Often underrated or unappreciated, many female innovators of blues music are equipped with a staggering amount of raw talent, undeniable moxie and impressionable guitar skills. These women reference the pioneers who excelled despite time periods, that were oozing with sensuality while maintaining the blues ethos and never allowing the music to shed its cultural components behind its history. Blues ladies have had to maneuver through their paths to effectuate greatness. Either by shredding or strumming their guitars, they are opening the doors for those women who hoped to follow in their wake. It is safe to say that without the contribution by audacious women, the genre of ladies’ blues guitarist would not be remembered for what it is today.
Blues lady, Ms. Joanna Connor, doesn’t just sing… she wails! Her songs are about redemption and absolution… this is what attracted me to her… If being bad is good, then you can grasp the ferocity of Ms. Connor. Do not compare her vocal tenacity to Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters nor even Janis Joplin…
Her unusual phrasing alters the emphasis behind her lyrics and vocal dramatics. By using shouts, groans and moans, you are taken back to the roots of the great blues artists from the delta blues of Robert Johnson to the highlighted era of Chicago from the 60’s. Let the truth be told, Connor is a trailblazer amongst blues guitarists alike and could very well become a game changer for women within the genre. She has the guts and fervor to sing the stories of rife, regret and desperation while waking up the dead with deep emotion and roistering authenticity. Connor has grown into a powerhouse vocalist. After releasing 14 albums she is still stylistically contemporary and reaches into her soul to harvest emotion. To me, her vocals are with replete and rollicking authenticity.
With the release of her new album, “4801 South Indiana Ave,” produced by blues guitar titan Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith, their goal was to make a “pure” blues album. They eschewed from the use of guitar pedals and sound altering gizmos… Instead Bonamassa utilized his collection of vintage tube amps to create a “warmer” sound. Admittedly, he was a tyrant in the studio but he felt that if he could capture Connor’s fire, he would make a milestone “punk” blues album, unlike any other and make her into a superstar! She went down to Nashville, with only her favorite guitar in hand . From a previous interview she comment how the album title was derived…. Says Joanna, “We chose the album title 4801 South Indiana Avenue because it was the actual street address of the hallowed funky blues sanctuary “Theresa’s Lounge.” We want the listener to open that door, walk in and feel at their core some of the magic that a place like that brought night after night. It was an honor to bring this to you the listeners”. When I go through the album I was amazed how great it is.. Its just brilliant… it romps like nobody’s business..
Boy!!! We’re we lucky… We got Ms. Connor to answer questions about her history and the making of her new album..”4801 South Indiana Avenue,” which is going to be released later this month (Feb/21)..
Rock Bands of L.A.com:I have always thought the great blues guitarists were possessed by a spirit… The same spirit that caused Robert Johnson to sell his soul to the devil in turn for greatness. Joe Bonamassa mentioned that you were possessed …Do you feel that it is a curse? I am curious about what fuels the emotion that makes an artist reach out for inner peace or turmoil through their music.
Joanna Connor: Wow… That is some question! I think it’s the spirit of oppression, desperation, combined with an artistic nature and a certain amount of rebelliousness. To pursue being a musician as a livelihood, you have to be a maverick. And the great blues people of the past were African American. They not only faced racism and often poverty daily but carried the spirits of their ancestors. I’m Irish and Jewish. Two extremely oppressed peoples, both faced genocide at some point. Both cultures were musical. So the spirit of my ancestors live in me. Also , I had a kind of rough upbringing. It was filled with art but also alcoholism , crime, marginal income, divorce. So I may share some of the same history to a degree as the musicians of the past. Also, I’m a woman , and I play with a chip on my shoulder Also, I am not a cutie pie female . That has its own set of issues. A musicians life is not an easy road usually, not a comfy life either. But the nature of many musicians is extremely passionate and at times excessive, for good and bad. We need to play our music because it’s part of our inner being. We had the courage or tenacity to embrace it. This can be a blessing and a curse .
Rock Band Of L.A.: What was it like growing up? What music did your family raise you on? Did you take music lessons? When did you decide to be a blues guitarist? Who would you like to play with live?
Joanna Connor: My mom loved music. She had been a piano player but her parents wanted her to pursue something practical. She was a rebel too. She hung around the Jazz guys in New York in the 50s. She bright great music to our house- blues, jazz, reggae, rock , soul , Afro pop. I did take guitar lessons as a kid. I also studied sax through school and played in school bands and sang in choruses. I was in the All City Jazz Band in High School too. I played tenor sax. I decided to be a blues player pretty early on, like 17. But I also knew I would play other styles as well, or at least incorporate them in my blues. I have been fortunate to play with many of my idols. I would love to play with Eric Gales at some point.
Rock Bands of L.A.com:Joe mentioned in an interview that you were a staple amongst the blues community… I find that to be a very wholesome comment… it’s almost too “cordial.” Great blues guitarists aren’t “cordial” – Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Duane Allman, Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck… nope, they weren’t cordial. Joanna Connor is not cordial….
Joanna Connor: My dear you are dangerous! Lol! I appreciate that. To make it in Chicago, particularly if you’re white, you better bring some serious fire and soul. Abs you better be kinda’ tough, especially when I first came there in the mid-80s.
Rock Bands of L.A.com: I have never asked this question… I am curious. Does the locality have an effect of their style? Example… Chicago vs. Memphis vs. St. Louis vs. Austin vs. New Orleans.
Joanna Connor: I think it’s what you choose to embrace also. I know of musicians here that seem like none of the Chicago sound rubbed off! But any musician that really works here has come up through the school here, and the Chicago sound is plainly evident.
I want to thank Ms. Connor and Peter Noble for making this all possible.. Connor’s album is unbelievable…