This CD serves as my introduction to blues vocalist, Toni Lynn Washington. Forty years of experience on musical stages have honed her talents to a keen edge. It's nice to hear a performer who's totally relaxed and confident.
The North Carolina born W.C.Handy Award
nominee now calls Boston her home while she belts the blues at venues around the nation. Some years ago, Toni Lynn Washington had a couple of hits in the form of Dear Diary
on Atlantic Record's Kon-Tiki
label. This release on NorthernBlues
was preceded by three others for Tone-Cool
. Been So Long
is a well-planned recording and begins to impress from the first track. Washington comes on with the demeanor of Ruth Brown as she warms up the old Buddy Johnson classic, I Don't Want Nobody
and some great honking' R&B tenor sax by Gordon Beadle helps set the mood. The title song is taken at a burning tempo and the singer's roots are revealed. The lady belts it out in style.
Toni Lynn Washington has fronted a blues band in Boston for ten years but this recording unit is quite special. Musicians on this session are from Washington's own band and Duke Robillard's fine group. Robillard is another W.C.Handy Awards
nominee for 2003. His guitar passages and production skills are a real asset to the album and enhance the singer's exceptional talent. Toni Lynn's regular pianist / arranger, Bruce Bears is another key figure and his considerable talents are put to good use.
The album is a nicely organized blend of styles including soul, R&B, blues and jazz. Washington is equal to the challenge and renders some great stuff. I loved the "delta" tinged Shake Me
where she is backed by Bears, Robillard and the very impressive Kevin Belz. An updated version of Bessie Smith's Back Water Blues
is Toni Lynn's tribute to the Queen
. Mainstream jazz is not forgotten. Washington offers her unique versions of Willow Weep For Me
and the beautiful Angel Eyes
. Both ballads are delivered in a slightly up-tempo style. The singer's jazz style is convincing and satisfying. Once again, Kevin Belz and Bruce Bears are given room to stretch out. Been So Long
will hit the shelves in mid June. Toni Lynn Washington deserves your attention and we wish her luck this coming weekend at the W.C.Handy Awards