Crystal Shawanda

Midnight Blues   True North Records

When Crystal Shawanda sings, the world stops. There is only her in the room, her vocal presence powerful and intoxicating.  

While every single review you’ll read of Crystal speaks of her voice as “raw” and of her as a “powerhouse,” yet when one listens there are many other descriptors that come to mind – emotive, passionate and sincere among them.  She has an unfailing gift for lifting any tune she tackles to enormous heights, then bringing it back to a soft and gentle heart spot. In the end it’s nearly impossible to fully describe one of the great voices on the scene today, for the many shades of Crystal Shawanda draw simultaneously from deep within and from another, elevated plane.

After sitting on the top of the charts and collecting several awards as a country music singer, Crystal made her way to what she claims as her true love, the blues … in all its forms.  It wasn’t an easy transition, for the beloved country singer’s fans weren’t about to give her up without a fight. Yet she made the transition much the same way she does everything musical, with grace and quiet determination, fully committed to each and every note she sings.

Shawanda’s new release, Midnight Blues, is no exception.  Her eighth studio album and fifth blues offering, is a product of the pandemic.  Midnight Blues reveals an intimate space in Shawanda’s musical palette, she’s let her full self emerge and cast off the expectations from outside forces.  Her full time collaborator in music and life, Dewayne Strobel, has showcased her voice with his fine producer ears, and folds his guitar work into her performances in the same, inseparable way they live their lives.  Dave Roe (bass), Mark Becket, Pete Abbott and Louis Whitfield (drums), Peter Keys and Jesse O’Brien (keys) help to bring these songs to life, while harmonica greats Steve Marriner and the late Harpdog Brown are featured guests.

Midnight Blues is superb collection of original songs peppered with some choice covers.  The title track, Midnight Blues, kicks off the album and sets the tone for the layers of artistry about to be revealed.  Rumpshaker, a driving, full blown blues track, will see a ton of airplay for it’s funky, danceable rhythm and catchy melody.  How Bad Do You Want It opens with a sweet guitar sound, setting the joyous tone over a killer feel. Take a Little Walk With Me showcases Crystal’s softer side, with her crooning, sweet tone evocative and tender.  In a nod to those who set the footprint, she covers (from the female perspective) Buddy Guy’s What Kind of Man Is This, and Willie Dixon’s EVIL, a big hit for Howlin’ Wolf on the Chess label.  Because she can, Crystal masterfully tackles the soaring ballad That’s Just the Woman In Me, making her own a song made a hit by none other than fellow Canadian, Celine Dion.

Go, don’t stop, and get your hands on this album. Listen to it in the quiet of your home, at your office, in your car – for every listen will bring a new discovery, another thrill, another moment.  And be grateful that the voice of Crystal Shawanda can be a part of the soundtrack of your life. (Cindy McLeod)