Wildcats Under My Skin
Review By Willard Manus

Zola Moon is back and, oh man, are we the better for it.

In her latest CD, ZOLA MOON--WILDCATS UNDER MY SKIN, the LA-based blues singer/songwriter shows off her prodigious talents from start to finish. All eleven songs on the CD are originals, each one of which is remarkable, even memorable, in its own way.

WILDCATS UNDER MY SKIN kicks off with Big City Blues, a "woke up this mornin', feelin' heavy as a stone" kind of lament, but then Zola kicks out the jams on Just the Kinda Girl, a goodnatured, hard-rockin' number about a chick (with no hangups) who loves to have fun and promises to "shake it for you, baby, shake it from side to side."

That paean to good times and blissful, uncomplicated sex is followed by three change-of-pace, topical songs which come out of the blues's long tradition of commenting on social problems: A Paycheck Away, a bitter attack on the corporate crooks who have wrecked our economy and cost so many folks their jobs and homes; Boat Man, a sad cry for help (from New Orleans' Fifth Ward) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina ("save me from the mighty Mississippi...I'm drownin' in my own backyard"); and Drive-By, a pain-filled protest against the senseless gang violence which has caused so much blood to flow in our streets.

From there, Zola switches gears again with Rag Doll, a sweet little ditty (sung in a mock-childlike voice) about a Raggedy Ann doll looking for a "Raggedy Andy" mate. After that comes something completely different--a blast of fiery Zola Moon-type blues, Hot Texas Sun. In this six-minute-long, deeply personal ballad she talks about walking away from a thirteen-year marriage and feeling the agony of it ("misery sits down next to me") as she "comes undone" in the hot Texas sun.

Backed up by a three-man band (Jerry Olson, drums; Michael Carter, guitar; Eric Williams, bass), Zola puts it all out there on this one, singing with the reckless abandon, the astonishing power, passion and musicality that is her trademark. Hot Texas Sun culminates in a howl of pain, a primal scream, the likes of which we haven't heard since Janis Joplin.

Produced by Richard Vidan (without any vocal pitch correction or augmentation), WILDCATS UNDER MY SKIN is a fabulous CD, one which deserves to be heard regularly on the airwaves. Ditto Zola's other CDs. Alas, that hasn't been the case--for years not even KKJZ, the one fulltime jazz and blues station in town, would play any of her songs. (The same holds true for such other local blues stalwarts as Cynthia Manley and Peach). This artistic injustice (at least in Zola's case) has been finally addressed by one of KKJZ's new djs, who has begun to give her some long-overdue airplay.

Zola still performs at clubs and festivals, not only in L.A. but regionally and abroad. For information about her activities--and/or to order WILDCATS UNDER MY SKIN-- visit cold.dish@verizon.net or zolamoon.com or call 310-542-9307.