3 1/2 out of 5 stars
The titular “Pinky” is the name Austin by way of Ottawa, Canada’s veteran blues woman Sue Foley bestowed to her iconic pink paisley Fender Telecaster. It’s an instrument that has accompanied her for decades in the roots trenches. And like that guitar, Foley has persevered through good times and bad, arriving in 2021 slightly scarred (who wouldn’t be?) but triumphant.
Her eleventh studio set might as well be named Pinky’s Texas Blues since that state’s music is what Foley celebrates in these dozen tracks. From the opening slow instrumental title tune to covers from relatively obscure Texas artists like Lavelle White, Frankie Lee Sims, Angela Strehli, and Lillie Mae Donley, Foley captures the rugged Lone Star sound in a stripped-down, mostly live in the studio recording. She keeps the vibe mean and low down with just supporting drums from Double Trouble and Kenny Wayne Shepherd sticksman, Chris “Whipper” Layton, and bassist Jon Penner, who played on her earliest albums, including Young Girl Blues, her 1992 debut.
Most of these musicians worked on Mike Flanigin’s recent West Texas Blues release so Foley kept the same vibe, laying down tracks in three days without much rehearsal and few if any overdubs. Flanigin plays occasional organ and produced, which keeps that live feel crackling throughout. Foley gets swampy on a rugged version of Big Walter Horton’s “Southern Woman” (which she switches it to “Southern Men”), looks back to the ‘60s for a rollicking take on White’s seldom heard corker “Stop These Teardrops,” and changes the vibe by bringing in Texas swing on Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown’s instrumental “Okie Dokie Stomp.” She also contributes a few originals, in particular, the Elmore James thump of “Hurricane Girl” and the driving “Dallas Man,” the latter a tribute to the great guitarists that hail from around that city. It was those musicians who caught Foley’s ear when she was fifteen years old and ultimately sent her searching for that sound by relocating thousands of miles away to Texas.
Most of the selections are upbeat but when Foley shifts into the bittersweet ballad “Think It Over,” her supple, emotional voice—arguably her most enticing asset—is spotlighted. Still, as the disc’s title implies, this is predominantly a guitar showcase. Foley doesn’t slash the frets, rather keeping her six-string solos cool and classy by never overplaying for the sake of it.
This results in a fine, frisky 45 minutes of organic blues that feels as natural, rootsy, and unpretentious as the conditions under which it was recorded. You can practically see the smiles on the players, always an indicator of music made without commercial considerations that come from the hearts of the participants.
Join Foley and her best friend “Pinky” to partake in the party.
Photo by Danny Clinch