Press and Reviews
Read Mare's Article in the Burlington Standard Press (Dec. 2004)
Read the article by Genevieve Williams, Earth Tones: Pushing the Musical Boundaries at Solstice, which gives a thoughtful take on Mare's music along with the works of Russian Singer Ella Leja, Scotland's Alasdair Roberts , and the Seattle band Fear Of Dolls.
Reviews of Way Beyond the Blue
Blues Blast Magazine - April 2012
** Chosen as one of the PICKS OF THE WEEK - April 6, 2012 **
Though Mare Edstrom and Kenn Fox aren't re-inventing the wheel on the CD release Way Beyond The Blue, kudos has to be given for the arrangements and the approach they take on tunes written by the likes of Snooky Pryor, Fred McDowell and other masters who specialized in the acoustic genre of its presentation. While Edstrom and Fox are not a household name to blues aficionados doesn't mean they can't offer a perspective that's unique and refreshing.
Using several background vocalists not only fleshes out the sound but breathes ethereal and a spooky atmosphere to the tracks which makes for an enticing appeal to listeners who wish to loose themselves in the sound.
Mare Edstrom's vocals aren't on the same ground as Susan Tedeschi's but it doesn't matter. Her deep and throaty singing is the perfect fit for a selection of tunes that would be right at home for a church service.
Not too often do you find the Mississippi Fred McDowell tune "Woke Up This Morning With My Mind on Jesus" as a leading track off a CD. But it's the perfect choice and certainly serves as a highlight for Kenn Fox's slashing slide guitar. The tolling of a church bell leads into the old traditional "Do Lord" that starts off as a ghostly number abetted by Fox's acoustic which morphs into an ending with what seems as backwards slide guitar. Who says you can't find funeral parlor psychedelia in the blues?
Having Fox handling the production chores and arrangements of the songs is a good choice. The man has a good sense of creating an ambience that makes obscure blues numbers stand out in their own way. Drummer Tim Rush and bassist Dave Finley do their jobs well as a rhythm section whose steadfast support is sturdy enough when needed to give a rocky edge.
Blind Willie McTell wrote "Statesboro Blues" but believe it or not he had a feel for church soul as shown in the cover "I Got To Cross The River of Jordan" with Edstrom's vocal delivery taking it all home.
But it is on the Blind Willie Johnson track "Rain Don't Fall On Me" that Edstrom really hits the mournful notes with Fox guitar work proving strong counterpoint.
You can't just cover only one Fred McDowell song. While the world has been subjected to repeated listenings of "You Gotta Move" doesn't mean you won't appreciate this take. With the background vocalists creating a choir effect and the familiar bass drum stomp, the tune personifies that Baptist church vibe we've become accustomed too before Fox' dobro playing steers the song into a rockier territory with drummer Rush emerging to the forefront to jump-start the rhythm for a little pick me up.
There's no escaping the fact that church music plays a role in instrumental in the overall concept of the songs. But that doesn't mean the music can't swing with a groove and it does just that in Reverend Pearly Brown's "You're Gonna Need That Pure Religion" with Fox's slide work bearing the imprints of North Mississippi All-Stars Luther Dickinson. It's a shuffle but a damn good one upbeat enough to shake the pews and make for a fun time jubilee.
The songs may not sound like they were christened at the crossroads. It seems it was done with the best intentions of not so much of directing a listener on a path to find true religion, but in seeking an alternative rather than making the material too authentic or turning it into over-driven blues rock . It's a fine line to walk and Mare Edstrom and Kenn Fox do it well without losing their balance.
- Reviewer Gary Weeks is a contributing writer. He resides in Marietta, GA.
[read this review on Bluesblast.com]
From the opening track, it was obvious this will be a special CD. The way it mixes blues with a lot of gospel is a treat for every roots music enthusiast. With songs both uplifting and dark-sounding "Way Beyond The Blue" shows two faces of gospel music and both them are equally interesting. With beautiful arrangements and your sweet voice doing the singing this is one strong set, Congratulations Mare. Again, thank you so much for keeping me and my listeners in mind with your new music. I really appreciate that!
- Przemek Draheim, Poland
Radio Canal Bleu, France
Faithful to your style, full of energy...you add a marvellous fervor to your music. That's great, I love [it].
- Serge WARIN, Radio Canal Bleu, France
One of my favorite blues signer is certainly incredible Mare Edstrom. Few years ago, when I have gotten her album Mare's Blues, it blew my mind and I needed to have as many as possible of her previous albums. And then, I got a message through the internet that her newest album is in circulation. It is called Way Beyond The Blue, and right away I directed an e-mail to the publishing house Spiritone Records. For few days, there was no answer, and then Mare, herself, sends me a message that the album is on the way. There was no end to my happiness. Again, a new meeting with her distinctive vocals and really special feeling for the usually quite cramped presentational form. It has been few days and in my mail box has just appeared the album Way Beyond The Blue, from absolutely fabulous Mare Edstrom and Kenn Fox. And now, esteemed and respected visitors of BLUES CORNER from music portal SoundGuardian.com, read how I experienced this album.
Personally, I'm not longer too young, but am I old, that is now a matter of consideration. I am not a teenager anymore, I don't fall so easily for things, I love to listen, and If I were not this old, maybe, I would scream.."gosh, people what is this??"
Again, I wonder how is it possible that it has passed so much time, and that I haven't known about this brilliant blues artist. It just doesn't make sense, how the work and activities of Mare Edstrom, for so long, just passed by me. And then, somewhere in early 2000, on some compilations, I have come to a few songs of this great singer. That feeling that I have to have something hers in my collection pressed me like 'once in my youth, when I was totally crazy from anticipation. Like in 2009 when I have for the first time stepped in contact with Mare Edstrom, today I was as honored that everything went so smoothly. And now, we, all together, will be able to enjoy her music, her voice, and above all, her excellent album Way Beyond The Blue.
