Shakura S'Aida Blueprint

She has long been tagged as a rising young blues star and Shakura S’Aida shows why on this very impressive album. The Toronto songstress teamed up with producer/guitarist James Bryan (the Philosopher Kings) and the sessions at Canterbury Music featured an A-list of local players. The result is a production sound that’s a cut above that of your standard low-budget indie offering, and this does full justice to S’Aida’s powerhouse voice. It’s refreshing to find a contemporary blues singer unafraid to stick to a classic style, rather than trying to throw hip-hop or modern R&B strains into the mix. Some of the tunes she covers here are familiar ("One Monkey Don’t Stop The Show,” Brownie McGhee’s "I’m Living With The Blues”), others less so. They range from soulful ballads to more up-tempo, horn-driven songs, while "Me And My Chauffeur Blues” is a classic double-entendre song perfectly suited to S’Aida’s lusty, full-blooded voice, one that never gets excessively histrionic (though the finale of "Rain Down Rain” comes close). Shakura contributes just two original songs, but judging from the closing tune, the righteously affirmative "Gotta Live,” she’s no slouch as a songwriter either. This is a genre as much about interpretation as creation though, and S’Aida does that superbly here. (Independent)