Soul Kitchen,
It's In the Can
(BMG, 2001)

In February 2002, I attended the annual BluesFirst Convention & Expo in Memphis, Tennessee. While at an afternoon seminar, I met a very nice woman from one of the blues societies. We chatted for a few minutes about the usual things -- what do you do, what brought you here -- before she introduced herself as Doreen Robideaux, from Monroe, Michigan, and handed me her CD, It's In the Can. It turns out she's the lead singer of Soul Kitchen.

Before hearing a single note, I fell in love with the CD just from checking out the jacket design, which depicts a can of soup labeled "Cream of the Blues: Pour it on -- Stir it up." You have to love the creative sense of humor. On the back, the band member's heads float in a bigger bowl of soup like oyster crackers. What a riot, I couldn't wait to get home and give it a listen.

Once home, I popped in the CD, and I've been playing it ever since. From the very first number, right through to the ninth and final track, It's In the Can is jam-packed with some of the most soulful blues and R&B numbers I've heard in a very long time. If the major labels haven't been knocking their door down yet, don't worry, it won't be long. Each track complements the next, highlighting each mujsician's individual talents. This recording has the kind of studio sound that's usually found on major label releases, so kudos to Tom Barber at Rednail Recording.

Soul Kitchen is Denny Harrigan on lead guitar and harmonica, Jeff Kopmanis on tenor and baritone sax, Tim Merman on bass and keyboards and Al Michaud on drums. Robideaux is a gifted vocalist as well as the talented writer of all nine songs, the master chef who stirs up the real strength in Soul Kitchen.

The band really knows how to cook up some delicious music "with a little hot sauce and a whole lotta attitude." There's a high level of energy from start to finish, like an electric current humming through a power line. The electricity begins right from the first track, "Testify to the Blues," an upbeat sassy number with excellent solo work on tenor sax by Kopmanis. The next track is one of my favorites, "Salvation in the Blues," a real tribute to the genre: "lose yourself in rock 'n' roll or find salvation in the blues." This slow, soulful ballad really showcases the incredible vocal talent of Robideaux; she has exceptional range and depth, with an instinctive ability to interpret the true meaning of the blues. Her soulful, gritty, throaty vibrato can be compared to blues artists like Irma Thomas and Ruth Brown. "I Want The Boogie Man" is a hip, funky number that tells of the kind of man Robideaux would prefer; again, some excellent sax solos are featured.

"Come the Night Owl" is a soulful song that slowly builds a crescendo and moves right into a hard-driving tune with some great lead guitar work by Harrigan. On "Why Did You Go," Robideaux sings about breaking up, with sassy references to some famous couples. "I Just Want to Be With You" is another track that really highlights her incredible vocals. A song about a one-night stand that's pure emotion, intensified by some blistering axe work. The CD concludes with "Movin' On," a powerful, toe-tappin' number about starting over.

This is certainly a band that deserves close scrutiny. Presently performing to sold-out clubs in Michigan and Ohio, it's only a matter of time 'til Soul Kitchen receives national attention. Their brand of soul, R&B and blues is infectious, and much too strong to stay focused in one area of the country. I encourage everyone to go out and see this group while you can. This talented bunch is bound for glory.

[ by Pamela L. Dow ]
Rambles: 16 June 2002

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