Prolific blues guitarist and singer/songwriter Sue Foley has at times been undervalued over the course of a career now spanning over 30 years and 15 albums. It was gratifying, then, to observe her 2018 album The Ice Queen fare so well. Arguably her strongest yet, it earned a Juno nomination, and helped her win another Maple Blues Award as Best Guitar Player and take home the coveted Best Traditional Female (Koko Taylor Award)” at the 2020 Blues Music Awards in Memphis.

Her follow-up album, Pinky’s Blues marks Foley’s return, physically and musically, to her Texas roots. She has relocated from the Ottawa area back to Austin, the place where she honed her sound in the early ‘90s. This move has influenced her musically too, and she explains in a press release that for this new album “we wanted to make something representative of the Texas blues that we had been schooled on in Austin.”

Her playing on the record reflects the influences of some of the great Texas guitar players, while her selection of outside material leans heavily on the Lone Star state. There are just three Foley originals here, including the title track. Leading off the album, it is a slow-burning instrumental named for her signature guitar, a pink paisley Fender Telecaster nicknamed “Pinky,” and it showcases her formidable chops.

The first single, “Dallas Man,” is another Foley tune, one paying homage to all the great blues axemen raised in that city, a notable list that includes Freddie King, T-Bone Walker, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Frankie Lee Sims, and Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan. 

Foley’s choices of outside material are both varied and astute. Writers covered include Willie Dixon (“When The Cat’s Gone The Mice Play”), Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown (the virile instrumental “Okie Dokie Stomp”), Frankie Lee Sims (“Boogie Real Slow”), and Lavelle White “Stop These Teardrops,”one of her best vocal turns here). One of her early peers from the Austin scene, Angela Strehli contributes two strong compositions, “Two Bit Texas Town” and “Say It’s Not So.”

There’s a nice variety of tunes and tempos on Pinky’s Blues, and Foley’s playing is equally compelling on ballads and upbeat romps. The live feel of the disc’s sound reflects the fact that it was recorded live off the floor in just three days, with an improvisational spirit at work.

The core trio featured comprises Foley, bassist Jon Penner, and drummer Chris ‘Whipper’ Layton, of Double Trouble fame, while album producer Mike Flanigin contributes B3 to two tracks. Jimmie Vaughan guests on rhythm guitar on the Foley original “Hurricane Girl,” beefing up the boogie nicely. Flanigin’s production work is solid, though a boost of Foley’s vocals in the mix on a few tunes would have been preferred.

Look for the momentum generated by The Ice Queen to continue with this consistently strong album from one of our very best. (Kerry Doole)