Your Complete Guide to the Chicago Blues Scene
By Larry Schara
On a recent dreary and rainy Saturday morning, headed south on a road trip, I put the new Blind Pig release All In by the young Sena Ehrhardt into the CD player while setting the cruise for the drive down I-65. This was the perfect weather and atmosphere to listen to a new upcoming blues artist. Upon the first listen I would have to say that this is a delightful and wonderful CD. All In is her second release and Ehrhardt, with her mentor/guitarist/co-writer and father Ed, enlisted the aid of well known blues producer Jim Gaines (Luther Allison, SRV, Santana).
Leaving the comforts of their home in Minnesota for Tennessee, this project was recorded at Bessie Blue Studios and the performances and sound are crisp and dynamic and come at you without hesitation from the speakers. Mastered here by Chicago’s own Blaise Barton at Joyride Studios it’s a refreshingly big and open sound in this day of computer music and mp3s.
The CD opens with the contagious groove of “Buried Alive”. This song firmly ascertains Sena’s “in your face” vocal delivery that continues throughout the CD. The girl can really sing and although most people will roll their eyes with the mention of her father as the guitarist, the guy can really play. The effect is obvious that Sena grew up in a house full of music, most notably influenced by the blues.
On the second tune, a cover of Solomon Burke’s “Cry To Me,” they borrow extensively from a well-known Miss Raitt’s arrangement and delivery playbook. But the comparison should not be considered a problem here, as they pull it off easily and convincingly, and it segues well into the funkier side of blues with the subsequent title track “All In”, written by Sena and her dad.
Track number 4 moves into the heavier rockin’ side of blues with “I Want To Get You Back”, penned by famed blues producer Tom Hambridge and Gary Nicholson. This song is one of my personal favorites on the CD and the interplay between Sena’s vocal tones and her father’s guitar works really well. Both equally contribute to the overall strength of this song and I would be surprised if you didn’t find yourself singing along.
My second favorite song follows up next as a more traditional slower blues tune in Albert Collins’ “Cold Cold Feeling”. It’s great to hear such depth and feeling from such a young singer. Her delivery is strong and with the emotion you would expect from a much more seasoned performer. I’m sure this is where the experience of producer Jim Gaines becomes obvious and was a good move.
The CD continues on with nary a bad song to be found anywhere all the way through the end. This brings me back to a comment from the first paragraph “Upon the first listen”. As is common with a release from new and upcoming artists, trying to prove their worth, each and every song is a different style of blues. There’s 11 tracks and each one touches on a slightly different genre or take of the blues. The CD is pleasurable to hear because it’s almost like listening to a radio station.
Of the varied performances there is not really a bad one. Some are better than others and some are just okay. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it makes it hard to define what Ms. Ehrhardt’s really all about. You can’t be everything to everybody and my recommendation to her is pick one, any one. Pick a style and direction and own it, make it your clear distinguishable signature as the greats before you have done. If Ms. Ehrhardt decides to eventually pick one, I’m sure she will take it to a new level and firmly cement her future as a singer and a blues performer. But in the meantime, go buy the CD, you won’t be disappointed.
Larry Schara is a 40 year veteran of the music industry as a musician, engineer, producer with 9 Grammy nominated credits, a couple of gold records and a fond remembrance of working with Ray Charles, B.B. King and Chuck Berry among others