Here, we are talking about very unique and fascinating blend of gospel and blues, which Mare carries with her strong and narcotic vocal, and of course, followed by brilliant accompaniment of back vocals: Annie Denison, Kim Albrecht, Mark Albrecht, Nora Collins, Andrew Edstrom, Jennifer Passet and Richard McKay. Of course, there is a distinctive guitarist Kenn Fox, and there is great, paced rhythm section of Dave Finley - bass and Tim Rush on drums. Already, in the very first song; "Woke Up This Morning With My Mind on Jesus" (Mississippi Fred McDowell), we have the opportunity to hear how David Erato - plays baritone sax. You are not so sure that it 'plays' ? Oh please, do not be childish, just listen to "Judgement Day" (Snooky Pryor) and everything will be clear. How and when that man is rocking, tingling is passing through your whole body and you are feeling and getting goosebumps.
"Death Do not Have No Mercy" (Rev. Gary Davis), with its sincere darkness, forces you deeply to reflect on the transience of life and the inevitable departure from this world. Yes, maybe this words are too tough for somebody, but things are like that, because death has no mercy, no mercy for anyone. And unfortunately, this is the only justice, at least for now, who knows what will happen later? Personally, I don't have any problems with the notion of the transience of life. Not that I want it to happen any time soon, but if it is determined...what can I do. But enough about that, let's go on...Her musical expression, Mare has well established on the basis of hers undeniable blues divas and heroins Memphis Minnie and Little Esther. And besides that, performing songs by legendary blues masters using the gospel form, songs have a very striking effect on the listener. "You Gotta Move" (Mississippi Fred McDowell) throws you on your knees with its structure, inside you, break everything that you thought was solid and steady! I haven't heard or felt something like that, ever!!! This 7 minutes and 2 seconds I have listened to 38 times in a row, and couldn't stop. What happens to musicians to make music like this that will break listeners with strength, sensitivity and effectivity? In fact I knew, I imagined, that this album will break me into simple factors and that it's contacts will break me and almost completely destroy me. If you know the blues very well, you will know very good what am I talking and writing about, you know what ... there is no further ... there is no more ... there is only the blues in its primal meaning, in it's form. And that…that just simply breaks all human physical and mental barriers.
"You're Gonna Need that Pure Religion" (Rev.Pearly Brown) is another brilliant performance by Mare, Kenn and the great team. This performance is another flagrant example that the origin of all are 'work songs', spiritual, gospel and blues. Yes, I always shiver when I see the band, when I see the choir, which in the church celebrates God, without any hesitation ... uh .. I would like to be the part of this celebration. And then I go further, and everything just goes slowly through the next song, "Nobody's Fault But Mine" (Blind Willie Johnson). I really do not know what more should I write, how to show you what's going on in me. What is better, what is more fascinating, vocalist Mare Edstrom, backing band or backing vocals? ... everything was perfect! Im not very religious, but I believe.. this is just one big incentive: we can glorify God and faith in different ways, and therefore we are not different. If you are suspicious, if you are shaken in your convictions, if you are stuck and do not know what to do ... listen to the "Lord, I'm Discouraged" (Charley Patton) and I believe you'll find in this poem the strength to continue and, that's it!
Mare Edstrom's music, after some time, has been recognized, and it has given excellent results and therefore, her musical style, her blues, her music is definitely recognized and generally accepted by many fans of gospel, blues, or just good music. Her extraordinary vocal power, energy and powerful sound effects, in any form, have yielded to the whole story, powerful and impressive sound and touch. Of course, all this resulted with her affirmation, and entering into the past, present and future giant Blues circle, which to all of us have a well-known status.
Finally, to conclude, Mare Edstrom is an exceptional musician, inspired teacher, and with that she is a complete person, and to her, music and love to the music, comes first. She simply shows and proves that with her every new album. And this last episode, this last studio album, Way Beyond The Blue, is just another step towards absolute affirmation of the global standard outside Mare Edstrom.
Album Way Beyond The Blue, I briefly appreciate as a 'Masterpiece' of Mare Edstrom - musician, who comes from Wisconsin. She is very clear and unambiguous in her presentation of music, and her message, which she so powerfully and expressively transmuted by her outstanding vocal, results with a powerful testimony of her musical orientation.
Her constant insistence and encouragement of the greatest values of the traditional musical heritage of America, is indeed undeniable. Ultimately, this is the pledge of the vibrant future for this peculiar and very special music style. And that is why it should be said a big THANK YOU to her!!!
Rootstime e-zine - The Netherlands
(Translation derived from Google translate)
Way Beyond The Blue is the latest CD of Mare Edstrom, blues singer, pianist, and guitarist from Wisconsin in the Midwest of the United States. Her eighth original release already in a row plus three years ago also the collection Mare's Blues, a CD with an overview of the best songs of her career, which we here again briefly will explain.
Along with her regular guitarist Kenn Fox, Mare...usually goes back to traditionals and works of the great blues fathers such as Bukka White, Son House and Robert Johnson. Also on this compilation, we find numbers such as Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues" and "Broke Down Engine "or Ma Rainey's" Travelin 'Blues." Because the CD is a anthology of different CDs from 2004 to 2009 the sound is very diverse. Her band consists besides herself and Foxx, of bassist Dave Finley and harmonica player Steve Cohen as a solid core, changing occupations on CDs on drums and some tracks help of Jon Peik (banjo) Nathan Kamsler (Sax) and Randy Green (Hammond). The three CDs which were drawn for this compilation are Inside the Blues from 2004, where five songs were taken from, and where we especially the cover of Jimmy Rodgers "That's allright" and T.Bone Walkers "Treat Me So Low Down" refrain. On "Cherry Wine" by Henry Glover Edstom we hear that as a pianist Mare is not without merit. Edstrom's next release Shake 'Em on Down from 2006 which in addition Edstrom various backing singers are heard, is good for as many tracks and the latest CD from which numbers tribes: Sugar Sweet provides the last 4 tracks for Mare's Blues and there we remember especially "Big Road Blues," especially for the beautiful acoustic guitar work. This compilation gives therefore a good overview of Edstrom's career and let us enjoy its different approaches to the blues.
