Austin - This Texas by way of Minneapolis blues/jazz/soul belter's
first nationally available disc made a substantial impression out of the box
in late 2003. It received major press attention and was nominated for a
Handy Best New Artist Debut award. Even a cursory listen shows why.
Austin's tough, husky growl can be as gutsy as Tina Turner or as tender as
Maria Muldaur. Although her stunning duet with
Delbert McClinton on 'Pretend We Never Met' is one of the album's
obvious highlights, it's by no means the only striking track. The soulful
'When Something Is Wrong' recalls
Ann Peebles' Hi label
work and Austin gets downright nasty on the grinding sexy funk-rock of 'Pour
the Sugar Slowly.' Incorrectly pigeonholed strictly as a blues artist
(probably due to her Blind Pig label affiliation), Austin is closer to
a classic R&B vocalist in the tradition of
James and Turner.
Also impressive is that the multi-talented musician - who plays guitar and
piano live - was responsible for penning all but four of these tunes, an
unusual accomplishment for a female singer. Her writing is sharp and diverse
as she shifts gears from the gospel fervor of 'Bottom of a Heart' to 'Fool
bluesy jazz lounge mood, just two songs that display her impressive range.
Far from scattershot, Austin's talented band and the disc's smart pacing
display her strengths without sounding as if she's giddily jumping genres.
Like McClinton - an obvious role model - her presence is so powerful that
she's comfortable in a variety of grooves and, at least on the basis of this
album, succeeds at all of them. ~~ by Hal Horowitz.