by Willard Manus
out--two years ago, to be exact--the great blues singer Zola Moon released
an album comprised of all-original songs, Wildcats Under My Skin. Now
Zola has flipped the concept and put together an all-standards album,
UNDERCOVER (except for the bonus track, The Serpent King, which she wrote
herself). Doesn't matter if she's singing old or new ditties, Zola makes
everything sound fresh and compelling. The L.A.-based singer truly knows
how to bring the blues to life, infuse them with passion and relevance.
On UNDERCOVER Zola starts off with "I'm Tore Down," the lament
of a jilted woman. Two more pain-filled laments follow, "Love in
Vain" and "Walkin' Blues" (written and first sung by Robert
Johnson), but then Zola shifts gears and belts out the angry, defiant
anthem made famous by Janis Joplin, "Piece of My Heart." Zola
prefaces her soaring version with these spoken words, "Are you ready,
you evil bastards?"
The evil bastards in this case are men, of course. They are the target
of nearly all of the fourteen songs in this album, having betrayed, abandoned
and/or abused the women they've professed to love. The women might be
victims but they are also survivors who are capable of fighting back,
Zola reminds us, in songs like "Money (That's What I Want)"
and "Breakin' Up Somebody's Home."
Zola also changes moods and lightens things up with such bawdy and rollicking
numbers as "Rock Me Baby" and "Night Life." Throughout
Zola gets strong help from her band, The Greasy Boys: lead & rhythm
guitarist Michael "Monster" Carter, bass guitarist Eric "Easy
Street" Williams, and Jerry "The Hat" Olson. They really
cook and know how to help Zola put a song over.
(Cold.Dish@verizon.net or Zola