As we already mentioned in our introduction, Mare Edstrom regularly engages back to the famous blues performers of the past, and that is certainly the case in its latest release. However, there is a factor of that this Way Beyond The Blue clearly makes the difference. Tinted gospel blues, because that is the common thread throughout this CD. And those old compositions by Mississippi Fred McDowell, Blind Willi Johnson, Charlie Patton and Reverend Gary Davis, to name only a few called, were by Kenn Fox in the 21th century brought there by new energy to bring through a modern version. The whole was direct-to-analog set as it is called in technical language, which means that the whole through a "live" impression. The two elements that make up what the gospel is its plentiful on this CD. The dark, sad element, caused by poverty and deprivation that many blacks had to go through the times when these songs were created and as a contrast to the uplifting, through the heap by their religion. This first element is also found in the gloomy cover photo that surrounds the CD, and that fits perfectly with a track as the traditional "Do Lord," starting with chimes and where the atmosphere Rather, it is minor. It is also the track which the CD title picked was. A very special number is also in approach, because the guitar Kenn Fox even goes as the psychedelic direction. Very nice are also "Rain Do not Fall On Me" a Blind Willie Johnson composition and the famous "You Gotta Move", again a number of Mississippi Fred McDowell. Both numbers are in a highly original way Mare Edstrom bewerkt. Ondanks the fact that not a separate sounding or really powerful bluesy voice has, she knows especially with the help the beautiful-sounding slide guitar Kenn Fox and mainly through his unique production, always providing interesting releases. So it is time, because with the gospel-soaked tracks on "Way Beyond The Blue" like us very well. Hallelujah!
A wisconsiniénekesno, Mare Edstrom útja a blues-hoz nagyon hosszú volt és sok más mufajon keresztül vezetett. Eloször helyi rock bandákban énekelt és zongorázott, késobb a jazz felé fordult és Townes van Zandt, Eric Taylor, Greg Brown, Janis Ian stb. szerzeményeit énekelte. Elso kimondottan blues felvételeket tartalmazó lemeze 2004-ben Inside The Blues címmel jelent meg, melyen olyan blues legendák felvételeit dolgozta fel, mint Jimmy Rogers, Blind Willie McTell, Muddy Waters és Robert Johnson. Második CD-je, a Shake 'Em On Down új kísérozenészekkel, korai blues ritkaságokat tartalmazva 2006-ban látott napvilágot. Ez, az elozo lemezhez képest még nagyobb figyelmet, mé több dicséretet kapott. Kis zenei kitérot követoen újabb blues lemeze Sugar Sweet címmel jelent meg – Mare elfeledett mesterek, Betty Everett, Julia Lee, Arthur Alexander és Ma Rainey szerzeményeit ásta elo. A tavaly kiadott Mare’ Blues a fenti albumokból szerkesztett izgalmas, jó arányérzékkel összeállított válogatás, mely tradicionális és modern blues-okat, akusztikus és a keményebb világot képviselo elektromos felvételeket is tartalmaz, ösztönzoleg hatva további ismerkedésre azok számára is, akik ez idáig nem hallottak semmit Mare Edstrom munkásságáról.
Translation/summary supplied by the reviewer:
The last year published Mare’s Blues had been constructed from the albums above, it is an exciting selection, assembled with good proportions, which contains traditional and modern blues as well, contains acoustic and electrical recordings as well, which represent the harder world. It encourages those, as well, for further acquaintances, who haven’t heard about the works of Mare Edstorm so far.
This collection gathers tracks from three solo releases by Mare Edstrom, a singer and keyboard player from Wisconsin who has an extensive background, including classical training in college while at the same time playing in local rock bands. Edstrom possesses a strong voice that can float over a quiet arrangement or deliver a powerful statement backed by a hard-charging band. Her classical training is evident as Mare easily slides throughout her vocal register, each note delivered cleanly and perfectly executed.
There are five tracks culled from Inside the Blues, a 2004 release. Jimmy Roger’s "That’s Alright" makes a great opening cut as Edstrom belts out the lyrics over a driving rhythm sparked by some fine harmonica playing from Steve Cohen. The following track shifts the instrumental focus to Kenn Fox on guitar and Randy Green contributes on organ on a T-Bone Walker tune, "Treat Me So Low Down". Edstrom’s pushes her voice hard in the upper register but stops just short being too strident. "Statesboro Blues" alternates between low-key passages with sparkling vocal work from Edstrom and amped-up band sections featuring Fox on slide guitar. "Cherry Wine" is a brief rocker with Edstrom on piano.
Edstrom’s next release, Shake ’Em on Down, came out in 2006. She delivers a dark, stirring rendition of Blind Willie McTell’s "Broke Down Engine" while "Bring it Back Home" reworks Barbecue Bob’s tune into a Jimmy Reed-style piece complete with loping rhythm and more of Cohen’s excellent harp playing. "Pitch a Boogie Woogie" is bogged down by the backing chorus, which also appears on "Walkin" Blues". The collective weight of the extra singers tends to bury Edstrom’s work. Fox lays down a strong slide guitar part on the latter track and does his best work on "Trouble Blues", from the pen of Scrapper Blackwell. Edstrom proves that she has the chops to deliver a convincing performance on a slower blues piece.
The remaining four cuts were part of the 2007 release, Sugar Sweet. One highlight from this group is "Big Road Blues", with Fox on acoustic guitar and Dave Finley on fretless bass guitar. Edstrom’s voice rings out true and clear, yet retains an edge in her phrasing that highlights the alternating feelings of hope and resignation in the lyrics. Ma Rainey’s "Travelin’ Blues" adopts a n old-time jazz feel with Jon Peik on banjo and Cohen shining again on the harp. "Breakfast in Bed" is a Fox original with Edstrom taking on a tougher tone. The collection closes with "Fixin’ to Die". Edstrom opens with an acappella section before Fox adds a menacing guitar line. The track steadily builds in intensity as the rhythm section and backing chorus join in . Edstrom closes the song with another brief solo voice passage.
One oddity of this release is that the packaging has three photos of Edstrom with a guitar in hand, yet she confines her playing to piano and organ on the disc. Otherwise, this collection highlights her vocal talent in a variety of settings. Fox, in the roles of producer and arranger, updates the approach to this batch of mostly well-known blues tunes and provides Edstrom with a challenging musical framework for her lustrous voice. She is a singer worth a listen.
