I hadn’t heard much music lately by the very fine Australian blues singer and guitarist Fiona Boyes, but then I saw that her first solo acoustic album — “Blues In My Heart” — had just been re-released on its 20th anniversary by Reference Recordings.
I’m not sure (which means that I think I read iit online, but couldn’t find it again!), but I believe the 2000 version of this album was not released in the U.S.
No matter. It’s here now in a digitally remastered version, and it’s an excellent outing of acoustic finger-picking blues and old-timey ragtime styles.
Boyes is uniquely talented in her effortless mastery of traditional blues styles, especially considering that, as an Australian, she didn’t have a lot of access to American blues clubs. Thank goodness for the interwebs, radios, or whatever mystical devices that brought the blues to Boyes down under.
The elaborately packaged liner booklet offers a diary of Boyes’ blues thoughts and experiences. This description of how she came to write the gently swinging lament of the title track is worth repeating here, just in case you don’t buy the physical album (you can still read the notes on the Reference Recordings website):
“I used to joke that I wrote this song back when I thought it was cool to have a partner who gave you the blues. The lyrics are a take on the tribulations of personal relationships. There’s ambivalence, resistance and acceptance of how things often work out between lovers. It is my story, but maybe it could be yours too? This is something that I think the Blues does well: simplifying things to an essence that can make a very personal story instantly recognisable and universal. Yes, in more than one way, I had ‘Blues in my Heart’ back then, and still do to this day… although my love life is immeasurably better now!”
There aren’t too many contemporary interpreters of traditional acoustic blues who regularly reflect such excellence. Boyes combines elegant guitar work with vocals that range from silky to sandpaper, always capturing the essence of this great old music. The fact that many of the songs are originals is equally impressive. It’s one thing to master the intricacies of the music, but another level is required to capture the lyrical essence of music from another culture.
Fiona is joined on this album by bandmates Karen (Kaz) Dalla Rosa (harmonica); Gina Woods (piano); and Paula Dowse (drums and percussion).
If you have already heard or absorbed this fine album, you might want to take another look at what Boyes has been up to more recently.
Her 2019 album, “Voodoo In The Shadows,” received four nominations in the 2019 Australian Blues Music Awards, for Blues Album of the Year, Artist of the Year, Band of the Year, and Song of the Year (“Call Their Name”), and a U.S. Blues Foundation Blues Music Award nomination for Traditional Female Blues Artist.
It’s a more electric album, and a more mystical journey into, yes, the voodoo and shadows of the blues.
Here’s the title song, “Blues In My Heart”
Here’s the album track list for”Blues In My Heart”:
1. Blues In My Heart – 3:52
2. Pig Meat – 3:05
3. She Could Play That Thing – 2:51
4. I Let The Blues In – 3:24
5. Have Faith – 4:16
6. Honey You Can Take My Man – 2:37
7. My Say So – 2:20
8. Rowdy Blues – 3:37
9. Mean World – 3:38
10. Angel – 3:27
11. Two Legged Dog – 3:10
12. That Certain Something – 2:51
13. Hokum Rag – 2:14
14. Mercy – 3:53
15. Canned Heat – 3:34
16. Hotel Room – 3:34