It is true to say that most people have only scratched the surface of the musical talent that is out there, having been mainly force fed what the mainstream media presents. Sure, there are some new gems that come to light if you search for them amongst the promo pieces on the big bands, but it is few and far between.
Joanna Connor – 4801 South Indiana Avenue (KTBA Records)
Release Date: 26 February 2021
Words: Paul Monkhouse
There are also the ‘cult’ artists who have grown a solid fan base and great reputation but have yet to see the true success and global attention they obviously deserve. Joanna Connor is one such musician and new album ‘4801 South Indiana Avenue’ should see her reaching heights that have only been hinted at before.
A seasoned pro with a string of well received albums already under her belt, Connor started hitting the headlines when a fan posted a video of her and her band playing on a tiny stage in someone’s garden and the jaw dropping performance went viral, gaining almost nine million views to date.
The interest exploded then, keeping her fully booked and sought after, but it still seemed that the true level of worldwide appreciation was just out of reach. This has never seemed to be an issue for the confident and refreshingly ego free guitarist, but others felt frustration that such a talent was not as well known as some of her contemporaries, whose names alone would guarantee sold out venues whenever dates were announced.
Fan of Connor and modern King of the Blues, Joe Bonamassa decided things had to change and, along with fellow producer Josh Smith, took her into the studio and the result is this absolute masterclass.
Recently, Joanna Connor told MetalTalk TV that: “Joe said ‘I’d really like to produce a record for you. I have an idea and a vision of what I would like to do with you in the studio. I’m really going to push you hard’
“He planned everything. He was really hands-on and I was not sure how it would turn out, but there really was chemistry there and it was just a beautiful, beautiful experience. There is a lot of fantastic playing on the record from everyone.”
Ferocious slide work
Tapping into the deep well of experience that the guitarist and singer has gained over the decades since she first picked up her first guitar at aged seven, Bonamassa and Smith have sympathetically brought out all that makes Connor so special and distilled this into the ten incendiary tracks that make up this release.
Kicking off with some ferocious slide work in the unstoppable locomotive that is ‘Destination’, you can see that this has captured the very soul of what makes Joanna Connor such a force of nature, her raw passion and finely honed skills blazing bright.
The stomping ‘Come Back Home’ mixes honky tonk piano with seductive vocals to devastating effect and the epic ‘Bad News’ shows the softer side of the performer. A slow, bluesy torch song, this packs more soul and drama into six exquisite minutes than most modern blues records manage in an album’s worth, the vocals, guitar playing and keys work sublime.
Crackling with an unstoppable energy, rockabilly tinged first single ‘I Feel So Good’ is absolutely electric. It’s rawness thrills, the live feel a reminder of the visceral thrill of being swept away by an artist in full no holds barred flight.
‘For The Love Of A Man’ is a wonderfully big, brassy Memphis soul-tinged version of the Albert King classic, soaked in Chicago Blues and slinky and sexy. Equally impressive is slide guitar fiesta ‘Trouble Trouble’ and the Rock ‘N’ Roll of ‘Please Help’, Connor’s fretwork quicksilver.
‘Cut You Loose’ is strident and empowering, turning up the heat to boiling point and there is some fantastic guitar interplay between Connor and Bonamassa on the rollicking Stax of ‘Part Time Love’.
Having displayed her superbly soulful and gutsy voice throughout, her singing as impressive as her playing, she gets the chance to use her speaking voice to great effect in album closer ‘It’s My Time’. Shimmering and a real highlight, the track features some superb slide work by Bonamassa and carries the same sort of outstanding Southern Gothic atmosphere that Robbie Robertson displayed so wonderfully on his debut solo album.
It is a stunning way of bringing ‘4801 South Indiana Avenue’ to an end and rounds off a release that is not just Connor’s finest to date, but one that should see her make that leap into the big league that her immense talent has always been destined to join.
Fittingly, the lyrics in this last track sums up things perfectly and when she sings ‘’I’m not doing it for fortune and fame, I just want people to remember my name. It’s my time…’’ you know that wish is coming true.
The road has been long, but Joanna Connor has proven that her hard work and talent will always be appreciated and her name will be on the lips of countless more people from this moment onwards.
You can read more about ‘4801 South Indiana Avenue’ here.
Joanna Connor’s new album ‘4801 South Indiana Avenue’ is released by KTBA Records on 26 February 26, via www.jbonamassa.com/albums/2021/joannaconnor/4801/