ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 29, 2002
By Steve Newton
Ottawa-based blueswoman Sue Foley recorded her Juno Award–winning 2000 CD, the Colin Linden–produced Love Comin’ Down, in Kingston, Ontario, but travelled down to New Orleans to mix it. On her new album, Where the Action Is, she went full-on with the southern treatment, both recording and mixing the CD in Nashville. The result is a kick-ass, bare-bones, southern-tinged blues-rock masterwork that—if there’s any justice at all in the Canuck music biz—will score Foley another trophy for her mantle. Some of the credit for Action’s winning vibe must go to Canadian blues icon Linden, who was in the producer’s chair again.
“That was basically Colin’s call [to record in Nashville],” remarks Foley from her Ottawa home, where her “busy” five-year-old son Joe—whom the disc was dedicated to—has just been shooed out of the room. “You know, when you’re dealing with blues-based music, being in the South or having elements of the South is pretty important. Colin’s pretty fond of the South, as I am, and Nashville was a really cool place to record.”
One way that the Foley/Linden team instilled a southern feel into Where the Action Is—apart from having Linden’s buddy Nashville roots diva Lucinda Williams hanging around the studio—was to uncover raw material like “Down the Big Road Blues”, a traditional Mississippi-style blues tune recorded by Matty Delaney in the 1930s. “She was pretty obscure,” explains Foley. “I know Lucinda used to do that song too, but it hasn’t been covered by too many people. But we were just lookin’ for something to do that was old-timey, and dug up some old stuff.”
Foley got some prime players to help out on the new CD, including keyboardist Richard Bell (The Band), bassists Dave Roe (Johnny Cash) and Brad Jones (Steve Earle), and ex-Wilco drummer Ken Coomer. Linden himself does a masterful job handling dobro on “Big Road” and makes a number of other instrumental contributions to Where the Action Is. He actually plays acoustic, electric, or slide guitar or dobro on half of the album’s 12 tunes, nine of which were penned or cowritten by Foley.
“We’re both guitar players,” she notes, “so you can’t have enough guitar as far as we’re concerned.” For her own part, Foley lays down some inspired boogie guitar, particularly on the title track, the rowdy closer “Gotta Keep Moving”, and her scorching rendition of the Rolling Stones’ “Stupid Girl”. (Strangely enough, that tune was once covered by another female Foley, Ellen, back in the ’70s.) “I’m always lookin’ for rockin’ stuff to put on records,” says the guitarist, “and somebody had given me a tape of a bunch of old Stones singles from the mid-’60s. ‘Stupid Girl’ was on there, so I thought, ‘Well, I think I can do this my own way.’ ”
When Foley brings her touring quartet to the Yale on Sunday (September 1)—for her first local appearance since the 2000 Burnaby Blues Festival—she promises to break out that Jagger/Richards gem. That should be worth the price of admission alone. “We perform the whole record live, every song,” she says, “and we’re havin’ a ball. It’s just really fun stuff to play, simple and fun.”