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The Graham Weekly Album Review #1781

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Deanna Bogart: Just a Wish Away
by George Graham

(Blind Pig Records As broadcast on WVIA-FM 7/30/2014)

Some artists play familiar styles but do it in a somewhat unconventional way, which can add musical interest and give the artist something of a trademark. This week we have a veteran performer whose musical makeup is still a bit off the beaten path. Deanna Bogart is a blues-based performer who also is something of a singer-songwriter and plays sax and piano. She has just released her latest recording called Just a Wish Away.

Deanna Bogart was born in Detroit and spent time in Arizona before setting in the Washington DC area for a number of years. She first came began to attract attention as the pianist in Cowboy Jazz, a Western Swing group. She established her solo career after that band broke up in the late 1980s, and released her first solo album in 1992. She quickly became known as an energetic p1erformer playing hard-driving boogie-woogie style piano. She took up the sax in grade school, but she says she as not encouraged to play it, as not being considered appropriate for a girl. But she has been featuring it increasingly over the years. She is also a fairly prolific songwriter, and not all of her writing is in the blues style.

The new CD Just a Wish Away continues in that mode with some blues, some more lyric-oriented songs, a couple of instrumentals on which she is featured on sax and piano, and a fair helping of the Memphis/Louisiana blend which is her mainstay. In fact the CD contains a logo that says "Louisiana Entertainment."

With the different styles on it, there is variable backup band, three each of guitarists and bass players rotating, depending on the track, plus four drummers alternating, and a couple of additional horn players. Going back to her roots with Cowboy Jazz, there is also some country influence here and there and a pedal steel player appears on three of the tracks, in some cases rather incongruously.

Fans of Deanna Bogart, who tours constantly, will find the sound familiar, with her distinctive but appealing vocals and her excellent blues piano work, on both acoustic and electric keyboards. Six of the 11 songs on the album are originals, and the cover material runs from 1970s California singer-songwriter JD Souther to an old Tin Pan Alley standard.

Leading off is one of the tunes with a bit of country twang with a good helping of the blues, If It's Gonna Be Like This. It's a a song about a complicated love affair. <<>>

Ms. Bogart shows her Gulf Coast influence with a tune with a pun for title, Fine By Me Good Bayou. The horn section makes its appearance, presumably including Ms. Bogart, who is also heard on the electric piano. The tune has an infectious and classic kind of rhythmic groove. <<>>

The JD Souther song, If You Have Crying Eyes is performed in a vocal duet with Cris Jacobs, of the band The Bridge. Marty Rifkin's steel guitar is much in evidence, perhaps a bit too much. Ms. Bogart shows that she's quite good with a ballad, despite her reputation for energetic boogie-woogie tunes. <<>>

The first of the instrumentals is a soulful original called Collarbone, on which Ms. Bogart is heard on both electric piano and her tenor sax. <<>>

Ms. Bogart the literate singer-songwriter is highlighted on the track called Back and Forth Kid, a very good song about a child in a bad family situation. <<>>

Ms. Bogart covers a song co-written by Doyle Bramhall and the late Stevie Ray Vaughan called Tightrope, which becomes classic Deanna Bogart in sound. The bluesy tune is held together by her strong piano work. <<>>

Another song about an uncertain love affair is an original called Maybe I Won't. It's a nice blend of the pop aspect of the album along with Ms. Bogart's bluesy roots. <<>>

The CD ends with a serving of New Orleans musical gumbo with an instrumental version of the old song Bye Bye Blackbird. Ms. Bogart wields her saxophone with throughout. <<>>

Deanna Bogart's new album Just a Wish Away is an enjoyable record by an always-appealing and versatile blues-based artist, pianist, saxophonist and singer-songwriter. All those facets are in display, including some of the country influence that was part of her 1980s band Cowboy Jazz. I'm not a big fan of the steel guitar on a bluesy album like this. It seems somewhat forced and I think throws the music a bit off stylistic direction. But that's a small complaint on just three tracks. Otherwise, it's a strong record that shows Ms. Bogart in fine form doing her various "things." The band members who are added in different combinations are also tasteful and contribute much to the record.

Our grade for sound quality is about an A-minus. The mix has everything in the right place, and the clarity is decent, added studio effects are not overdone. The recording, like most pop albums these days, is rather short on dynamic range -- the difference between loud and soft, but it's better than many in that respect.

With a nearly 30 year recording career, and tours that have taken her around the world Deanna Bogart is still not exactly a household name outside of blues circles, but she is a solid versatile performer who does not disappoint on her new recording.

(c) Copyright 2014 George D. Graham. All rights reseved.
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This page last updated August 17, 2014