Toni Lynn Washington

Been So Long

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    9
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Since coming back on the national blues/R&B scene in the mid 1990s, Toni Lynn Washington has released an album every two or three years, working mainly with members of the thriving scene around her home base of Boston. Her first album for the Canadian Northern Blues label finds her collaborating with guitarist and producer Duke Robillard, on what amounts to a tribute to her forebears, performing classic songs associated with the likes of Ruth Brown, Ma Rainey and Dinah Washington. As always, she shows herself to be equally at ease on slow-rocking blues numbers like Bessie Smith's"Back Water Blues," the sassy, strutting "I Don't Hurt Anymore," the Memphis-style R&B "Everyday Will Be Like a Holiday," and spiced-up jazz standards, as on an interesting mid-tempo arrangement of "Willow Weep for Me." Her rendition of the Gamble and Huff song "It's Been a Long Time (Been So Long)" is, well, a bit too long; it doesn't have enough musical or lyrical substance to sustain a rendition that lasts over five minutes. But that's just about the only weak moment on this fine album. At an age when most people are settling into retirement, Toni Lynn Washington appears to just be hitting her stride.

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