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Published on December 9th, 2014 | by Robert Barry Francos

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Laura Cheadle – Where the Blues Hangs Out

Robert Barry Francos digs deep once more to discover a talent in blues and funk music, New Jersey’s Laura Cheadle and her Family Blues Band.

Laura Cheadle Cover

In my last review, I talked about Kimm Rogers, an artist I haven’t been able to see live.  Another artist I have not yet had the opportunity to see live but am bidding my time for is the luxuriously sounding Laura Cheadle. Don’t let the pictures of this young, white thang fool you; she can both blast the blues and R&B (and I mean the real stuff).

How do you know she’s solid? Well, for starts, she writes most of her own material, along with the Cheadle family who usually support her both in the formation and performing aspects. And yet you can imagine the likes of Ella or Bessie feeling at home with these tunes.

Then there is that voice. Not the gravel of, say, Janis, but more of a sexiness, late-night lovin’ vibe that relies strongly on her powerful vox, various keyboards and hot electric Northern Blues guitar style (Chicago/Detroit). Oh, and there is the occasional use of 20 Feet From Stardom type backing boys or gals. Despite being a ‘home-grown’ South Jersey recording, the production is slick without being slick, if ya know what I mean.

Many of Laura’s songs deal with love and loving, and her voice wanders the R&B scales without being a show-off about it (e.g., Mariah and Xtina, who I find boring for that reason despite their talent, unlike Laura). Whether she’s purring like on ‘The Best That It Could Feel,’ shimmering as with ‘This Life Is Made to Dance,’ or shattering on ‘Blue Sky’ and the title cut opener, she will keep your attention.

Then there are numbers where she does it all, like the cover of Lil’ Son Jackson’s ‘Rock Me Baby’ that would have fit on the stage of the Fillmore, both East and West. Her choice of covers is smart, such as a live version of T-Bone Walker’s ‘Call It Stormy Monday,’ or the Gershwin/Howard standard, ‘Summertime.’ The latter is done in a deep tone making it just sizzle, as it was meant to. Sometimes in previous recordings she leans towards the sexual, but here she’s waist deep in the sensual.

Cheadle constantly pleases, with a voice that’s a mixture of honey and velvet, with a touch of vinegar. It’s also a bit timeless. I could imagine her singing in just about any era in the last 80 years or so. On the stage of the Cotton Club, the Apollo, the Blue Note, any jazz festival, or even Woodstock, she could find a place to be comfortable. That’s quite the range. For someone who is as prolific as she has been over the past few years, the quality of her work seems to be still on the incline. And I’m grateful.

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About the Author

Robert Barry Francos

has lived in Saskatoon for five years, having spent most of his life in New York City. Part of the New York punk scene from nearly its inception, he has been known to hang out with musicians, artists and theatrical types. His fanzine, FFanzeen, was published from 1977 through 1988, giving him opportunity to see now famous bands in their early stages. Media, writing and photography have been a core interest for most of his life, leading to a Masters in Media Ecology from New York University. This has led to travel to Mexico, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Israel and Egypt, and recently he taught a university class in media theory in China.



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