Canadian born musician Sue Foley is a musical force to be reckoned with. The thirty-something year olds' music suggests that she has an old soul. The Los Angeles Times says, "Echoes of Earl Hooker, Bessie Smith, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters and other forebears of the blues filter through the cannon of singer, songwriter and guitarist Sue Foley." Critics, fans and musicians alike agree that she may well be the most respected female blues guitarist on the scene today.
Foley's musical juju has allowed her to share the stage with such legendary blues icons as B.B. King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and the late John Lee Hooker. Sue Foley's new CD, appropriately titled Where The Action Is, further asserts Foley as a voice warranting widespread attention in the blues world.
Sue FoleyHer 2000 release, Love Comin' Down, won a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent to a Grammy Award) for " Best Blues Album" and five Maple Blues Awards (the Canadian equivalent to a W. C. Handy Award). Love Comin' Down prompted The Philadelphia Inquirer to say, â€œFoley has already transcended her influences to develop an absolutely riveting voice of her own.â€?
Where The Action Is, Foley's seventh album, picks up right where her last album left off. It is filled with roots music of all sorts, but it shows most definitely that Foley is down with the blues. "The thing that strikes me about this record," she says, "is that I think it is very direct. It's very much an in your face kind of record." Sue wrote/co-wrote 9 of the 12 songs on "Where The Action Is".
Opening with the dirty guitar rave up "Where The Action Is," remaking the Rolling Stones' "Stupid Girl" in her own style. Whether itâ€™s laying down a funky acoustic groove on "Let It Go" or travelling down to the Delta on "Down The Big Road Blues", Foley covers an amazing amount of musical ground. Yet, Where The Action Is bears the imprint of an artist at the top of her powers, able to convey a variety of feelings with her stunning guitar technique and potent vocals.
As she did on Love Comin' Down, Foley works with noted fellow Canadian roots/blues artist and producer Colin Linden (The Band, Bruce Cockburn, Lucinda Williams, Keb' Mo') as producer on Where The Action Is. This time the Grammy nominated, Juno & Maple Blues Award winning songwriter/musician/producer decided to record with Foley in Nashville, where she says, "Colin knew the right musicians to call on depending on the song. The fact is we were more comfortable with each other this time around. We know each other better and we were able to take things one step further."
Some of the musicians Linden called upon include keyboardist Richard Bell (The Band, Janis Joplin, Bruce Cockburn) bassist Dave Roe (Johnny Cash), Ken Coomer (ex-Wilco) on drums and Brad Jones (Marshall Crenshaw, Steve Earle, Steve Forbert) on bass. With the assistance of such well-rounded players, Foley has created a record that honest, authentic and bound to move you.
Foley came to most people's attention after she moved from her hometown of Ottawa to Austin, Texas in the early 1990's. It was there that blues guru Clifford Antone took her under his wing. She went on to release four albums for the Antone's label, each one more self-assured and musically advanced than the one that had preceded it. In 1997, she moved back to Ottawa, when she became pregnant, to be with her family. Motherhood and the change of scenery have obviously served her well as she is currently making the best music of her career.
Her songwriting has matured to the point that she has been favorably compared to Lucinda Williams (who joined Sue for a duet on her last album). Sue wrote or co-wrote 9 of the 12 songs on Where The Action Is. Her songs possess moments where her music possesses the same urgency, raucousness and beauty as Williams' does, especially on tunes like country rock inflected "Get Yourself Together" and the swamp dirge "Two Bluebirds." Of the latter, Foley relates, "That one is dedicated to a close friend of mine. It was recorded in one take and basically came together in the studio. It started out with a telephone conversation and ended up as a song."
Foley's dedication to the blues is revealed in the traditional, acoustic "Down The Big Road Blues" which she attributes to Matty Delaney, a pioneer Mississippi blues woman. Her love of the Rolling Stones comes through on her ragged but right take of "Stupid Girl." "I've always liked songs that change in meaning with the gender of the person singing them," she explains. "I like the play on words and the play on meaning. I did something similar on Love Comin' Down with Willie Dixon's "The Same Thing. Stupid Girl just rocks and it's fun".
Those two qualities best sum up what she's doing on this record as well. "I really like the rawness of it," Foley declares. "That's really where I'm at musically these days." To be sure, Where The Action Is, is a record that's playful, rocks like a mutha and shows an artist at full command of her powers.
