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Piano, singing combine for winning album

Two-Fisted Mama!
Two-Fisted Mama!
By Katie Webster

Alligator Records: 1989

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This review first appeared in the May/June 1990 issue of Living Blues magazine.

Katie Webster is well known for her exuberant gospel-style grand of singing, whether it be blues, R&B or funk. Her barrelhouse piano playing, too, has brought her deserved notice.

Her second Alligator album, "Two-Fisted Mama!", is a polished package full of her energetic boogie brand of blues, and exceeds the standard's of 1988's "Swamp Boogie Queen."

On this album, she is backed by a young trio consisting of guitarist Vasti Jackson, bassist Gus Thornton, and drummer Gerald Warren. The band is tight, and stays in the background, leaving the spotlight to Webster.

"Two Fisted Mama!" starts off strongly with the title track, a rollicking song anchored by Webster's barrelhouse piano and slightly husky vocals. Alternating tempos from one song to the next is important in making an album listenable, and Webster the producer handles Webster the performer well in this respect. After the full-bore energy of the opening track, we get the '70s funk-style "Stood Up Again," with the Memphis Horns (Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love) punctuating every lyrical statement much like the Ohio Players. Another treat on this song is hearing Webster on organ, although she never really stretches out for a solo.

"Red Negligee," a story of a failed seduction, lasts a little too long (nine and a half minutes), but an ode to her grandchildren, "C.Q. Boogie," picks up the pace. Webster's breakneck-speed piano here is astonishing. A secular gospel piece, "Never Let Me Go," rounds out the first side in high style.

Side two is noteworthy for a vocal suet with Jackson and a cover of a song by British rock group Dire Straits. "So Far Away," written by Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler, is treated as a gospel piece, in that Webster leads the song with simple chord riffs on piano. It's no secret that Knopfler is one of the better contemporary composers, and is highly influenced by traditional country-western artists, and this song fits Webster well.

The duet, "Love Deluxe," is an uptempo boogie, with Webster and Jackson again backed by the Memphis Horns. The effect of two voices is lessened, however, by the fact that Jackson's tone and pitch are no near Webster's.

The rest of the album contains a contemporary funk tune by Jackson ("Money Honey or Honey Hush"), a passionate lament ("I'm Still Leaving You"), an uptempo boogie ("The Katie Lee"), and a slow blues ("Pussycat Moan").

"Two-Fisted Mama!" is an energetic, well-paced album that bears repeated listenings (and dancings) well.