ILANA KATZ KATZ: Movin’ On
Regina Royale RRCD-16- 031 (55:50)
Review from Blues & Rhythm Magazine, United Kingdom
Kansas City born and Boston, Massachusetts-based singer and fiddler Ilana opens this CD with a cover of Big Joe Williams’ 1935 version of Baby Please Don’t Go – the one I always recall as featuring Dad From Memphis on one-string fiddle. It is a fine choice, well sung and wonderfully played – thankfully not note-for- note – and one which bodes well for this CD. Ilana and the sleeve both define her style as ‘blues and roots fiddle’ and that is certainly what is on offer here.
There are blues in older styles; on six tracks she is supported in various roles by Cedric Watson (born in Texas in 1983), primarily on gourd banjo which imparts an archaic flavour to five numbers, and he plays fiddle on Blues For Bobby Radcliff, a five and a half minutes long Bluebird-beat styled instrumental. Well-known (and vastly under-recorded) Washington DC guitarist Bobby doesn’t appear on that number, but he does make significant contributions to the blues band performances: a rolling cover of Joe Liggins’ Tanya, Kansas City (where he takes a swinging Texas-styled guitar break), the slower original, Demon Blues, where Ilana’s playing sounds more like Sugarcane Harris, and the more up-tempo Cruel Willie Blues #2, which hints at a zydeco feel in the fiddle playing. There are some fine T-Bone Walker flavoured licks on the Big Bill Broonzy number Sweet To Mama; these are supplied by Barry Levenson, who also contributes a short but excellent West side Chicago flavoured guitar break to another original blues, You Crush My Soul, where again Ilana reminds me of Sugarcane Harris.
Moving to the ‘roots’ side of things, Ilana tells us that she “can’t get enough of Tommy Jarrell”, the old time fiddler from North Carolina. Ilana’s excellent vocal and fiddle, and Watson’s banjo create a haunting feel on Reuben’s Train, whilst a solo rendition of Jarrell’s Jack O’Diamonds makes for a very memorable closer. Other old-timey offerings here are the medley of Lazy John/Sail Away Ladies, with Cedric Watson taking the vocals on the first part, and the traditional Greasy Coat. Ilana’s own Forevermore neatly straddles the line between blues and old-timey music.
To sum up, a rather different sound for today’s blues and roots scene. There is not much fiddle playing around in the blues these days, and Ilana certainly knows what she is doing – and those broad-minded enough will view the old- timey material as an added bonus. Recommended. (www.ilanakatz.com)
— Norman Darwen