- Mark Thompson, President of the Crossroads Blues Society, Rockford, IL
With every new CD of yours I am even more sure - on a field of modern blues female artists you are one of the most interesting and imaginative ones. Your new disc proves that so well - from song selection and gathering the right players in the studio, to arrangements and vocal performance, it is all good! I dig your take on the blues and I'm sure my listeners will dig it too!
- Przemek Draheim, Poland
Radio Canal Bleu, France
....Very interesting. The titles skilfully revive and refresh old standards. An excellent idea, magnificently realized. I'm very pleased to broadcast your music, I'm sure my audience will appreciate it as I do.
- Serge WARIN, Radio Canal Bleu, France
Rootstime , August 2007(TRANSLATION WILL BE COMING SOON)
Mare Edstrom is een singer-songwriter, pianiste, maar voornamelijk gitariste uit de Midwest. Feitelijk een Amerikaanse bluesvrouw naar mijn hart. Op haar achtste jaar leerde ze al piano spelen om dan jaren later naar de gitaar te grijpen, en dit was meteen haar begin van haar muziekcarrière. Talloze popbandjes uit de thuisbasis volgden in de negentiger jaren, maar uiteindelijk siert deze jonge en stoere gitaarvrouw trots en wel, haar vorige bluescd's: "Inside The Blues" uit 2004, "Shake 'Em On Down" uit 2006, en nu is er het nieuwe "Sugar Sweet". En dat Edstrom alle genres aankan was reeds te horen op haar eerste album, "Learning How to Believe". Een plaat met allemaal covers van de legenden uit de singer-songwriterschool. Ze gaf een nieuwe kijk op songs van Townes van Zandt, Eric Taylor, Greg Brown, Janis Ian om dan met haar opvolgende albums, het over een heel andere boeg te gooien. Niet dat Edstrom grote aardverschuivingen teweegbrengt, maar met een doorleefd stemgeluid, presenteert Mare Edstrom op ambachtelijke en melancholische wijze dertien eerlijke bluesrockcovers van o.a. Sleepy John Estes, Robert Johnson, Betty Everett, Ma Rainey, Julia Lee, Little Willie John, Arthur Alexander en Willie Dixon. Allemaal deuntjes, die ze overtuigend brengt in haar unieke stijl, met als uitschieter, een magistrale versie van Bukka White's gospel "Fixin' to Die" als afsluiter. Op dit album kon ze rekenen op een zeer goede begeleiding, met producer/gitarist Kenn Fox als grote steun, achter haar songs waarin er op hemelse wijze van haar stem gebruik maakt. Bottleneck slide gitarist Kenny Fox is wederom de producer van haar vierde blues album "Sugar Sweet", een zeer verzorgd album, zonder overigens te gladjes te worden. Dat Edstrom een uitstekend gevoel voor het uitkiezen van nummers heeft mag verondersteld worden, en ook op dit album weet zij een nummer "Breakfast In Bed", geschreven door Kenny Fox af te wisselen met twaalf covers. Opvallend zijn de nummers van dit album waarin Edstom haar kunsten laat horen op gitaar in combinatie met de vertrouwde slide (Fox) en mondharmonica (Steve Cohen). "Sugar Sweet" is daarom een heel afwisselend album geworden. R& B, rockabilly, gospel, blues met een country gevoel, alshetware het warme gevoel uit de vijftiger jaren, waarin Edstrom's stem je tot op het bot weet te raken. De toekomst ziet er daarom rooskleurig uit met een sterke vrouw als Mare Edstrom.
Reviews of Shake 'Em On Down
Dimo's Blues Blog - May 2010
Wisconsin based Blues lady's third album offers eclectic mix of Blues classics by Bukka White, Scrapper Blackwell, Blind Willie McTell, Leroy Carr, Barbecue Bob, Bumble Bee Slim, Memphis Minnie/Kansas Joe, Robert Johnson and Mississippi Sheiks. Lot of such works exist, but it's very rare when songs of high popularity are presented with such delicate taste and sound like someone's own. This is the first feeling during and after listening.
Secondly, Mare Edstrom feels completely at home on this album and it does credit to her since she touches glory and pride of the Blues.
Most of the album goes electric (with some fine slide work), but Edstrom steps out into new territory with several acoustic offerings.
Tasty, modest and groovy!
Fan Blog - An Overdose Of Fingal Cocoa - March 2009
Mare Edstrom's musical background covers a broad range of experience. She was classically trained in piano, voice, and French horn from her early years through college at UW-Whitewater, where she majored in music, math and physics education. She also played in various rock and blues bands on keyboards, vocals and guitar from age 14 to the present. She graduated summa cum laude in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree (DPI certified grades 7-12). With her regular performing partner, guitarist/producer Kenn Fox, she owns and operates Spiritone Records, one of the largest independent record labels in Wisconsin.
Shake 'Em On Down has received much critical acclaim for Wisconsinite Mare Edstrom's unique personal Blues style. Her music is refined, but maintains a gutsy and authentic feel. On this album she displays her dynamic vocal skills with a tribute to the Blues legends who have been so important to the development of her style. Interestingly, she includes a cover of Lennon/McCartney's "Oh Darlin'." Mare presents an exciting new interpretation on the Blues
while still keeping a vintage flavor of authentic roadhouse Blues. Her styles include gospel, jump, and the Piedmont style blues of Blind Willie McTell. She also sings songs by Memphis Minnie, Bukka White, Leroy Carr, and Blind Boy Fuller. Some of her covers include some very obscure, and nearly forgotten songs from artists like Scrapper Blackwell, Barbecue Bob Hicks, and Bumble Bee Slim--incredible traditional Blues, and country Blues traditional songs that you will rarely hear from modern Blues artists. [This
is] a great traditional roots style Folk Blues album that is very impressive. Also listen to Mare's Inside the Blues album, and buy her Keys to the Castle album. Promote this lady who is following in the footsteps of Blues revivalists and traditionalists Rory Block and Maria Muldaur.
