4801 South Indiana Avenue

Joanna Connor

Keeping The Blues Alive, 2021


REVIEW BY: Conrad Warre


Guitarist and singer Joanna Connor, originally from Massachusetts, moved to Chicago in the mid ‘80s. After a steady workload of area club gigs, she played in the house band at the Checkerboard Lounge on the Southside, where she shared the stage with Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Sammy Lawhorn, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Magic Slim, Son Seals, Lonnie Brooks, and Koko Taylor. Breaking out on her own, she launched her debut album Believe It on Blind Pig Records in 1990. Connor is a traditional-sounding blues musician who wields a voice in the alto range and favors mid-tempo tunes for her renowned slide guitar playing. Besides Derek Trucks and Johnny Winters, no one on the blues circuits has relied on their slide guitar playing to satisfy the audiences cravings as much as Connor. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This year, Connor released 4801 South Indiana Avenue, produced by Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, who also arranged the material and plays on much of it. The album is named for the address of legendary Chicago Bronzeville blues club Theresa’s Lounge, which closed in the mid ‘80s, and is on Bonamassa’s boutique blues label “Keeping The Blues Alive.”

The fourth track “I Feel So Good” exemplifies what Connor does best: bringing the band down to a hush and showcasing her playing in the sonic spaces. The entire album’s musical support for Connor is perfectly suited to the genre and ranges from carefully orchestrated horn section work, some great organ playing, pocket-perfect drumming, and sympathetic rhythm guitar playing. The song “Part Time Love” recalls the full Butterfield Blues Band excursions and features a nicely restrained guitar solo from Bonamassa. “Cut You Loose” combines the harder-edged British blues band feel of the ‘70s invasion by the likes of Savoy Brown and the Climax Blues Band with Connor’s fierce vocals and aggressive slide playing. Lowell Fulsom’s “Trouble Trouble,” an Otis Rush classic, features some nice T-Bone Walker styled intro guitar. Connor takes the Albert King classic “For The Love Of A Woman” and switches the subject’s gender with a big horn section carrying the up-tempo tune on “For the Love Of A Man” with some nice stops to open up the room for her slide playing. “Come Back Home” by Theodore Taylor features Connors’ best vocal performance on the album.

While the album, Connor’s fourteenth, was recorded at Ocean Way Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, it’s really a celebration of Chicago blues at its best. Every song was recorded in three takes or fewer, and all feature Connor on “effect-free” guitar and vocals, Calvin Turner on bass (who also arranged the horn parts), Reese Wynans on keyboards, Lemar Carter on drums and co-producer Josh Smith, and Bonamassa on additional guitars.

Rating: A-

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© 2021 Conrad Warre and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Keeping The Blues Alive, and is used for informational purposes only.