Artist: Sharon Lewis and Texas Fire
Album: Grown Ass Woman
Release Date: 11/22/2016
At first I was taken back by the name of Sharon’s band, Texas Fire, given that both Sharon and her accompanying players are all veteran, in-demand Chicago blues musicians. Even the opening track, “Can’t Do It Like We Do,” is a rather haughty tribute to her fellow Chicago blues artists. So, a little research revealed that Sharon was born in Fort Worth, Texas, with her earliest musical experience as a member of a gospel choir. She moved to Chicago permanently in 1975, and became active on the Chicago blues scene in the early ‘90s. In 2005, Sharon formed her own band, Texas Fire. And, in 2011 she made her Delmark debut with the highly acclaimed The Real Deal.
Lewis has that female blues growl we associate with singers like Koko Taylor and Shemekia Copeland, but uses it a bit more sparingly. Unquestionably, though, she is a bold, proud blues and soul singer. David Whiteis elaborates in the liners about the title track, “both a proclamation of womanly strength and a defiant refusal to accept anything less than full due respect – a celebration of sass, class, empowerment.” Other titles like “Chicago Woman,” “Don’t Try to Judge Me” and “High Road” reflect the same theme. Of the 14 tracks, Lewis penned six of them, while her collaborator and ace guitarist, Steve Bramer, also contributed six. The two covers, B.B. King’s “Why I Sing the Blues” and an especially stirring interpretation of Warren Haynes’/Allman Brothers’ “Soul Shine” come at the end of the album.
The album also features impeccable guest spots by harp icon Sugar Blue on “Can’t Do It Like We Do” and “High Road.” Joanna Connor’s slide guitar graces “Chicago Woman” and the politically charged “Freedom.” Carey Bell’s son, Steve, wails away like his dad on the title track. The three piece Chicago Horns also round out the sound on four tracks. The album is a mix of danceable party music and socio-political and racially oriented topics, all done as pure, kick-ass Chicago blues.
Lewis comes across as someone you not only admire as a singer, but one that you could spend endless hours of conversation with. This is how she explains the relevance of blues to every day Black life, “Things have gotten worse. It never stopped – especially for Black women. I mean (to) tell my kids. ‘Don’t let ‘em make a statistic out of you.’ And then, ‘Be careful out there,’ and ‘Watch out for the police, do whatever they say. And you still might get hurt.’ I never thought, after all that marching and chanting and stomping up and down back in the sixties, and here we are, doing the same stuff or the same reasons. That’s the killing part about it; it never stopped.” In keeping with her telephone message, “As always, long live the blues,” we need personalities like Sharon Lewis to keep inspiring us and sharing the truth.