Maverick Magazine, pp. 86-87,
24 Bray Gardens, Loose, Maidstone, Kent, UK ME15 9TR
**** (4 stars) - A far from typical blues album, but still rather good.
If all you did was look at the track listing for Wisconsin blues singer Mare Edstrom’s SHAKE EM ON DOWN you’d find nothing too surprising. The album contains a pleasing mix of covers that includes Blind Willie McTell, Memphis Minnie, Blind Boy Fuller and Robert Johnson standards. However, as Edstrom launches herself into McTell’s Broke Down Engine, the realization hits, with the force of a sledgehammer, that this is far from a typical album. The first
thing you notice is that Edstrom was not born with a typical blues voice. In fact Broke Down Engine for one is transformed into a wailing lament, instead of a gritty and earthy blues classic. And while the ‘strangeness’ of Edstrom’s voice provides the initial hook, it’s not all there is to SHAKE EM ON DOWN. Blues equilibrium is restored by the burning spirit and force of will she brings to bear on the likes of Rocks In My Bed. Eventually that spirit consumes everything else and Edstrom carries the music
along on a tidal wave of sheer talent. It does help that she’s backed by musicians of the calibre of Steve Cohen on harmonica and Kenn Fox on guitar. The contrast between their blistering approach and Edstrom’s more suble interpretations causes a friction that sparks the album into life. Mare Edstrom has had the great good sense to use her vocal talent to draw some unusual choices into her web. The Beatles’ Oh Darlin’, is given a whole new interest and perspective and there’s not many singers that can do that to a
Beatles’ song. Whether the purists and traditionalists will warm to what is a clash between a tight red hot ‘classic’ blues band and a singer whose talents are singular, remains to be seen but, on SHAKE EM ON DOWN, Mare Edstrom has thrown open the shutters and allowed a shaft of sunlight to hit a genre that can sometimes be bound by its own heritage. She has poured her heart and soul into SHAKE EM ON DOWN and in the process produced a quite magnificent album.
Rootstime, June 2006(TRANSLATION WILL BE COMING SOON)
Mare Edstrom is een singer-songwriter, pianiste, maar voornamelijk gitariste uit de Midwest. Feitelijk een Amerikaanse bluesvrouw naar mijn hart. Op haar achtste jaar leerde ze al piano spelen om dan jaren later naar de gitaar te grijpen, en dit was meteen haar begin van haar muziekcarrière. Talloze popbandjes uit de thuisbasis volgden in de negentiger jaren, maar uiteindelijk siert deze jonge en stoere gitaarvrouw trots en wel, op haar vorige bluescd : "Inside The Blues" uit 2004 en het nu nieuwe album "Shake 'Em On Down". En dat Edstrom alle genres aankan was reeds te horen op haar eerste album, "Learning How to Believe". Een plaat met allemaal covers van de legenden uit de singer-songwriterschool. Ze gaf een nieuwe kijk op songs van Townes van Zandt, Eric Taylor, Greg Brown, Janis Ian om dan met haar twee opvolgende albums, het over een heel andere boeg te gooien. Niet dat Edstrom grote aardverschuivingen teweegbrengt, maar met een doorleefd stemgeluid, presenteert Mare Edstrom op ambachtelijke en melancholische wijze veertien eerlijke bluesrockcovers van o.a. Blind Willie McTell, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters en Blind Willie Johnson, maar ook van haar grote voorbeelden Memphis Minnie en Little Esther, aan wie ze trouwens deze plaat heeft opgedragen. Allemaal deuntjes, die ze overtuigend brengt in haar unieke stijl, met als uitschieters "Rollin and Tumblin’/Got Mud in My Soul", "Stop Breakin’ Down Blues" en de emotionele afsluiter "In My Time of Dyin'". Op dit album kon ze rekenen op een zeer goede begeleiding, met producer/gitarist Kenn Fox als grote steun, achter haar songs waarin er op hemelse wijze van haar stem gebruik maakt. Bottleneck slide gitarist Kenny Fox is wederom de producer van haar derde album "Shake 'Em On Down", een zeer verzorgd album, zonder overigens te gladjes te worden. Dat Edstrom een uitstekend gevoel voor het uitkiezen van nummers heeft mag verondersteld worden, en ook op dit album weet zij een nummer "Sugar", geschreven door Kenny Fox af te wisselen met twaalf covers van o.a. Willie McTell, Leroy Carr, Barbecue Bob Hicks, Bumble Bee Slim, en natuurlijk Memphis Minnie. Opvallend zijn de nummers van dit album waarin Edstom haar kunsten laat horen op gitaar in combinatie met de vertrouwde slide en mondharmonica. Shake 'Em On Down is daarom een heel afwisselend album geworden. Blues rock met een country gevoel waarin Edstrom's stem je tot op het bot weet te raken. De toekomst ziet er daarom rooskleurig uit met een sterke vrouw als Mare Edstrom.
Mare Edstrom, Shake 'em on Down, 2006 Spiritone
After a lifelong career in music that included a stint as an opera singer, concert pianist, and a member of rock bands, Waterford's Mare Edstrom finally found her calling in interpretive
blues and the singer/songwriter vein. Edstrom teamed up with guitar virtuoso Kenn Fox in 2002 and that
partnership has helped spawn a performing duo and a series of recorded works on Fox's Spiritone Records.
Edstrom's first release in 2003 paid homage to singer/songwriters such as Townes Van Zandt, Greg Brown and Janis Ian.
Her first real success came with Inside the Blues in 2004, a collection of blues interpretations that received critical acclaim and fairly widespread
radio play. Her newest album, Shake 'em on Down, is already duplicating that feat.
The combination of Edstrom's unique vocal approach to the blues and Fox's production work and guitar mastery make for an enticing listening experience. In addition to Fox, Edstrom has a crack band assembled here including Dave Finley on bass, Jeff Moylen and Steve Broad on drums and Steve Cohen (Greg Koch, Jim Liban and others) on harmonica. Brothers Tim (vocalist) and Tom (upright bass) Angsten (Hello Hello and formerly Green Flash Society) also appear as does Nob Hill Boys' banjoist Jon Peik.
Only a few moments of the opening track, Blind Willie McTell's "Broke Down Engine," are required to understand that Edstrom looks at the blues from another angle. The beat gets taken down to half-speed and Fox's spooky open-tuned slide guitar makes this a haunting and riveting track. The title track, penned by Bukka White, is a barrelhouse blues-rocker, easily the source of at least two Led Zeppelin tunes. So it's fitting that Edstrom includes a version of Memphis Minnie's "When the Levee Breaks." Also fittingly, it's given a zydeco twist and a boogie beat.
