BLUES BLAST MAGAZINE
Teeny Tucker - Keep the Blues Alive
11 tracks; 47:29 minutes; Suggested
Styles: Electric Blues, Soul/ Gospel
The easiest thing I ever had to do was fulfill her request and “make room for Teeny.” The bouncy, second track on her fourth CD implores, “Make Room for Teeny,” and right from the first notes in the first song I was clearing her path – no elbow to the ribs or kicks to the shin needed!
Teeny (born Regina Westbrook, only daughter of Tommy “Hi-Heel Sneakers” Tucker) had already got her proverbial foot in the door when I caught her appearance at the 2008 Nothin’ But the Blues Festival in Bloomington IL. The time I spent with her then revealed a sincere and warm personality beyond her incredible singing voice and stage show.
Following her 2008 critically acclaimed CD, “Two Big M’s,” Teeny Tucker and her band lay down one of the best CDs of the year! “Keep The Blues Alive” features eleven entertaining and enjoyable tracks of music, and shows off another of Teeny's many talents, that of songwriter. She co-wrote eight of the eleven songs, usually with musical partner and guitar player extraordinaire Robert Hughes. With only two cover songs, the album’s originality is spread across many topics and styles reflecting her many influences.
Listeners’ tastes are as varied as the listeners themselves, but the mid-tempo track one, “Ain’t That the Blues” is as good as it gets for me. Telling the story of a blind twelve year old girl whose mother died of aids, Teeny’s somber yet soaring vocals paint a rich, poignant picture. The background vocalists (Mary Lusco-Ashley, Paula Brown, Jackie Tate) add emotionally to the texture while Hughes’ guitar equally sets the mood. This is not a happy ending story, it is unbearable – thus the title.
Another song that just instantly begged radio play (and got it first on our Friends of the Blues Radio Show) is Teeny’s (and Eric Blume’s) up tempo original “I Live Alone.” This is a dance inducing, romping shuffle that features Scott Keeler’s popping bass line and David Gastel on harp in sync with Hughes’ guitar – then each taking a killer solo. Darrell Jumper keeps everyone in time on drums.
What is better to an older man than chatting up (hitting on?) a younger woman? “Old Man Magnet” provides humor (?) as Teeny relates some past encounters: “I’m an old man magnet, and they stick to me like glue!”
Of the two covers, “Heartbreak” by Joe “Cornbread” Thomas and C. Hoyle is a strong re-work featuring exquisite Hammond B3 organ by Linda Dachtyl. The keys fill the bottom while guitar and harp pump up the rhythm. Teeny’s vocals showcase her four-octave range on both sides of a tasty organ solo. I plan to air this song this week!
The other cover is “I Got My Mojo Workin,’” and it is a natural for a “Keep the Blues Alive” album. Teeny’s version is great, but honestly, isn’t this song about to join “Mustang Sally” and “Sweet Home Chicago” on the most over-played list?
Acoustic guitar fans will enjoy the heartfelt tribute to the late Piedmont Bluesman John Cephas (titled “John Cephas”). The set closer, “Respect Me and The Blues” finds Robert Hughes as the lone accompaniment to Teeny's simple spoken/sung messages and experiences about giving her respect and her choice to sing Blues (not R&B).
Join me and “Make Room for Teeny” in your listening rotation. Once you hear her mature and sophisticated appeal, you’ll find it easy to let her in and impossible to let her go.
Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at www.wkccradio.org in Kankakee, IL.