The Women's Blues Revue is the biggest event of the year for the Toronto
Blues Society and it has a lot of history. I remember a few years back when Shelagh Rogers christened Rita Chiarelli Canada's "Goddess of the Blues". That label stuck to Rita like velcro. Last night Garvia Baily spontaneously coined the nickname Donna "Goddamn" Grantis and the audience was definitely in agreement at that moment. She had just ripped off another fiery solo, but other times she'd be playing a simple back up part and Suzie Vinnick would be doing a complimentary thang on her guitar and everything they did elevated the song.
The song selection, the worked-out,-thought-out arrangements, the impeccable musicianship, great back-up vocals, expecially by Lindsay Beaver - wow! It's impossible to pick a favourite of the six featured vocalists. I guess Kelly Lee Evans was the one that took me highest but each singer touched different sensors in my enjoyment of music. Tanika Charles kicked it off great and had the most intermission buzz and made a great first impression on a couple of thousand people. Sacha Williamson was a bit more cerebral but then kicked ass with a Koko Taylor song. I was thinking Sabrina Weeks was the only white girl in the group but of course she was not. Angel Forest from Quebec gave a real Performance (with a capital "P,") and Sabrina Weeks brought a lot of class and connected great with the audience. She's coming back to Toronto to be part of an Etta James Tribute...and while I think of it, Kellylee has a gig back at Massey Hall with Michael Kaeshammer in the near future).
I would think the biggest draw last night was Saida Baba Talibah who delivered a great blues set for the occasion but we all know she can take it into some very far out musical territory. All these singers brought something all their own to the event but I dare anyone to say there was "not enough blues" as we often heard after the WBR in the past.
I got a few comments as we left - one former participant who thought the sound sucked and a musical buddy who thought the drummer was rushing too much, but for those who didn't attend because they never heard of those singers, they really missed out this year. Doubly so, because this was the year that the CBC ended their long-standing arrangement to broadcast the event. It's the public's loss (and the musicians' too, since their paycheck was dramatically reduced).