Thursday, May 17, 2007

Guitar heroines awe inspiring

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If you like chicks with guitars like I do, let me introduce you to Sue Foley, Deborah Coleman and Roxanne Potvin.

These three guitar goddesses have collaborated on a new compact disc, "Time Bomb," which demonstrates their considerable abilities with a relentlessly entertaining collection of 11 songs sure to remain in your CD player for some time. The recording is a virtual guitar showcase, with each of the women providing songs for the project.

Before I go on about their new disc, you should know a few things about these six-string slinging ladies. Foley, born in Canada, moved to Austin, Texas, in the early 1990's and has established her credentials with ten top-notch albums. Blending rock and blues originals, her sound is influenced by the likes of Memphis Minnie and Earl Hooker. Her guitar technique is stunning and memorable. The soulful Coleman, meanwhile, is another under-the-radar musician with considerable experience. A resident of Chesapeake, Virginia, she puts great enthusiasm into her performances gathering inspiration from rock legend Jimi Hendrix and Chicago blues master Buddy Guy. Newcomer Roxanne Potvin, a native of Quebec, started playing guitar at age 15 and generated music-industry interest with a self-produced CD of original material, released in 2003.

Although they have recorded for other labels, all three women are now signed to Germany's Ruf Records. Company owner Tom Ruf conceived the trio idea and hired producer Kevin Bowe to take charge of the project. "We did the whole record in Minneapolis a few months ago, with pre-production at my studio, basic overdubs at Terrarium Studio downtown, then back to my studio for more overdubs and mixing," Bowe told me.

"Most of the record was recorded very live as you can tell when you listen. All the studio chatting and laughing was left in the tracks. I got to use my dream band for the record. Billy Thommes nailed the drums, Bruce McCabe and Mark Lickteig were great on keys and Jim Anton did all the bass tracks.

"With three great guitarists in the room I really just sat around and said 'yeah, man that's cool' at the end of each take," said Bowe, who is a talented musician and composer, as well. The self-effacing Bowe has worked with such famous musicians as Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Etta James, Robben Ford, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Delbert McClinton, John Mayall and Tommy Castro.

"We worked hard because we did the whole record in less than a week but mostly it was just like it sounds on the tracks, a lot of laughing and horsing around," Bowe summarized.

The disc opens with Foley's instrumental composition,"Time Bomb," which ably demonstrates how much this band can rock. The women alternate lead vocals on the rest of the songs until all three sing on the album closing "In the Basement," first made famous by Etta James. Foley, who has recorded a "road song" on each of her solo discs, contributes the high-octane "So Far," "Show Me," and "Two Moons Gone." Coleman features in a funky version of James Brown's "Talking Out Loud and Saying Nothing," "Motor City," and "Don't Start the Car," written by producer Bowe. Potvin, meanwhile, is showcased in "Hitting on Nothing," and her originals, "Strong Enough to Hold You" and "Get Up."

When a lot of records today demand your attention with gimmicks, "Time Bomb" draws you in with class and style, to say nothing of the players' instrumental and vocal skills.

Their charms were not lost on Bowe. "Well, there was the one time when all three women tied me down with their guitar cables and then... oh that didn't really happen," Bowe kidded.

He did tell me another story, however, which illustrates the power of this music. "I was teaching a songwriting class at a local music college during the time of this recording so I invited my students down to watch us record while Sue Foley was doing solos on 'So Far,' I think. At the end of a particularly jaw dropping take one of my young male students broke the awestruck silence by looking at Sue and asking for her hand in marriage. A poignant moment for sure."

Will there be further collaborations with this group in the recording studio? Bowe refers that question to Tom Ruf, president of the record label, but adds, "I'd work with any or all of them again. It was one of the most fun and effortless records I've ever made."

Foley, Coleman and Potvin will begin a United States tour next month, billed as Blues Caravan 2007. Luckily for Upper Peninsula fans, the tour includes a performance at the Porcupine Mountain Music Festival in Ontonagon on Friday, Aug. 24.

This trio of guitar goddesses is ready to deliver the blues for you, on disc or live. Gentlemen, get your marriage proposals ready.

To check on Kevin Bowe's current activities, go to

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