Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Rebekah Meldrum: “Rebekah Meldrum” (2019) CD Review

Rebekah Meldrum is a vocalist and songwriter based in Indianapolis, living and breathing the blues, and giving us all a taste of her world, of her talent, on her excellent self-titled debut studio release. This album features all original music, written by Rebekah Meldrum and guitarist Paul Holdman. The band also includes David Murray on bass, Kevin Kouts on drums, P.J. Yinger on trumpet, Richard Dole on trombone, Patrick Long on harmonica, and Tad Robinson on harmonica and vocals. The CD artwork mimics a worn record sleeve, which is fitting, as this music does have something of a classic vibe to it. A few of these songs were also included on Live At The Slippery Noodle, a 2016 live album from Rebekah Meldrum & Paul Holdman.

The album opens with “Set Your Soul Free.” From the moment that blues harmonica begins to wail, like sixteen seconds into the track, I’m completely on board. That’s Tad Robinson on harmonica. And though this track uses that awful “self”/“shelf” rhyme, it’s a damn good tune, featuring a raw and powerful vocal performance to match that harmonica. Plus, it has a great, mean groove. “Take a good look inside/Find your purpose/Sit back, relax/And enjoy the ride.” Well, all right! Rebekah follows that with “Whiskey And Wine,” which has an easygoing groove with a bit of a cool jazzy vibe to it. “Some will say I’m upset/Some say that I’m a mess/Go on and place your bets.” Then that harmonica rises above the groove, blowing gloriously during that instrumental section. That is Tad Robinson again on harmonica. I also really dig the guitar work during the jam toward the end. “Mind your business/Mind your time/Mind your manners/Honey, I’ll try to mind mine/Mind your business/And you’ll see/This song ain’t about you/It’s about me.”

Possibly the best vocal performance on this album is on “Far Away,” a beautiful and moving track. It would be difficult to remain unaffected by the emotion and power behind her voice as she sings “Doesn’t matter which direction it came from/As long as it takes me far away/Away from the pain of this place.” This is a soulful performance. There is also more good work on harmonica, this time from Patrick Long. “Just give me that open road/So I can find myself/After all, isn’t that the meaning of life/In and of itself.” That’s followed by “Ain’t Thinking ‘Bout You,” which begins with a good groove. I love that bass line. This track is a lot of fun, and there is a glorious section of vocals and bass, with finger snaps. There is also plenty of delicious stuff on guitar, and a great beat. All that, plus – yes – more good work on harmonica (it’s Tad Robinson on this track). “I don’t take it back, I don’t apologize/I am who I am, you’d better recognize.” Amen.

“Gypsy” has a classic, timeless sound that is appealing. This is a song that was included on Live At The Slippery Noodle. “Her neighbors all think she’s gone crazy/Oh, but she’s doing just fine.” Then “Coat Tails” quickly establishes a fun, bright groove and vibe to get you moving. This one too was included on Live At The Slippery Noodle. “Her daddy always told her, don’t put a limit on your dreams.” That’s followed by “I’m Here,” a comforting, beautiful song that seems to reach out a hand to us. “Lay your burden down before you drown.” On this track, Rebekah is joined on vocals by Tad Robinson, who delivers a good, soulful performance. Then the horn section gives the track something of a New Orleans feel. Yup, this one just gets better and better, and is a wonderful way to conclude the album.

CD Track List
  1. Set Your Soul Free
  2. Whiskey And Wine
  3. Far Away
  4. Ain’t Thinking ‘Bout You
  5. Gypsy
  6. Coat Tails
  7. I’m Here 
Rebekah Meldrum was released on October 25, 2019, and is available both on CD and vinyl.

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