Fiona Boyes -- 'Professin' the Blues' on Reference Recordings

Australian singer/songwriter/guitarist Fiona Boyes is an earthy force of nature. Her gravelly vocal timbre is straight out of the red dirt of the Outback. No swishy Blues affectation, here. You'll be getting as honest a voice as you've heard in a long time. 'So bloody refreshing', as the Aussies might say. 

From the wonderful liner notes, Boyes seems to have a made a BFF in Prof. Keith Johnson, the engineering alchemist of Reference Recordings. He's the reason why each Reference release with his imprimatur is awaited eagerly. His magic appears on this album from the very beginning. 

Each song is beautifully annotated on the CD cover -- specific guitars, percussion instruments, drums, bass, and spirit behind the songs. The precision is welcome.

This CD came as a surprise, sent to me by the producer. It seems to be a project that each Reference stakeholder got behind. It's a gem, musically and technically. 

The majority of the songs are written by Boyes. She's influenced by Delta Blues with a little Caribbean thrown in. For the most part, the songs are paired down to the nub. Voice with guitar, with sundry percussion -- once in a while, drums and bass make an appearance. Of course, this instrumentation appears on many Blues albums, but Boyes has a way of drawing in the listener into her stories. It's very intimate, very personal. Like Bille Holiday and Bessie Smith, Boyes takes you on her journey. 

The songs are influenced by the ex husband, the new husband (an Anglican priest), blended families, gigging, loss, mortality, etc. But don't presume it's a downer. It's not. The aforementioned honesty in her voice keeps things straight between her and her listener. You'll enjoy the ride. 

Now, to the recording. Equally brilliant and honest. The instrumentation is so unique  -- cardboard box as a drum, tambourines, children's bongos, shakers, and other unique percussive instruments -- Johnson has a field day. The recording captures in flawless detail the myriad of colours of all the instruments. You won't be getting an orchestral spectacular. Look elsewhere. But if you want to test your system on micro dynamics, a voice dead centre in all its unaffected glory, and subtlety in accompaniment, then this CD is for you. It's not only a technical tour de force, it's one of the most musical albums it has been my pleasure to review this year. Very highly recommended.