Sharon Lewis

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After years of being a cog in the Chicago blues scene, Sharon Lewis steps out with a dandy national release that will have the rest of the country wondering where this gritty, soulful vocalist has been all this time. As the horn-struttin’ title track proclaims, she, indeed, is the real deal, one of the last classic, hardscrabble blues-soul vocalists who has earned her stripes and has life’s scars to prove it. Sharon Lewis

Eight of the dozen tracks are originals spanning the blues fodder gamut, economic social commentary (“What’s Really Going On?”), slinky, sexual appeal (“Mojo Kings”) and cheatin’ husbands whom she orders ‘go on back to your wife’ (“You Can’t Take My Life”). Of the four covers, Wynona Carr’s “Please Mr. Jailer” (recorded in 1956) towers over the renditions of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” It’s a mother’s plea for her son’s freedom, still a topical subject today as there are more young African-Americans behind bars than in college. Stylistically, every track differs from its predecessor, whether it’s a hard-driving shuffle featuring Specter’s slashing guitar work, an uplifting gospel arrangement (“Angel”), a late night jazzy interlude (“Silver Fox”), or a zealous soul shouter (“Blues Train”). When you have as many cards as Lewis has, there’s no need to ever play the same hand twice.

- Dan Willging

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