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Shakura S’Aida - Brown Sugar

Ruf Records

12 Tracks

Shakura S’Aida is a multicultural phenomenon in one. Born in Brooklyn, New York but raised in Switzerland, she has made Canada her home, particularly Toronto, for over 20 years.

In 2008, she was the first runner up in the International Blues Challenge (IBC). She has also been a Maple Blues Award nominee a number of years. She has an impressive resume having been in the entertainment business: on stage, in film and television, including one of my favorite shows, Flashpoint. Brown Sugar is her debut CD for Ruf Records. Ten of the tracks were written by S’Aida and her writing partner and guitarist, Donna Grantis. The other members of her band are Dave Smith on bass, Steve Potts on drums, Rick Steff on keyboards, and Lance Anderson on organ.

First, kudos to her for donating proceeds from downloads of “Angels On High” from her website to Haitian relief efforts. Secondly, at least a few of the tunes on the CD are headed to my mp3 player, especially “Chasing The Sun.” Hattie, the heroine of the song, “closed her eyes too long to the possibilities,… (she was) stuck in the past, she wouldn’t give change a try. Blind to the joy that shines each day. Chasing the sun that’s how she lost her way.” I’m afraid that there is a little bit of Hattie in all of us. Of the two songs not written by the team of S’Aida and Grantis, one is a hit and one is a miss. “Anti Love Song.” is the hit. Oddly, it immediately follows a song titled, “This Is Not A Love Song.” There may be a theme here. Anyway, the two songs have totally different vibes. I call “Outskirts Of Memphis” the tribute to the IBC as it shouts out to Memphis institutions and the surrounding area.

The CD is a mix of blues, R&B, and ballads. For those who insist on labels, she could be considered a bluesy jazz singer or jazzy blues singer. Better yet, just call her a good singer.

Reviewer Sheralyn Graise graduated from the University of Akron a while back. A former Social Services professional, she is now pursuing other interests such as music history, writing, and photography. She has been a member of the Blues Foundation since 2001.

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