WELCOME TO CYNDI’S HOUSE OF BLUES! Cyndi Lauper: “Memphis Blues”
From the eye-popping, burlesque-inspired, black-and-white CD artwork photography of “Memphis Blues” (An ageless Lauper evokes The River City’s timeless patron chanteuse) to her dedication to Ma Rainey (“Mother of the Blues”) on the CD insert, it’s clear that our Cyndi Lauper is trying something different. Blues-- music characterized by its distinctive shuffles, bass lines, blue notes, and Southern flavor-- is Lauper’s newest creative endeavor. We may have already envisioned a woman who would sing this music so well: a big, sweaty diva with a world-weary, thick-as-molasses voice and heavy delivery. The Divine Miss L. doesn’t sound like that, of course; she sounds like-- well, like Cyndi Lauper. We may imagine our girl singing in a smoky blues lounge on “Shattered Dreams”, but Cyndi’s voice never sounds smoky. On “Memphis Blues”, she pays enormous respect to the genre, from her choice of guest musicians (Jonny Lang! Allen Toussaint! B.B. King!) to such authentic touches as the harmonica (courtesy of Charlie Musselwhite) on two tracks. Yet, Lauper retains her distinctively high, girlish, and remarkably unblemished vocal style throughout. The synergy of traditional blues music alongside Cyndi’s unique warble makes for an original and thoroughly enjoyable musical trip to the Memphis blues culture. The trip kicks off with “Just Your Fool”. Next up is “Shattered Dreams”, which features killer piano by Allan Toussaint-- and Cyndi gets to show off her underappreciated, impressive vocal abilities in the song’s climax. “Early in the Morning”, a blues classic if there ever was one (“Early in the morning and I ain‘t got nothing but the blues!”), features Toussaint on the piano again, B.B. King (“King of the Blues”) on guitar and vocals, and a truly delectable rhythm. Lauper gets stripped down and soulful for “Romance in the Dark”, and later on again for “Down So Low“. The bona fide highlight of the CD is “How Blue Can You Get“, a duet with Jonny Lang. Their musical “mating dance” of sorts is a sheer delight. (She throws “My love is like a fire; yours is like a cigarette.” at him. He retorts, “You’re evil when I’m with you, baby. And you’re jealous when we’re apart!”). Another duet, “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”, features Lauper and bona fide Memphian singer/songwriter Ann Peebles; the contrast between Lauper’s voice and Peebles’ more hardened, grainy style is an interesting contrast. And big, big kudos to Cyndi for “Mother Earth”. The song’s message couldn’t be more timely in 2010... and her delivery couldn’t be more sumptuous.
More than just the self-styled voice we remember so well from her ‘80’s chart-toppers, it’s also Cyndi’s sassy “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!“ attitude that we know and love so well which carries over to her latest endeavor. Even when she’s singing, “I ain‘t lyin’, No use in jiving’, I‘m just your fool!” on the first track, there’s an underlying wink in her voice knowing that she’s got the upper hand the whole way. Aficionados of the blues will no doubt eat this music up like tipsy cake, but many of the tracks have crossover appeal. The upbeat pop/blues/swing “Don’t Cry No More” has the spirit of Cyndi’s classic hits and enough casual radio appeal to spare. But hey, why focus on genre? Good music is good music. And “Memphis Blues” sounds great whether you’re walking in Memphis or riding on the Metro.
See more at www.CyndiLauper.com.