Sue Foley’s ‘The Ice Queen’ is a stone-cold killer of an album

Scott Doubt
Raw and relentless, Sue Foley’s ‘The Ice Queen” scorches in myriad, magnificent ways.
Photo by Scott Doubt

As Sue Foley sings “I’m cool and I’m detached” in the title song to her first solo album in 12 ‘years, her words ring ironic. Foley’s certainly cool, in the fashionable way. But detached? Not based on the fiery red head’s red hot, Albert “Ice Man” Collins-inspired guitar work, or wide-open, emotional vocalizing. Likely, Foley’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics in the foreboding blues refer to her migration at 21 from her “icy” home in Ottawa, Canada, to the blues mecca of Austin, Texas. Once there, the young girl cut “Young Girl Blues” for the legendary Antone’s label.

“The Ice Queen” represents a full-circle of magnificence. It’s Foley’s debut for Canada’s Stony Plain Records, but her fellow players on it are a group of her old buddies from Austin. She hooked up with star guitarists Jimmie Vaughan, Charlie Sexton, and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton, organist Mike Flanigan, and others, at a series of local “Jungle Shows” last year. The crew also laid tracks in the same studio “Young Girl Blues” was cut. The Lone Star flavor-rich results make up Sue Foley’s strongest album to date.

An album that takes off subtly, with the finger-beckoning seduction of “Come to Me,” Sexton enhancing the groove with some snaky slide. But this is far from a typical Texas blues album. When “Run” hits, all bets are off. The raw, relentless bash and pop of the song sounds like a rebirth, both in music and in the strong story it relates. Vaughan joins Foley on “The Lucky Ones,” the two singing and playing neat guitar to the rollicking beat, the affection between them akin to the lovers depicted in the tune. “Gaslight” flickers, infused with soul. Foley takes the rubbery-tough guitar solo in it while singing and presumably dancing up a storm. Gibbons sounds appropriately weary in his duet with Foley on “Fool’s Gold,” the lazy little blues presenting a litany of shams within its heat. The blues standard “Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair,” first made famous by Bessie Smith, becomes a robust shuffle featuring Foley dueling with woefully underrated guitarist Derek O’Brien. Foley then shuts it all down, alone and gorgeous on acoustic guitar, with a wonderful, warm reading of A.P. Carter’s immortal “Cannonball Blues.”

Although there’s nothing at all chilly about “The Ice Queen,” it’s nonetheless a stone cold killer of an album.

-Tom Clarke

  • Sue Foley
    ‘The Ice Queen’
    Label: Stony Plain
    Release: March 2, 2018

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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