By M.D. Spenser
If you like your blues sung by bold, strong, brassy women, add this CD to your collection at once.
Lex Grey’s vocals are high-octane and top-notch. And the band, the Urban Pioneers, support her well, with rockin’ guitar, swingin’ clarinet and tasty sax, as the song demands.
Grey and the band are based in New York, and the 10 songs here are mostly reflections on city life and the urban landscape.
The opening cut, Factory, seems to be the fantasy of someone living in a cramped apartment and longing for more space. Grey sings that she wants to live in a former factory, where all the rooms are big, no one can call her kitchen small, there’s a train set on the floor – “and urinals hanging on the walls.”
Well, OK, whatever floats your boat.
Other songs, such as Hobo Soup and Junkman, offer stark portraits of the cityscape.
Not every cut works as well as the others. Black Stallion – which, yes, is a song about a horse – apparently stayed in the vaults a long time. And there it should have remained.
But the real thing here isn’t the words. It’s Lex Grey’s hard-edged, oestrogen-fuelled vocals, which follow the in the footsteps of blues belters like Candye Kane, or Shirley Bassey doing Hey Big Spender, or even – dare we say it? – the great Etta James doing almost anything.
Unabashed sexuality infuses every note. You get the feeling Grey could sing from the phone book and make you get up and dance in a way you wouldn’t want your granny to see.
It appears that so far the band’s audience is primarily regional. It should be global. She’s that good.