Album Reviews

Vanessa Collier

Meeting My Shadow

Artist:     Vanessa Collier

Album:     Meeting My Shadow

Label:     Ruf

Release Date:     03/24/2017

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Vocalist/saxophonist/songwriter Vanessa Collier has burst onto the blues scene quickly. She is nominated for a Blues Music Award this year in the Instrumentalist –Horn category. This is only her second album and it marks her debut for Ruf Records, which is becoming more diverse this year than it’s ever been. Vanessa certainly contributes her eclectic mix of soul, gospel, roots, and blues in this album recorded in Memphis that features guitar great Laura Chavez (Candye Kane) and such studio stalwarts as Charles Hodges on keys in a tight ensemble that usually consisted of six players.

Vanessa sings, plays flute as well as alto, soprano, and tenor sax in addition to keyboards. She co-produced the album with Kevin Houston. Eight of the eleven tunes are originals, together with covers of U2”s “When Love Comes to Town,” Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head I Hear Music in the Air,” and Deadric Malone’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry.” Vanessa says, “Meeting My Shadow is a meeting of the past, present, and future – a tribute to the spirit of blues tradition, a reflection on our present culture and a hopeful wish for growth, understanding and inclusion as we move forward together. It’s also a story of perseverance and empowerment, meant to share strength and provide an uplifting message.”

The above are not just a collection of nice words. I’ve been fortunate to have seen Collier perform a few times now, most notably as she kicked off the gospel-roots Sunday at Briggs Farm to an enthusiastic reception last year. She is a riveting performer, having honed her chops with Joe Louis Walker, before setting out on her own just a few years ago. The Maryland-born, Philadelphia-based Collier is a graduate of the esteemed Berklee College of Music and has already earned songwriting awards in addition to her instrumental recognition since her debut in 2014.

The album opens with “Poisoned the Well,” about being let down and watching someone worsen your situation while you gather strength and commit to staying true to yourself. “When It Don’t Come Easy” mines a similar sentiment. On the other hand, playful tunes like “Two Parts Sugar, One Part Lime” and “Meet Me Where I’m At” are simply joyful excursions. There’s a natural soulful quality to Collier’s vocals and sax playing. She describes it this way, “The saxophone is very much an extension of my voice in each song…..and you can really feel my attitude and emotion in the song through the way I play it. With my saxophone, I can wail, I can growl, I can cry. I can drive a song forward with a strong edgy, unleashed attack. I can be subtle and beautiful. I can be strong and powerful.”

She speaks as exuberantly as the album comes across. Get acquainted with this talented emerging artist, Vanessa Collier. She will lift your spirts and you can be assured that she has a limitless future.

Note: Check out Vanessa’s touring schedule. She returns to the Briggs Farm Blues Festival again this year from July 6-9.

—Jim Hynes

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