Staying Power

Dana Gillespie

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Staying Power Review

by Thom Jurek

Dana Gillespie is a superstar in Britain and in Europe. She has recorded 45 albums in a career longer than Eric Clapton's; she's been a star of screen and stage and even a national waterskiing champion. She is best recognized as a blues singer, however, in the grand Brit blues tradition. Staying Power, issued by Ace, features Gillespie with her own road band on a program of mostly originals -- Frankie Miller's "You're the Star" closes the album. While her band occasionally sounds a bit stilted and keeps her reined in, Gillespie is nonetheless a powerful vocalist who infuses this program of sexually loaded material with verve, toughness, and a steamy sensuality that suggests that all of the protagonists in these songs have been around the block more than once and know what it is they want without uncertainty and how badly they want it. The confidence in Gillespie's phrasing and delivery more than makes up for any constriction on the part of her backing band. The truth of desire is all in the grain of her voice; the sensuality in the way the words fall from her mouth like raw honey dripping from the comb is poignant, direct, and without subtlety or fear. Bawdy, rollicking, and at time near raunchy, there is nonetheless a certain elegance in this approach to the blues; these songs, unapologetically about sex and punctuated with tasty horn charts and sharp guitar runs, create an aura of confidence that is mysterious because of its experiential quality. Check the title track, "Timeless," "Sweet Tooth," "I Sigh for You," and "All Loved Up" for references. Another twist is in the deep soul-blues of "Put My Anchor Down," which is reminiscent of "It Hurts Me Too" by Elmore James, where vulnerability asserts itself as a strength. The band really rises to the occasion here and delivers to support Gillespie's reaching vocal, making the ache and resolve in the lyric move from stereo speaker to listener in direct fashion. A fine album for Brit blues fans.

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