Lennon and McCartney's "Oh, Darlin" is delivered with a soulful fifties-style croon. Fox gets a chance to blaze on electric guitar on "Trouble Blues" and his swinging composition "Sugar" is the album's only diversion from blues classics. The finale is another totally unique take, this time on "Sittin' on Top of the World," featuring Peik's banjo and Fox's excellent fingerstyle guitar. The whole album's common thread is, of course, Edstrom's voice. She doesn't bring the power of the growl as much as she pays sincere homage and adds a touch of honey, which is the refreshing approach that makes these recordings stand out.
Edstrom's next project is already underway, another homage to singer songwriters such as Tom Waits, Kevin Welch, Toni Price, and Jesse Colin Young. The album is also said to include some more Fox compositions. Edstrom has a knack for reinterpreting great works in both these genres and the albums are not only a lot of fun but can actually become somewhat of a history lesson. Hearing Shake 'em on Down makes me wonder what she and Fox could be capable of in producing an album of strictly original compositions. Perhaps we won't have to wait long for an answer to that question.
- Rick Tvedt, Editor
Translation - See below for original:
Since the days of Lovin’ Spoonful, college boys (and girls) have sought, with varying degrees of success, to adapt the old country blues to pop-rock texts. That forty years later this phenomenon should be far from finished is a further demonstration of the adaptability of the blues of yore. Furthermore, it gives us a good opportunity to give an opinion on its new performers: As the proverb goes, "some got it, and some don’t got it," or, more precisely, not all know how to do it.
Of Scandinavian stock, Mare Edstrom lives in the heart of the Midwest, in the area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A musician of classical formation, she has crossed through usual independent rock; her recording debut was inspired by the North American singer-songwriting tradition. Only later did she come closer to the blues, starting to dig below the surface to bring to light precious finds from the Thirties and thereabouts. In fact, her repertoire is not limited to the so obvious "Walkin’ Blues," "Sitting’ On Top Of The World," to "When The Levee Breaks" by Memphis Minnie (dramatically turned to prophecy after the New Orleans disaster) or to the piece that gives its name to this album, the third in her career.
The young woman shows her place/belonging in the neo-folk scene when she tries to match the blues to a voice overlaid with the dynamics and tonality of a university cabaret and a certain oblique Bohemian charm. Thus it happens that her studied, severe cry adds unexpected elements to the unusual "Trouble Blues" of Scrapper Blackwell, to "You Don’t Know My Mind" by Barbecue Bob and even to the Beatles’ "Oh Darlin’", or that "Pitch a Boogie Woogie" becomes a sort of classic bar song for singles. The most successful track is doubtless "Piccolo Rag"; enriched with moderated electronic tricks, it appears to be an appetizing radio jingle for chocolates. Mare, who dresses like a teenager, but who is around forty, is well accompanied on her tour by skilled musicians --- especially the arranger and guitarist Kenn Fox and harmonica player Steve Cohen.
È dai tempi dei Lovin’ Spoonful che i ragazzi (incluse le femmine) del circuito dei college cercano, con vari gradi di successo, di adattare il vecchio country blues al lessico pop-rock. Che quarant’ani dopo il fenomeno sia tutt’altro che concluso è un’ulteriore dimostrazione della duttilità del blues d’antan. Non solo, ma fornisce una buona occasione per dare un giudizio sui nuovi interpreti: come dice il proverbio, "some got it, and some don’t got it", ovvero non tutti ci sanno fare.
Di ceppo scandinavo, Mare Edstrom abita in fondo al Midwest, dalle parti di Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Musicista dalla formazione classica, ha attraversato la trafila del rock indipendente; il suo esordio su disco era ispirato alla scuola cantautorale nordamericana. Soltanto dopo si è avvicinata al blues, cominciando a scavare sotto la superficie per riportare alla luce preziosi reperti degli anni Trenta e dintorni: infatti il suo canzoniere non è limitato alle più ovvie "Walkin’ Blues", "Sittin’ On Top Of The World", a "When The Levee Breaks" di Memphis Minnie (tornato drammaticamente in auge dopo il disastro di New Orleans) o al brano che dà il nome a questo album, il terzo della sua carriera.
La fanciulla rivela la sua appartenenza alla scena neo-folk quando prova ad accostare al blues una voce adagiata su dinamiche e tonalità da cabaret universitario e un certo obliquo fascino da bohémienne. Così avviene che il suo studiato, severo miagolio aggiunga elementi imprevedibili alla inusitata "Trouble Blues" di Scrapper Blackwell, a "You Don’t Know My Mind" di Barbecue Bob e persino alla beatlesiana "Oh Darlin’", o che "Pitch A Boogie Woogie" diventi un miniclassico da tavernetta per singles. Il brano più riuscito è senza dubbio "Piccolo Rag"; arricchito da moderati trucchetti elettronici, sembra un appetitoso jingle radiofonico per i cioccolatini. Mare, che ha un look da teenager ma è attorno alla quarantina, è ben accompagnata nel suo trip da strumentisti di pregio - soprattutto l’arrangiatore e chitarrista Kenn Fox e l’armonicista Steve Cohen.
[From Mare: Please note that Kenn Fox played all the guitars on this CD .]
With her third release, Mare Edstrom continues in the vein of traditional blues performed with a mainstream sensibility that at first veils her considerable power...The first few notes of "Broke Down Engine," though, with some beautiful slide work [by Kenn Fox], convey the abiding respect Edstrom has for her chosen material. Blind Willie McTell, Bukka White, Robert Johnson, and Memphis Minnie--one of Edstrom's personal heroes--feature prominently on Shake 'em on Down; the title, of course, refers to the White song.
Edstrom makes some interesting choices this time around. Her rendition of Leroy Carr's "Rocks in My Bed" occasionally reveals her classical training... and though she does cover "When the Levee Breaks, " she gives it a different twist from what you might expect. There have been plenty of somber performances of that song in the past six months, but Edstrom's version rings with determination and a bit of refreshing zydeco seasoning. She also reaches outside the blues a bit, coming up with the Beatles' "Oh! Darling."
