Various Women's Blues Revue Live

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Women’s Blue Revue, the Toronto Blues Society has collected a CD’s worth of material from recordings made by CBC Radio between 1999 and 2005. In true revue form, the WMR Band is a crack seven-piece unit led by keyboard player Lily Sazz. They back-up each performer and provide many instrumental highlights. It’s hard to single out any one player but guitarist Margaret Stowe is a constant delight, adding jazzy runs to her solos and rocking out when it’s called for, such as during Suzie McNeil’s "Up Above The Clouds.” The band’s professionalism inspires outstanding vocal performances, including Alana Bridgewater’s "Trust In Me,” an Etta James classic, a powerhouse rendition of Big Mama Thornton’s "Hound Dog” by Rita Chiarelli, Molly Johnson reaching deep for Gershwin’s perennial "Summertime” and the CD’s showstopper, Jackie Washington’s version of "I’m A Woman” with just voice and bass. Roxanne Potvin, Sue Foley, Ellen McIlwaine and Suzie Vinnick sing and play, and their performances are amongst the best on the CD. Guitarist McIlwaine powers through an angry cover of the Isley Brothers’ "Fight The Power” and Sue Foley’s low key version of the Rolling Stones’ "I Got The Blues” exceeds the original. Also featured are performances by Diana Braithwaite, Georgette Fry, Divine Brown, Lee Aaron, Serena Ryder and Dawn Tyler Watson. Through 15 songs a wide range of blues styles are heard. There are enough surprises here that even listeners who find blues music of peripheral interest will discover much to enjoy. (Toronto Blues Society)