This is a Halifax horn band: two saxes & trumpet carry the load. MBA winner Shirley Jackson leads on tenor & vocals, Dawn Hatfield on baritone and Dave Harrison on trumpet. There are two guitarists: Tom Crilley & Marc Doucet, with Jef Wirchenko on double bass and Ainslie Jardine on drums. Ms. Jackson wrote most of the songs and did the horn arrangements, showcased most admirably on the opening rousing instrumental “Back Porch Swing” which indeed swings like crazy. “Stir It Up” isn’t quite as uptempo, it’s a call to action with great lyrics that match what’s happening politically south of the border. “Things Keep Looking Up (If We Don’t Look Down)” is a rather attractive song about Ms. Jackson’s own life. A very good slow blues is the album’s main highlight for me: “He Won’t Be Coming Back” is a harrowing tale of domestic abuse. Lee Allen’s “Hot Rod Special” provides a much needed and jazzy pickmeup. The standard “One Night With You” is a feature for the two guitarists, although Ms. Jackson does play a nice solo. “Marc’s Swing” is another instrumental, Doucet is a former member who came back for these sessions. He brought along a very good song. “Drop Of Water” is an ambitious, well-written climate change song. The closing number is a rather nice version of Bessie Smith’s “Nobody Knows When You When You’re Down And Out”. There’s great ensemble playing here, with more instrumentals than one would expect but they tend to highlight the vocal selections that much more and Ms. Jackson’s lyrics and delivery are up to the task. Ms. Jackson is nominated once again as horn player of the year, an honour in its own right, we’ll know if she won the award on January 15th. The web site is www.shirleyjackson.ca.

John's Blues Picks January 2018 - Wes Mackey
John's Blues Picks January 2018 - Al Wood & The Woodsmen