Edstrom has chops...and, though she doesn't have what most people think of as a "bluesy" voice, she generates considerable power and emotion as a singer. (Her take on "Trouble Blue" is a revelation.) If she isn't quite as daring on Shake 'em On Down as she could be, she shows a decided tendency in that direction. In the meantime, this is an excellent album, and a solid wedding of traditional blues and modern sensibility. Edstrom's smooth execution should appeal to listeners who might find more traditional renditions inaccessible, but that isn't to say there isn't depth and gut-level emotion here. There is, and it makes Shake 'em On Down stand out.
- Genevieve Williams, for Blues Revue, Issue 100, June/July 2006, p.121.
Reviews of Inside The Blues:
Crossroads (French Rock music magazine, Nov. 2005 issue)
Translation - See below for original:
This young woman, who seems a bit shy in her photo, surrenders herself to a thousand blues vibrations when she is released into the arena. Mare Edstrom is surrounded by a devoted group of musicians for a second album, Inside the Blues, in the heart of her passion, in honor of all her heroes past and present, on a journey traveling through all the blues (T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, Henry Glover, and two or three Johnsons, Robert, Blind Willie). Although a pianist, Mare is above all a singer, such as those who first pioneered the vocal traditions of jazz and R&B, striking like lightning into the original purity of the blues, serious and intense. Ranging over several octaves, capable of pushing her voice to the edge of breaking, sometimes rough, sometimes sweet, Mare Edstrom, leaning on the notes of her piano, seems carried by the sulfurous spirit of a vocal journey that she sometimes takes to the extreme, transporting to new levels the songs placed on this very beautiful album. She is enhanced and supported by a confident and accomplished rhythm section, above which arises at times a passionate harmonica or a distorted guitar, from musicians capable of enveloping complex ballads with a simple acoustic guitar or with hordes of notes that take one’s breath away. The songs of this work vary continuously between gentle sensitivity and unbridled ecstasy. Mare doesn’t like conventions and breaks them with a rawness bordering on violence (the gospel "In My Time of Dying" exudes brutal sensuality somewhere between Dylan’s version and the original of Blind Willie Johnson), and the unnatural (for example, an awe inspiring "Stop Breakin’ Down" that opens with a piercing dobro and finishes with a roaring rock guitar). . . The frail young woman doesn’t hesitate to transfigure certain titles into hip hop-influenced rock, or to spice others with well-mixed flavors, or to return to the roots of an authentic road band. A very exciting disc and the image of a new modern blues sensation. To be classified among the great Ladies of R&B and of the Blues, those of the past and those of the future.
"Cette jeune femme, qui semble un peu gauche en photo, se livre en mille vibrations bleutées lorsqu’elle est lâchée dans l’arène. Mare Edstrom s’est entourée d’un sacré gang de musiciens pour un second album au fond du blues (Inside The Blues), au coeur de sa passion, en hommage à tous ses héros du passé et du présent, parcourant tous les blues (T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, Memphis Minjnie, Henry Glover, et deux ou trois Johnson, Robert, Blind Willie...). Bien que pianiste, Mare est avant tout une chanteuse, de celles qui se sont faits d’abord les crocs sur les traditions vocales du jazz et du R&B, pour plonger avec éclat dans la pureté originelle du blues, sobre et intense. Surfant sur des octaves variés, capables de pousser la voix à la limite de la fêlure, tantôt rugueuse, tantôt suave, Mare Edtrom, penchée sur les notes de son piano,semble portée par l’âme sulfureuse d’une trame vocale qu’elle pousse parfois à l’extrême, et qui ravage les reprises déposées sur ce bien bel album. Elle est domptée et encouragée par une section rythmique calée pour la réussite, d’où sourdent particulièrement un harmonica déchaîné ou une guitare saturée, des musiciens capables d’envelopper des ballades complices avec une simple guitare acoustique, ou des hordes de notes à couper le souffle. Les pièces de l’oeuvre oscillent en permanence entre sagesse des sentiments et extase débridée. Mare n’aime pas les consensus et les brise en de violentes versions dépoitraillées (le gospel ‘In My Time Of Dying’ éructe de sensualité brutale entre une version à la Dylan et l’original de Blind Willie Johnson), les dénature (un terrifiant ‘Stop Breakin Down’ entame par un dobro en vrille pour finir sur une guitare hurlante et très rock)...La frêle jeune femme n’hésite même pas à défigurer certains titres en hip hop gonflé au rock, à en épicer d’autres de saveurs bien mixées, ou revenir aux sources d’un road band authentique. Un disque très excitant et l’impression de nouvelles sensations du blues moderne! A classer entre les grandes Dames du R&B et du Blues, celles du passé et celles de l’avenir."
Blues Revue magazine, Aug/Sept. 2005
"The second album from singer Mare Edstrom (her first, Learning How To Believe, was released last year) is a different kind of blues disc. It’s not different in its selection of material—there’s nothing odd about choosing to record 'Statesboro Blues' or 'The Thrill is Gone' or, especially, 'Can’t Be Satisfied' -- but in Edstrom’s style and execution. From her first notes on T-Bone Walker’s 'Treat Me So Low Down,' it’s clear that she comes to the blues through a different door than most: Instead of the standard gut-deep growl or jazzy rasp, Edstrom uses a straight-up delivery with the occasional downright pretty flourish.
This actually takes a bit of getting used to, though the straightforward style of her backup band both builds a familiar foundation and highlights Edstrom’s unconventional approach. At first blush, she seems more comfortable with modern numbers such as Chris Smither’s 'I Feel the Same,' but it becomes clear that Edstrom is perfectly at home with the hoariest of chestnuts, too. 'Spiderman Blues' spins out in a delicate tracery that showcases the song’s structure, while 'Statesboro Blues' bounces back and forth between soft intimacy and punched-up energy. However, Edstrom can play it straight, also, as she does on Memphis Minnie’s 'North Memphis Blues' with pleasing results. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to try classics like these early in one’s recording career.
