Sue Foley — “Pinky’s Blues” (Stony Plain Records)
From the opening bars of the title song — a soaring instrumental that burns with pain and pleasure in one passionate extended Pinky guitar solo — Canadian-born but Texas-marinated Sue Foley offers up a new album filled with the tough and tender sides of Texas blues.
Pinky, of course, is Foley’s pink paisley Telecaster sidekick, and it leads the way through a dozen tough guitar-driven blues, some excellent and unique covers; some terrific originals. And they all pay a fine tribute to the Texas blues that Foley has adopted as her own.
Following that tough opener is a cover of Texan Angela Strehli‘s tribute-laden“ Two Bit Texas Town.” That’s followed later by another excellent Strehli cover, the torchy “Say It’s Not So.”
And that’s just one of two excellent soulful covers, with the other one being “Think It Over,” credited to Lillie Mae Donley, but most likely by her husband, Jimmy Donley, the legendary swamp-pop singer-songwriter. It’s a great choice of a fine song with hints of an R&B and doo-wop heritage. And it’s a slow-dancing gem.
There’s a tough original Foley blues, “Hurricane Girl” (she’s “a force of nature”), adding Jimmy Vaughan on rhythm guitar. That’s followed by another inspired cover — “Stop These Teardrops” by Lavelle White.
The scorching “Pinky’s Blues” isn’t the only instrumental. A flashy version of Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s “Okie Dokie Stomp” shows off Foley’s flying fingers.
But don’t get the idea that this is just another album of blues covers. The choices are excellent. The arrangements are a credit to Foley and her bandmates, bassist Jon Penner, and drummer Chris “Whipper” Layton, with producer Mike Flanigin adding organ on two tracks. They take these songs and make them their own, with Foley’s unique guitar and vocals turning them into new and personal versions.
Foley says the inspiration for this recorded “live” effort was an earlier, and similarly spontaneous session she did with Flanigan and his B3 on the thoroughly enjoyable album “West Texas Blues,” which I wrote about here.
Here’s how Foley describes the process: “I recorded the entire album in three days. What you’re hearing is live, off the floor, in the moment the music was played totally spontaneously and, mainly, improvised. And, we wanted to make something representative of the Texas blues that we had been schooled on in Austin. So, we picked great songs and I wrote a few of my own to round things out. Everything on it is a labor of love.”
What you’re also hearing is the consummate work of an artist who has been growing in stature for years, and broke big with her 2018 album “Ice Queen,” which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Current Blues chart, and No. 1 on Roots Music Report’s Top 50 Canada album chart. She won ”Best Traditional Female (Koko Taylor Award)” at the 2020 Blues Music Awards in Memphis, was nominated for a Juno Award (Canadian Grammy), and won ”Best Guitar Player” at the Toronto Maple Blues Awards.
And I can almost say I knew her when, since I saw her at the Pittsburgh Blues Festival in 2010, touring with Peter Karp on their unique “He Said, She Said” album, with songs based on their correspondence while touring separately.
But no matter how you describe, or how it came to be, “Pinky’s Blues” is a sparkling album in the timeless Texas blues tradition, and you deserve to make it a part of your music library.
Here’s an interview with Sue Foley.
This post has been inspired primarily by the music of Sue Foley, with creative assistance from Russell’s Reserve 10-Year Old Bourbon.
The official music video of “Dallas Man,” from “Pinky’s Blues”:
1 Pinky’s Blues
2 Two Bit Texas Town
3 Dallas Man
4 Southern Men
5 Say It’s Not So
6 Hurricane Girl
7 Stop These Teardrops
8 Boogie Real Low
9 Think It Over
10 Okie Dokie Stomp
12 When The Cat’s Gone the Mice Play