While the U.S., Britain, and to a lesser extent Canada don't have a stranglehold on the blues, these countries account for the majority of music being produced in that genre. Therefore, when someone from a different nationality releases a strong album in the States, it usually makes news, at least in the rarefied blues universe. Born and raised in Yugoslavia, Ana Popovic would seem to have been brought up in an unusual area to soak in the deep soul, robust swamp rock, and husky R&B she reveals on her first album. But music is a universal language, and Popovic, along with noted blues-rock producer Jim Gaines, has delivered a rugged, confident, and eclectic debut that showcases the artist's many strengths (especially on slide guitar) in songs that shift from jazz ("I Won't Let You Down," "Minute 'Til Dawn") to deep funk (an innovative cover of Tom Waits' "Downtown") and soulful pop ("How Lonely Can a Woman Get?"). With a husky, sensuous voice similar to the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, she digs into these tunes with authority, even if English isn't her first language. A duet (guitar and vocal) with Bernard Allison on Johnny Copeland's "Bring Your Fine Self Home" is both sexy and gritty, as the two trade verses and riffs with obvious excitement and mutual respect. A raging version of Buddy Guy's "A Man of Many Words" (here titled "Girl of Many Words") rescues that song from obscurity as Popovic whips out a slimy version with rollicking horns that updates the tune while making it her own. Her originals don't push the limits of the genre, yet they are compressed slices of blues-rock that are excellent showcases for Popovic's tough vocals, wiry, Hendrix-styled leads, and robust stance. The self-penned "Hometown," a greasy, slinky trip down to New Orleans with hypnotic tribal drums, is but one of the album's gripping centerpieces. Recorded in Memphis and sounding like it, Popovic has captured the city's evocative, unvarnished R&B charm on this polished but far-from-slick album. A welcome shot of sex and showmanship in the blues world, Ana Popovic's American debut is a tour de force for this newcomer brimming with sass, brains, and talent.
AllMusic Review by Hal Horowitz
feat: Bernard Allison