Coming back into the fray to frame her freedom, American singer struts around rhythm-and-blues in style.
When this Michigan chanteuse first tried to storm the stages in the ’90s, her name wasn’t associated with communication software, but if there are any doubts she could pull people close together, Zoom’s debut album, laid down in the company of her Canadian chap, producer Shawn Kellerman, should dispel such uncertainty – or, rather, rip it to pieces. Feisty and possessed of a pair of pipes that go from menacing roar to seductive purr in a split second, the lady never fails to knock the listeners off their feet – only there’s much more to her record.
The artist’s updated approach may seem a tad tentative, if charmingly cheeky, on opener “Are You Ready” which projects catchy funk onto the cut’s refrain and has the same wigout amplified on the platter’s brass-smeared title track, yet it doesn’t take long for the jive to turn muscular and for Zoom to get authoritative on “Big Boss Woman” and display the gutsy swagger that’s given the gusto Ms. Thornton would have approved of. Mama’s contemporary acolyte is inhabiting a harmonica-harnessed, Willie Dixon-like riff of “Weed (Amazing Nepenthe)” where Kellerman’s six strings sting as a swarm of bees, and evokes a sexy Serge Gainsbourg-esque vibe in the velveteen, smoldering ballad “Temptation” with equal ease, but even most impressively she walks a rhythm-and-blues line.
There’s no coincidence, then, in the defiant, piano-rippled “Still Got The Rhythm” preceded by “Born To Sing The Blues” in which Zoom taps into the Delta spirit. There’s also no surprise in the sharp “My Baby Don’t Love Me” digging into the classic tradition to follow the light “Damn Well” before the heavy, wah-wah-wielding “Love Bone” picks up at the spot whence Hendrix’s reading of “Wild Thing” left off. As for the singer’s ability to bring folks together, the record’s anthemic finale “Tired Of The Hate” finds her do just that – proudly, with panache, pushing black pride into focus and striving for personal freedom.
So while “Chocolate Cake” can feel sweet, it’s in fact a bold statement. It’s that great.