Double Crossing Blues

adrianna marie

My liner notes for a wonderful new record, scheduled to be available on 27 July.

Where her previous album with L.A. Jones, Spellcaster, took a wide-angle shot, presenting Adrianna Marie in various blues settings and offering her takes on rockabilly and country standards, Double Crossing Blues zooms in for a tight focus on the uptown R&B and elegant blues styles that reached their zenith in the decade after World War II. The glamorous images this music evokes, at least through the Vaseline-smeared lens of our historical remove, are those of late nights in posh nightclubs; sleek motor cars; strong drinks; and nattily dressed men and women, either in love or playing at it.

The cocktail lounge blues of the Three Blazers described this lush life with a knowing weariness. The vintage records treasured by Adrianna Marie and Her Groovecutters took a different path, tending to favor a livelier sound, performed by larger bands. The Groovecutters interpret it masterfully. Jones, a premier electric guitarist inspired by Albert King, and long the leader of his own Blues Messengers, here plays with period-correct tones and a technique perfectly suited to the earlier style. Larry David Cohen supplies wonderful piano playing and a huge harmonica sound. Superb charts by Lee Thornburg, a veteran of Tower of Power and Etta James’s Roots Band, feature his trumpet and trombone, and the saxophones of Ron Dzuibla.

These days, when every female vocalist seems to be vying for Koko Taylor’s throne, what a delight it is to hear a beautiful, natural voice. Adrianna Marie sings without affectation but with all the expressiveness, sass, and class of stylists like Dinah Washington, Little Esther, and Helen Humes. From the rocking R&B of Esther’s “Cherry Wine” to a lowdown treatment of Humes’s “I Ain’t In The Mood,” she is splendid. In front of the spectacular, big band version of Louis Jordan’s swinging, minor “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” or the reading of Billie Holiday’s jazzy “Sugar,” Adrianna Marie is pure sophistication. In duets with Jones–on Big Maybelle’s “That’s A Pretty Good Love” and on the lovely ballad, originally by Johnny Otis and Little Esther, that gives Double Crossing Blues its title­–she is by turns steamy and reserved. In every setting and mood, Adrianna Marie and the Groovecutters, who provide expert ensemble work and memorable solos, and step out on their own on Freddy King’s “Sad Night Owl,” are picture-perfect.

Tom Hyslop