Diunna Greenleaf

Diunna Greenleaf
Trying To Hold On

Blue Mercy Records BMR930

By David Wilson
March 2012

“Hokey” I thought when I first examined the cover of this CD. I had previously never heard of Diunna Greenleaf and presumed she was one of the multitudes who had jumped on the blues bandwagon hoping for an easy pass. Within a few bars of the first cut, “Be For Me,” I had stopped what I was doing and cocked an ear, recognizing that here there was something well beyond the ordinary. Of course those of you who have already heard her live or on her previous CD, “Cottonfield To Coffeehouse” will not be surprised to hear that Diunna Greenleaf’s singing is a force to be reckoned with.

If faith-based blues has not already been defined as a genre, Diunna has done so here and now with this release. Her performance here is raw Gospel, lightly seasoned with Jazz, honky-tonk and swing. The vocals well forth from the depths of heart and gut with some discipline, but little compromise. I could not help but hear echoes of, among many others, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Mahalia Jackson, Marion Williams and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

The program starts and ends with marching anthems. “Be For Me” is a New Orleans style strut, kicking off a program which ends with the slow march and idealistic dirge, “Cause I’m A Soldier.” Diunna herself, I am told, is an armed forces alumnus.

Diunna may not be the greatest songwriter, but her songs are elevated by the conviction inherent in her performance. There is nary a one that I was loathe to listen to from start to end, though I did not find all of them equally compelling.

I am particularly fond of “Growing Up And Growing Old,” the arrangement of which smacks of ‘60s gospel icons, the Staples Singers without the harmonies, but with a guitar accompaniment which would have Pop Staples grinnin’.

“Beautiful Hat” stands out in a lilting arrangement of a melody I first knew as the spiritual, “This World Is Not My Home.”

“Sunny Day Friends” smacks of ironic spirituals akin to “Scandalizing My Name.”

“You Don’t Feel That Way About Me,” a song of unrequited love, has a country twang and a simple forlorn plaintive lament.

Throughout, the studio musicians play to the strengths of songs and Diunna’s supportive and stable voice. Bob Margolin in particular is superlative, but that is no surprise. Rich Del Grosso’s mandolin on “Beautiful Hat” stands out for me and I would like to hear more of him.

All in all, this CD with its 14 tunes is a welcome surprise and I will be pleased to keep it on my Music To Share shelf for some time to come.

For online samples and purchase, http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/diunnagreenleaf.

www.cdbaby.com/cd/diunnagreenleaf

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