True North 2020
From Ontario to Tennessee, the force-of-nature singer tightens her grip on the world’s temper.
For all her versatility as a vocalist, Crystal Shawanda is most comfortable with what she sublimely defined on 2014’s “The Whole World’s Got The Blues” – only to loose reins further down the line and indulge in exploring other possibilities, such as covering soul classics on “Voodoo Woman” in 2017. Fortunately, its follow up finds Shawanda on home turf, in stylistic terms, and sees her elevating passion to celestial heights while anchoring non-purists, who like Crystal’s glitter rather than rawness, to luxurious tunes. The result might not be sensational, but it’s sensual through and through.
With the polished twang of the record’s title track bringing all the strands of the singer’s creative DNA together – when funk and country are poured into this hot brew – and placing it in Nashville where Shawanda resides, she has a lot going on here, in a mere 40 minutes, yet Crystal remains faithful to her main genre… and faithful to her Canadian roots, too. That’s why the artist signs off by delivering a harp ‘n’ handclaps-abetted cover of “New Orleans Is Sinking” where her often honeyed vocals shape a new level of drama, although the slow-burn despair of “Evil Memory” is just as palpable, and the fire behind the perky “Hey Love” is just as blinding.
There’s commercial shimmer in the organ-oiled “Move Me” but Shawanda’s sincerity, and her husband Dewayne Strobel’s six strings, lace it with so much gusto that even the spiritual harmonies of “When It Comes To Love” – an affectionate travelogue – pale in comparison. Anyway, only a few pieces can come close to the sassy “Blame It On the Sugar” whose infectious groove and sweet roar tap into Crystal’s very core, before the orchestral licks of “I Can’t Take It” crystallize her method. There’s still space for some growth, yet with “Church House Blues” she reached a sacred place.