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Donna Herula – Bang At The Door

RELEASE DATE: MAY 21, 2021

Seeking out the influence of remote locales and their specific aesthetic qualities has long been an inspirational tool for artists and creators. Chicago born guitarist and singer songwriter Donna Herula and her partner in crime, Tony Nardiello, embarked on such a journey to record her third album, Bang At The Door, in North Carolina. The duo partnered up with 2019 International Blues Challenge champion and producer Jon Shain and bassist FJ Ventre at Good Luck Studios in Chapel Hill, far from the gritty streets that made modern blues famous. Surrounding Herula with an ensemble of players including, Doug Hammer on piano, Dana Thalheimer on drums, trumpeter Tony Pons, Bill Newton on harmonica and special guests, violinist Anne Harris and pianist Daryl Davis. The resulting recording of eleven original songs and three arrangements of choice covers has a clean, wide open, relaxed sound and spontaneous feel, as if the players were discovering this music for the very first time. This departure from her previous solo albums, allowed her to explore compositions of greater emotional depth, that reflect on the world from a woman’ s perspective, as well as a wider musical palette of gospel, jazz, and the many layers of blues styles that have grown out of New Orleans, Delta, Piedmont, and Hill Country traditions.

The blues party rips from the get-go with the opening title track, “Bang At The Door,” a lively rumba that recounts a late-night encounter with a drunken ex-lover. Herula penned the love note “Pass The Biscuits,” for her dearly departed mentor Sonny Payne; the second line serenade gives testimony to the impact of the legendary DJ and host of the King Biscuit Time radio show on her and the evolution of blues music in America. Donna and Tony trade vocals on the driving old school Chicago two beat “Can’ t Wait To See My Baby.“ She then laments the plight of a lover, who lands in jail, on the acoustic guitar driven folk ballad “Promise Me.” The jazz lounge atmosphere of “Not Lookin’ Back,” is steeped in film-noir drama. The back porch party returns on the swinging “I Got No Way Home,“ with Herula trading hot licks with Newton before she shows off her formidable chops on the solo instrumental “Black Ice.” She pays tribute to Bottleneck guitar originator Bukka White on an authentic reading of “Fixing To Die,” a Delta Blues track that he recorded in Chicago in 1940; demonstrating her expertise in executing the formula of guitar counterpoint to somber imagery, creating music that throbs with restless energy. Nardiello joins her again for the acoustic duet “Jackson,” paying homage to another of her heroes, Lucinda Williams.

The comedic number, “ Movin’ Back Home,” is a clever juxtaposition of a 1920’ s ragtime blues while name checking iconic items from the 1980’ s on a tale of frustration returning to live at your parents’ house as an adult. The next three originals are connected in a blues trilogy that digs deeper into the issues of domestic life with Herula delivering the songs from a woman’ s point of view. The sublime fiddle lines from Harris gives the Ozark stomp “Got What I Deserve,” western flavor. Herula then dons her Collings acoustic guitar to demonstrate her mastery of Travis pickin’ on “Who’ s Been Cooking In My Kitchen,” and concludes with the emotional “Something’ s Wrong With My Baby,” punctuating her vocals with the dour tone of a 1935 National Steel Triolian. The album finale is an uplifting rundown of Blind Willie Johnson standard “Soul Of A Man,“ inviting several friends to sing with her on the chorus honoring another pioneering slide guitarist who influenced several generations of musicians. – Rick J Bowen

Track Listing:
01 Bang at the Door
02 Pass the Biscuits
03 Can’ t Wait to See My Baby
04 Promise Me
05 Not Lookin’ Back
06 I Got No Way Home
07 Black Ice
08 Fixin’ to Die
09 Jackson
10 Movin’ Back Home
11 Got What I Deserve
12 Who’ s Been Cookin’ in My Kitchen
13 Something’ s Wrong With My Baby
14 The Soul of a Man

Website Donna Herula

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