Crystal Shawanda is from the Wikwemikong reserve on Manitoulin Island although she has lived in Nashville for several years now. With husband Dewayne Strobel on guitars & production and Crystal on powerhouse vocals & songwriting, they make for quite a couple and they have outdone themselves on this new one. The title song opens and it’s an immediate highlight equating the roadhouse they played in on Saturday night with their church service Sunday morning. Written with Nashville songwriters David Norris & Lowell Gaines, this song shows how both rock, even if in their own way. Old friend Dana Robbins is on sax. “Evil Memory” is a fine slow blues, a non-original, her partner has left leaving only an ‘evil memory’ – a line that resonates. Slightly faster but on the same theme, she sings that the magic is gone, she’d “Rather Be Alone.” A nice change of pace is the tuneful rocker “Hey Love”. It’s a change of pace too in that it’s about a love returning. The chorus, which includes the McCrary Sisters & Quisha Wint, adds immensely to this one. “Blame It on The Sugar” is an almost rockabilly tune about being attracted to a new-found beau to be. A well-written piece of advice is “Bigger Than the Blues”: when you realize you have it within you to rise above your troubles, you’re bigger than the blues. I’ve always thought that The Tragically Hip’s great hit “New Orleans is Sinking” was a prime candidate for a deep blues version. It’s taken a little while for that to happen but Crystal does a great job with twin acoustic slides from Dewayne and very good harp from longtime sideman Stephen Hanner. A stunning way to end. Her last album was a tribute to her influences, with only a couple of new songs, clearly, they were working towards this magnum opus. The web site is www.crystalshawanda.com. 

April 2020 - Ken Whiteley
March 2020 - Rory Block