Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Diana Braithwaite & Chris Whiteley -- DeltaPhonic

Electro-Fi Records

The pairing of singer Diana Braithwaite with multi-instrumentalist and singer Chris Whiteley was almost certainly a match made in blues heaven. On DeltaPhonic, their third CD as a duo, Diana and Chris continue to create vital, contemporary blues mostly in the traditions of 1930s and ‘40s when the blues had migrated from the rural south to the urban north and acquired a sophisticated, jazzy hue. This time, though, some of the tunes begin to take on the harder edge of Chicago blues in the post-war years.

All but two of these songs – including one instrumental – were composed by Diana and Chris. Among my favourites is “Midnight Stroll,” a swinging, Basie-like tune that begins with Chris’s guitar trading licks with the horn section before Chris and Diana start trading lines in the verses. I particularly like both the horn arrangement – featuring Phil Skladowski on baritone sax, Jonathon Wong on tenor sax and Chris on trumpet – and the vocal interplay on this number.

Another is “Border Patrol Blues,” a slow, blues that begins with Chris on guitar in a musical conversation with his son, Jesse Whiteley, at the piano before Diana comes in with the vocals and her riding-on-the-train and crossing-the-border verses. Chris also offers a great harmonica solo on this track.

Along with their original material, Diana and Chris also offer up a fine version of Tampa Red’s blues standard, “It Hurts Me Too,” and a sublime version of the jazz ballad, “It Was a Sad Night in Harlem,” a song that Ivie Anderson sang with the Duke Ellington Orchestra back in the 1930s. It’s a beautiful number to end the album with.

--Mike Regenstreif

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