Ilana’s third CD, “Subway Stories” (Vizztone) is her homage to 10 years busking in Boston’s Subway. The record is dedicated to the Killer Blues Headstone Project, which provides headstones for Blues musicians lying in unmarked graves, a cause where Ilana funnels much of her busking dollars and coins. “Subway Stories” debuted on the Living Blues Charts and was critically very well-received. From her originals such as “Subway Blues” to the traditional heart-wrenching “Motherless Child,” her soulful blues fiddling and vocals are beautifully showcased. Her signature scat singing – in sync with her fiddle – are also in the mix of this deep, Blues record. ilana is solo on the final cut – a medley that starts with a searing Appalachian fiddle tune and wraps up with her acapella singing of the spiritual “This Little Light of Mine” where ilana personalizes the lyrics to reflect her subway busking experience. This record takes ilana’s new sound to new heights and is getting ilana invitations to reach new audiences at festivals who are excited to have her add to the blues arena. The record is produced by former Canned Heat guitarist Barry Levenson who arranges the songs and plays alongside ilana. The two co-wrote a number of songs on this record. Special guests Sugar Ray Norcia and Anthony Geraci on selected songs are an extra treat for this very interesting record that is ilana’s first on the Vizztone label. There are reasons it made top pick lists for 2017.
The Rock Doctor
This is the 3rd CD for this unusual Boston artist. She’s a fiddler, a singer, a novelist and visual artist, but far from a dilettante that merely chooses to dabble in music. Subway Stories is a truly impressive slice of blues. No less than guitarist Ronnie Earl (one of my favourite bluesmen) calls her “brilliant and soulful”, and that’s just what she is.
Ilana’s fiddling stems from the old-time Appalachian tradition and that makes her blues feel even deeper. Subway Stories’ album cover claims she plays ‘blues & roots fiddle’, and she wields the instrument the way most of our heroes play a Stratocaster. She is joined here by producer/ guitarist Barry Levinson (Canned Heat) plus Hank Van Sickle on bass, Anthony Geraci on piano, and harmonica ace Sugar Ray Norcia. As a singer her voice is serviceable but ordinary, but oddly that in no way takes away from the musical excellence with which these cool tracks are executed.
Blues vibe aside, Subway Stories is one of the most soulful discs you’ll ever hear. According to her website Ilana is “a versatile, improvisational musician, as comfortable performing solo in large theatres as she is being featured in 14 piece rock bands or on Boston’s subway platforms, where you can find her most Fridays.” On the back of this album she dedicates Subway Stories to the Killer Blues Headstone Project, which provides headstones for blues musicians lying in unmarked graves- go to www.killerblues.net if you’d like to learn more.
Ilana Katz Katzhas delivers a beautifully soulful and well played set of songs here, most written by Katz and/or Levinson, along with a sweet remake of the traditional Motherless Child and John Brown’s Dream. This disc has been sitting on my desk for a bit and, now having heard it, I only wish I’d gotten to it sooner. Subway Stories is an inspiring disc that you’ll not soon forget.
KEY CUTS: Subway Blues, Tribute To Slim Harpo, Don’t Forget, Motherless Child
Friday Blues Fix…
Ilana Katz Katz has been playing blues violin on the busy platforms of the Boston subway system since 2008. A few years ago, she met guitarist Ronnie Earl, who invited her to sit in with him and eventually took her under his wing, even accompanying her on her 2014 debut recording and including her as a guest on many of his shows around Boston and New York. She’s continued to develop her performing skills, as well as her songwriting, recently releasing her third album, Subway Stories, on the VizzTone label.
….Subway Stories is Ilana Katz Katz’s best work so far. Her fiddle playing is superb and she works very well in concert with Levenson’s always-compelling guitar work. Her vocals are also effective, too, giving some of the songs a haunting, otherworldly quality with her delivery. If you happen to be in Boston traveling via subway, be sure and keep on the lookout for this dynamite little lady.