God, can this woman sing! It’s as if a vocalist from the great post-war blues and jazz combos had been transported to the end of the century. —Blues Access Magazine
The incomparable Kim Nalley slaps blues into submission with her newest album, Blues People — jam-packed with 14 covers and originals. This is blues the way it was meant to be sung, down to the marrow.
Released on October 16, 2015, Nalley’s Blues People could very well resuscitate the blues out from the doldrums. She leads the revival with her talented musical staff: Tammy Hall on piano and organ, Greg Skaff (guitar), Kent Bryson (drums), Michael Zisman (bass), and Bryan Dyer (background vocals).
There are a lot of amazing covers on this album which the San Francisco-based Nalley blueses up to her emotionally truthful, gritty style. Most astonishing has to be “Movin’ On Up,” the Don Great theme to the 1970s hit TV sitcom, The Jeffersons. She takes a little skip, jump, and a hop blues from that original number and really cuts pieces of her soul out all over it.
“Amazing Grace” is in another class entirely, as Nalley raises up this often-covered gospel anthem to glory. Considering many pretenders to the throne, clasping their pearls and pretending to affect holy inspiration for instant church cred, what Nalley does with all her heart and soul is nothing short of revelatory. Her voice is utter perfection in its perfectly imperfect humanity — cast from the pits of hell as a sinner, reaching out in desperation and hope, not from the pulpit already washed clean by the blood of the lamb.
Nalley isn’t afraid to be as down to earth human as she can be, the image of Mary Magdalene for a world too polished to bow down.
She wrote two amazingly compact blues numbers, “Big Hooded Black Man,” in honor of Trayvon Martin, and “Ferguson Blues,” for Michael Brown — for today’s generation. Her blues in social commentary is full of integrity and vocal power, the origin of this much maligned, diluted genre, the second-rate cousin to jazz.
Kim Nalley has appeared in jazz and blues festivals here and there. She’s even won a few awards in the Bay Area for her amazing grace of a voice alone. But none of that’s enough to describe her transformative power.
She deserves her own star as quite possibly the next Mahalia Jackson. Blues People just might do it for her.