Big City Blues Records
The Canada-based duo of Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley are known for their fine fusion of modern sensibilities with classic blues styles. Their latest release, Blues Stories, is no exception: the vocalist and multi-instrumentalist have put together a harmonious assortment of originals and covers that sounds both timely and timeless at once.
Braithwaite opens the collection with an acappella arrangement of the traditional Rocks and Gravel; her rich, bright-edged voice melds beautifully with daughter Kala Braithwaite’s. Whiteley churns up a murky, choogling groove on Florida, unspools some gorgeous slide licks on Lighthouse Keeper and takes a turn singing lead on the mellow Fried Fish. A Big Easy spirit pervades both Blues March and Careless Love, conjured by Whiteley’s cornet and son Jesse Whiteley’s jazzy piano playing.
The long, slow blues Child of Circumstance and its urgent plea of “everybody needs a second chance” forms the musical and thematic heart of the record. Tic Tac Toe is a breezy good time, skipping along at a jaunty clip. Elsewhere, the pair pay homage to Sonny Boy Williamson II on Bye Bye Bird—Whiteley’s harmonica is Braithwaite’s only accompaniment—and to Skip James on the sparse, haunting Hard Time Killin’ Floor. Likewise, their easy-shuffling version of Jimmy Reed’s You Don’t Have to Go dances the album to its close.
On Blues Stories, every song has a tale to tell, and Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley convey each one in their elegant, eloquent fashion.
No strangers to Edmonton, Toronto veterans Braithwaite (vocals) and Whiteley (guitar, trumpet) have fashioned one of the best blues duos around, winning Maple Blues Awards and Blues Foundation nominations in the U.S., and touring internationally with their mix of early period blues styles and original tunes in a similar vein.
Big City Blues Records
To stay true to the blues idiom, style and atmosphere isn’t an easy task to pull off in such a excellent way as Diana and Chris have done here. A mixture of covers and originals stand side by side like they belong. Much care was taken for this project. The singing and music transport you to a porch on a dusty road down south or perhaps in a run down juke joint. You may find yourself trying to clean the dust off your shoes after giving this a listen. You just took a trip way down south without leaving the house. Chris’s acoustic and electric guitar playing has just the right amount of raggedness to give it that slightly sloppy and funky old time blues feel. Diana’s voice sounds like the blues, warm and rich.
Chris Whiteley and Diana Braithwaite, my favourite blues couple, make some of the most inventive, thought-ful and soulful blues in this country and their brand new album, Scrap Metal Blues is a reflection of that. My favourite blues couple will treat you to tunes from the disc at the Shops at Don Mills next Thursday. Their show is part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival that begins today.
“This disc is really the most personal we’ve put out,” Whiteley tells me. “The album was inspired by Diana’s father, a self- made man who raised six children through his work as a scrap metal dealer.” The multi-instrumentalist says the song Manitoba Flood was inspired by a train trip across the Prairies and seeing the Qu’appelle Valley completely flooded. And Wellington County “celebrates the early black settlers who came to Canada through the Underground Railroad,” he tells me.In the past, the duo have paid tribute to the classic blues sounds of the ’30s and ’40s, but they’re clearly not content to sing the same song this time around. “We feel we’ve joined the southern roots of the blueswith the northern experience of today on this album,”
Whiteley says. “Diana’s ancestors travelled here from the south and I grew up in Kansas, but we live here. “We feel at home in both places and feel the richness of it all. We have a lot to celebrate.”
- Errol Nazareth
Le Passage Blues Festival, France
Massey Hall, Toronto Canada
StageDoor Festival, Netherlands
Maryport Blues Festival, United Kingdom
Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London, England
Saturday Night Live
Poconos Blues Festival, Poconos, US
Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago, Illinois
Black National Theatre Festival, North Carolina
Edinburgh Festival, Scotland
Downtown Jazz Festival, Toronto, Canada
Theresa's Lounge, Chicago
Hornby Island Blues Festival
Nanaimo Blues Festival, BC
Maple Blues Awards Gala, Toronto
Prince George Blues Festival
Barrie Blues Festival, Barrie, Ontario
Grand Forks Art Gallery, Grand Forks
The Roxy Theatre, Gabriola Island
Brigantine Room, Harbourfront, ON
Wasaga Beach Blues Festival, ON
Jamaica School of Drama, Jamaica, WI
Kawartha's Blues Cruise, Fenelon Falls
Toronto Star Blues Festival, CNE
The Drum Arts Centre, Birmingham, UK
The Peepul Art Centre, Leicester, UK
The Roxy, Los Angeles
Philadelphia Folk Festival
Nanaimo Blues Festival, BC
BlueBird Cafe, Nashville
Place des Arts, Montréal
Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary
Montréal Jazz Festival
Hudson River Blues Festival, New York City
Monaghan Blues Festival, Ireland
Great British Blues Festival, Colne, UK
Fox TV interview 2012 - Falls Church, Virginia
Tinner Hill Blues Festival, Falls Church Virginia
Amazing Things Arts Center, Framingham Mass.