul, and funk resulted in winning a 2014 Best of Blues Breaker award on Dan Aykroyd’s House of Blues Radio Hour. Collier signed with Ruf Records and released 2017’s “Meeting My Shadow” and received her first Blues Music Award nomination. In 2018 Collier followed with the independently released “Honey Up”. Overall Collier has seven BMA nominations winning the “Instrumentalist- Horn Player of the Year” award in both 2019 and 2020; and receiving a Contemporary Blues Female Artist nomination each of the last three years.
This is producer Collier’s fourth studio album recorded in January at Hearstudios in Camden, Maine. The multi-talented Collier plays Alto, Tenor, Soprano and Baritone Saxophones, Resonator guitar, percussion, and as a formidable vocalist, sings all lead and background vocals. She is accompanied by Laura Chavez, guitar; William Gorman, keyboards; Nick Stevens, drums; and either C.C. Ellis, Scot Sutherland or Cornell Williams, bass. Collier has also written the horn arrangements, while the section includes Quinn Carson, trombone; and Doug Woolverton, trumpet.
“Heart on the Line” features eight new Collier originals and three selected covers. She opens with a re-arranged version of James Brown’s funky “Super Bad”, first recorded in 1971; bassist Sutherland and drummer Stevens provide the rhythm that funks up saxophonist Collier. The sensitive “I Don’t Want Anything To Change”, co-written by songwriters Liz Rose, Maia Sharp and Stephanie Chapman, was recorded by Bonnie Raitt in 2005; Gorman’s organ, Ellis’ bass, and Collier’s alto highlight the production. My favorite is Randy Newman’s “Leave Your Hat On”, first recorded by Joe Cocker in 1986, featuring the horns, and solos from guitarist Chavez, and Collier on tenor sax.
Collier is a skillful songwriter. The first of the originals is the poignant “What Makes You Beautiful”; the production featuring backing vocals resembling a “girl group”. On “Bloodhound” Collier forgoes her saxes and gets into a swamp-like trance while playing on a Resonator guitar. “Take A Chance On Me” is another well written song featuring bassist Ellis and a solo from Chavez. “If Only” is a story of a man who should be enjoying life but instead constantly complains, Collier closes with her alto sax. “Weep and Moan” features evocative guitar and soloing from Chavez. The funky “Who’s in Power” asks “tell me, who ya’ know”. “Freshly Squozen” is a funky bit of fun, about Collier’s love for her younger siblings as she sings “squeeze you like a tube of toothpaste”. The closer is the New Orleans styled title track with some inspiring bass from Williams, and horn players Woolverton, Carson and Collier.
In the liner notes Collier, thanks god, her mom, her family and friends, and the wonderful ensemble that accompanies her. Collier’s music and spirit are a joy.