Bio courtesy of KOCH Entertainment Inc.
Interview by Mike Aylward
Mike: How would you define your sound to a newcomer to your music?
Sue: GUTBUCKET....LOWDOWN...BLUES...ROCK N ROLL....OLD MEETS NEW....SUE FOLEY.....
Mike: What types of music and which musicians/groups influenced you growing up?
Sue: THE ROLLING STONES....I AM A CHILD OF THE SEVENTIES, SO THE ROCK AND HARD ROCK OF THAT ERA...LED ZEP, DEEP PURPLE...ALL THE STUFF MY BROTHERS PLAYED...I WAS ALSO RAISED ON TRADITIONAL CELTIC MUSIC THROUGH MY DAD.........THEN AT FIFTEEN I GOT INTO BLUES...FIRST CHESS RECORDS...MUDDY WATERS, HOWLIN WOLF, THEN MEMPHIS MINNIE.....THIRTIES BLUES....COUNTRY BLUES...ALSO, I LOVED PUNK
Mike: Did you have any female blues musicians whom you looked upon as role models?
Sue: ALWAYS MEMPHIS MINNIE...AND BESSIE SMITH.
Mike: How did growing up in Ottawa influence your music?
Sue: I WOULD HAVE BEEN A MUSICIAN NO MATTER WHERE I WAS RAISED SO I FIND THAT DIFFICULT TO ANSWER.....I THINK IT HAD MORE TO DO WITH THE ENVIRONMENT AT HOME RATHER THAN THE CITY...AND WE ALL PLAYED MUSIC AROUND THE HOUSE.
Mike: Which do you prefer, writing/recording or live performance?
Sue: LIVE PERFORMANCE , NO QUESTION
Mike: Have you ever thought of branching out into other musical formats?
Sue: SOMETIMES, BUT EVERYTHING I DO IS MIXED WITH BLUES. I STUDY FLAMENCO GUITAR AND MIX IT WITH BLUES .....I CANT SEE ME GOING INTO ANYTHING TOO LEFT OF CENTRE LIKE TECHNO OR ANYTHING..I AM A TRADIONALIST AT HEART. REAL INSTRUMENTS...REAL PLAYERS
Mike: Whose music are you listening to right now?
Sue: PAUL WESTERBERGS GRANPABOY CD....RICHARD JOHNSTON'S FOOTHILL STOMP, MC5 BACK IN THE USA,....VAN MORRISON'S BACK ON TOP ( GREAT FALL RECORD),
Mike: What challenges have you faced as a woman in the Blues field? Has it been an advantage or disadvantage being a woman in a predominantly male genre?
Sue: I CANNOT SAY IF IT'S BEEN AN ADVANTAGE OR A DISADVANTAGE...I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN FEMALE AND I DONT THINK ITS THAT MUCH MORE DIFFICULT FOR US WOMEN IN THIS BUSINESS...ITS A TOUGH BIZNESS ALL AROUND....ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!!
Mike: How did living in Austin Texas affect your music?
Sue: IT HELPED MY GUITAR PLAYING AND MY ALL AROUND STYLE..I HAVE BEEN HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY TEXAS BLUES AND WHEN I LIVED DOWN THERE I WAS TURNED ON BY ALL THE SOUNDS OF THE REGION...AND THERE ARE SO MANY...ONE OF MY FAVORITE STYLES IS GULF COAST SWAMP POP...I WOULD NEVER HAD KNOWN ABOUT THAT HAD I NOT LIVED DOWN THERE
Mike: How would you describe "Where the Action Is"?
Mike: What is a musical goal that you would still like to achieve?
Sue: WELL...IT'S PROBABLY TOO LATE TO TRY TO SLEEP WITH KEITH RICHARDS...SO ......I DUNNO.
Mike: What do you think are the embodiments of good and evil in the music business, and in the world today?
Sue: HMMM.....I WOULD NEED TO SIT WITH YOU FOR A FEW HOURS OVER SEVERAL BEERS TO ANSWER THAT ACCURATELY......GOOD AND EVIL ARE TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN.....I TRY TO NOT WORRY TOO MUCH ABOUT IT
Mike: A hundred years from now, how would you like Sue Foley to be remembered?
Sue: WELL....GEEZ...I HAVE NEVER THOUGHT IN A HUNDRED YEARS ANYONE WOULD CARE ......I CANNOT ANSWER THIS.