Recent CDs by Patti Scialfa, the subdudes and Eliza Lynn aren’t classified as blues, but they enjoy healthy blues facets.
Only her third solo album ever, Scialfa’s discreet yet gritty Play It As It Lays (Columbia) opens with a bitingly bluesy harmonica/Dobro slide riff (courtesy of husband Bruce Springsteen and Nils Lofgren) that sets the stage for a late-night mood drawing on black gospel, R&B and ’60s girl groups.
On her 10 compositions, she seeks salvation — be it spiritual, romantic or political — with the wisdom of maturity. The title track draws its own title from a Joan Didion novel. Scialfa’s writing overshadows her vocals on this sensitively produced disc that helps us understand why she’s The Boss’s soul mate.
After four decades of performing, Piazza essentially does Windy City blues by way of his West Coast home. Boogie-woogie pianist Honey Piazza assumes a bassist’s function with her left hand.
Honking-sax-based “Sugar” ends on a high-flying doo-wop vocal note. Maybe “Get Wise”’s murky sound intentionally calls to mind the lo-fi production of so many ’60s blues classics released on store-front labels.
Despite the titling of her ghostwritten autobiography “Lady Sings The Blues,” Billie Holiday principally sang pop backed by a jazz who’s who as she languidly lingered behind the beat. Nevertheless, four-CD Lady Day: The Master Takes And Singles (Columbia/Legacy) does show her delving into the blues.
Take her hastily adapted “Billie’s Blues” (recalling “Matchbox Blues”), “St. Louis Blues” and a “Careless Love” variant titled “Loveless Love” among 80 songs (“Them There Eyes,” “My Man”) spanning 1935 (when she was but 20) to 1942.
A tiff with her mom inspired her signature song, “God Bless The Child.” Conspicuously absent is her searing classic “Strange Fruit,” which some labels then thought too controversial to release.
Kudos go to the box’s packaging, with its intriguing color scheme, candid notes and detailed track-by-track annotation.
Similarly subdued yet strong, the subdudes’ blues-funk-gospel Street Symphony (Back Porch) is in part a bittersweet elegy to New Orleans, the quintet’s original stomping ground.
“Thorn In Her Side” uses The Statue Of Liberty as a metaphor for a woman abandoned by the government in her hour of need. Like Scialfa, the ‘dudes express their politics sub