Karen Lovely

Karen Lovely
Still The Rain

Pretty Pear Records

By Art Tipaldi
October 2010

So what do you do after you place second in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge? If you are singer Karen Lovely, you go into the studio and record these 13 songs that mine the emotional core of a woman’s awareness. To accomplish that task, Lovely enlisted Dennis Walker (Robert Cray) to both produce and supply 12 moving songs. Since her re-entry into the Northwest music scene in 2007 after a 20-year hiatus, Lovely and her band have been turning heads. Now, with the release of Still The Rain, the rest of the world can hear this talented new voice.

Backed by the rolling piano of Jim Pugh and the earthy guitar shuffle of Alan Mirikitani, Lovely’s CD opens with “Blues Ain’t Far Behind.” Delivered with poise and control, Lovely belts out the ultimate outcome of relationship lies, that “the blues ain’t far behind.” Walker and Mirikitani have found weather as the winning metaphor for all aspects of love. Mirikitani’s Cray-like guitar tone jabs at Lovely’s “Sunny Weather” assertions. The title cut has Lovely telling the tumultuous life that leads her main character to leave as floodwaters rise. As Lovely captures the feel of the story, Walker’s atmospheric production drips with Spanish moss and humid bayous.

Lovely’s warm vocal inflections carry the message that comes when one realizes that “Other Plans” are in the heart of her man. Her voice and Michael Vannice’s tenor meld perfectly in their call and response. Ditto “Ask Your Heart” where Lovely’s breathy delivery captures this song’s intimacy. The record closes with “So Willing,” another ballad where Lovely turns everyday human emotions into the blues. Her vocal style isn’t American Idol screamin’; it’s poignantly vocalizing her words so that pain and joy are lifted from the heart.

But Lovely’s no one trick vocalist. When she uncovers a smoldering fire on “Never Felt This Before,” it’s not hard to feel the forceful connection jump off the CD. Likewise the Texas shuffle of “I’ve Had Enough,” her robust take on leavin’ this broken down life. Lovely’s own “Knock Knock” weaves her blue tones with Pugh’s sparse piano accents and Vannice’s late night tenor.

With a vulnerability or volatility in her interpretations, Lovely is first class vocalist that the blues world will be hearing more from in the future.

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