Album review: Vanessa Collier lays it all on the line

Tahoe Onstage
Vanessa Collier and guitarist Laura Chavez rock The Village at Squaw Valley during a 2019 Bluesday show.
Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage

Vanessa Collier has released a new album, her fourth, titled “Heart On The Line.” Collier is an award-winning songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Maryland. On this album, she sings and plays alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone, resonator guitar and cowbell.

Collier has earned praise from legends such as Buddy Guy, and as well as the 2020 Blues Music Award for Instrumentalist/Horn (for the second year in a row). She’s known for blending blues-centric musical styles, with youthful energy combined with high-level musical prowess.

The album sounds very good. That’s another testament to Collier, who self-produced it. Guitars are fat (thanks to the great Laura Chavez for lending some hot licks to the tracks), rhythm section has punch but is not slick, the vocals are executed very well, and of course the horn playing is top notch. There’s good reason she is charting on the Living Blues Report and is currently spinning on SiriusXM radio in regular rotation.

Some highlights – the opening song “Super Bad” brings the soul jazz and funk. Probably a good opening song live to get the dancefloor going. “Bloodhound” has some Delta blues resonator guitar and haunting vocals. This might be my favorite track on the playlist. There’s a juicy cover of Randy Newman’s “Leave Your Hat On,” and a noir soul, steam punk, reverb-drenched cabaret number called “Weep and Moan.” The album closes with the major scale-leaning folksy Americana title track, “Heart On The Line.”

This is an enjoyable record. Collier is accumulating well-earned praise for her multi-instrumentalist play, as well as her ability to see through the lens and self-produce her work done at a high level, which is no small feat. Impressive, and well worth the spin.

— Jon Siembieda

  • Vanessa Collier
    ‘Heart On The Line’
  • Released: Aug. 21, 2020

Related story: Collier talks about the making of “Heart On The Line” and plants on vines.

ABOUT Jon Siembieda

Jon Siembieda
Writer Jon Siembieda plays guitar in the Southern California-based touring rock 'n' roll band Hunter & The Dirty Jacks. He is an avid concertgoer and album collector. His top five favorite bands are The Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, Faces, Mother Hips and Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

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