Monday, May 6, 2013

Ana Popovic Can Stand The Heat

Ana Popovic
There aren't too many blues women who come tougher than Ana Popović. The Belgrade born singer who was introduced to the world of blues by her father and started playing guitar at 15 continues to have an amazing run with a solo career that keeps getting better with age.

Popović, now 36, has created an immediately urgent and dynamic blues album with plenty of variation, adding in tracks that rip across rock, funk and soul too. Joining her on this odyssey album, Can You Stand The Heat, is Harold Smith (guitar), John Williams (bass), Frank Ray Jr. (organ), and Tony Coleman (drums).

What's more about this old-school funk album that screams for more sweaty and smoky venues and juke joints, is the healthy dose of Albert King and Albert Collins influences that the band laid down. The authenticity of it can partly be credited to her longtime B.B. King drummer. Coleman co-produced the album with Pete Mathews in Memphis.

“It’s not the prettiest place, but it’s got soul. That’s for sure,” Popovic told Fender magazine. “People play here like you never hear people play anymore." 

Except when she plays, maybe. Included within the 14-track album are interesting and unexpected bends, blends and covers. One of my favorites is this crazy soul-funk take on Rain Fell Down that some people won't immediately recognize as Popović let alone The Rolling Stones.

Much more accessible are tunes like Can't You See What You're Doing To Me, which is a sultry and sexed up revisit of Albert King's blues classic. When Popović's  vocals don't wake up every cell in your body, the guitar licks will. They alone make the case that all great rock has its roots in blues.

Popović follows up Can't You See What You're Doing To Me with Mo' Better Love. The track isn't my favorite, but does demonstrate that she wanted to create a much more diverse album with plenty of nods to the music she discovered in Memphis. The better version of this song, by the way, is the remix with Grammy winner Tommy Sims. It's hands down smoother and much more soulful.

Sims isn't the only one to make a guest appearance on the album. Lucky Peterson steps in on Hot Southern Night, lending his six string, organ and vocals to create an unforgettable duet. The exchange reminds me of the swank and stutter everyone hopes to find in a jazz or blues club.

There is one more thing to remember about Popović. As good as anything she might throw down in the studio can be, there isn't anything like the real thing. If you have a chance to catch her live, a whole new way of thinking about music will open up to you.

Can You Stand The Heat Burns Up 6.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

There is no question that Popović is one of the best female guitar players in the world, even if she is the first to say that she struggled with it from the start. Right on. As much as Popović has talent, she is also one of the most persistent and ambitious artists out there. We can only hope her drive doesn't take her too far away from the blues. While the diversity is fine, her strength is where rock started.

You can listen to Can You Stand The Heat by Ana Popović on Amazon. You can also download the album on iTunes. She currently has several shows, sets and tour dates lined up in 2013. Watch for her at numerous blues and jazz festivals too.
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