Even though Edstrom’s no belter, the initial prettiness of her voice conceals surprising power. In a way, that’s a good description of this album as a whole; though it’s pleasant enough, it has a way of subtly surprising you. For instance, three of the four final tracks are straight blues filled with late-night rowdiness. Then, Edstrom wraps up with an unconventional take on Blind Willie Johnson’s 'In My Time of Dyin' that freshens the song’s message and is, in its own way, equally potent."
- Genevieve Williams, for Blues Revue, Aug./Sept. 2005, page 77
"Mare Edstrom was torn between what her style of music should encompass. Playing since the age of three she was torn between classic rock and classical. She even gave up music for a short time , and then found the blues, for which we can all be thankful. Mare's voice is big and lends itself to the blues perfectly. Interpreting classics from everyone from Blind Willie McTell to Jimmy Rodgers Mare does all these tunes justice. Featuring classics like "That's ALright" and "The Thrill Is Gone" Mare really belts these tunes out and is backed by a stellar band. Mare is a blues voice who is sure to make an impact on the industry, and I am sure we have not heard the end of her."
Rating - A
-Dennis Halsey, The BestFemaleMusicians.com
"It’s albums like Mare Edstrom’s 'Inside the Blues' that makes all the work worth it. Just listening to that great traditional blues guitar opening up the album makes me want to weep. And then in waltzes Mare’s great classic voice. You could shelf this album nicely next to your best Muddy Waters and sandwich them right alongside Robert Johnson and T-Bone Walker all of which she reinterprets here. Her version of the Blind Willie Johnson classic 'In My Time of Dyin'' is perhaps the best shiner on the album and it appears last to complement your way to hitting 'play' again."
- J-Sin, Smother.net
"Mare Edstrom should have titled her CD 'The Blues Are Inside Her' instead of 'Inside The Blues.' It becomes obvious by listening to her new release that the blues is a part of her soul and makeup. The one thing I found interesting was that she sounds as if she is a classically trained vocalist, at times bordering on an operatic vocal style. While she handles each track with authority, I honestly think her voice was made for jazz. She almost sounds too classy for this genre, and to top it off she looks like the girl next door. I thought you were supposed to look tough and roughshod, as if you have lived the blues. Well, this my friends is a perfect example of the old adage-You can’t judge a book by its cover. It all just does not seem to fit, yet when you hear her belt out 'Rollin' And Tumblin’/Got Mud In My Soul' or the emotional closer 'In My Time Of Dyin'' she makes a believer out of you. I sure became one once this CD was complete. One of the best tracks, a real scorcher, is 'Stop Breakin Down Blues.' It really smokes straight on through. The guitar playing on this CD is exemplary, it is the key in getting the tracks meaning conveyed to the listener with conviction, and Edstrom's voice rides the tide that the six-string creates. Well there you have it, one of the more interesting blues-rock artists I have come across in a long time. Hey, the Red Sox won the World Series, so why not?"
Reviewed by: Keith "Muzikman" Hannaleck, November 2004
"Mare Edstrom is a vocalist, songwriter, pianist and guitarist based out of the Midwest. She started singing at a young age and was taking piano lessons by age eight. Soon after Mare was performing with bands, choirs and theater groups. Edstrom's musical influences are classical, rock and the blues. Inside The Blues is her cover tribute to some of the greats such as T-Bone Walker, Memphis Minnie, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson and others. She is joined by a group of talented players who share her passion for the genre. Producer Ken Fox also handles the beguiling guitars and bass. The back of Mare's CD cover says it best: 'The Blues. Soul wrenching music straight from the heart; real songs-grit, joy and humor, the most honest form of human expression.' This paraphrase sums up the essence of this fourteen track CD. Edstrom has a wide vocal range and the fervor to sing the blues. Her interpretations meld authenticity with modern textures and tones. For example, a soulful harmonica is found throughout the collection but there is also the subtle use of a turntable on 'Got Mud in My Soul'. It's hard to say how I choose my favorites from this collection, as all the songs had heart and first-rate musicianship. I appreciated Mare's interpretations of 'That's Alright', 'Statesboro Blues' (a complete 360 from the Allman's cover) and 'Spiderman Blues'. Mare's CD is a powerful bridge from the blues of the past to the more modern renditions of this potent genre."
Recommended Tracks: (2,4,10,12)
-Laura Turner Lynch
"If you're a woman and sing the blues, you might have a tougher time proving yourself than, say, any guy with a guitar that can play a turnaround. I don't make the rules, just an observation. But success shouldn't be a problem for Edstrom, who can belt out the classics with the best of them. And surprise, on this disc, that's just what she does. You'll hear songs out of the blues canon, like 'Statesboro Blues,' 'The Thrill Is Gone,' and 'Can't Be Satisfied,' to name a few. Edstrom's voice isn't the whiskey-soaked growl of a Joplin, though it does find an edge from time to time. Instead, she seems to just belt it out with a cleanness and very little distortion. Backing her up are some fine players, like Kenn Fox on guitar and bass, Steve Cohen on harmonica, Randy Green on the Hammond organ, and Randy Mueller on drums. Together they provide a powerful backdrop for Edstrom, with some real nice guitar and harp work. Edstrom's take on 'The Thrill Is Gone' is worth noting, as she turns it into a slow driving number, with an open central section. An interesting take on the classics."
-NY Rock Street Beat
"Using an authentic-sounding, red-hot backing band, Mare performs a mixture of songs by classic blues artists [Muddy Waters, Robert
Johnson, T-Bone Walker] and originals by producer Kenn Fox. You've gotta be really sure of yourself
to release a collection of classic blues songs and Mare rises to the challenge, delivering an above-average
performance that is both faithful to the blues and gives real passion that the blues deserves."
One Way Magazine
"Mare Edstrom is a welcome addition to the contemporary blues scene. On Inside The Blues (Spiritone Records), she pays tribute to many well loved blues artists and their songs, adding a unique dimension with her rich, expressive voice."
- One Way Magazine
"I'm impressed. Mare Edstrom is not only a very good vocalist but also an imaginative artist. Arrangements on her new CD are just great. Songs like "Stop Breaking Down" or "Got Mud In My Soul" blew me away."
- Przemek Draheim, Poland
"This work presents an exciting new take on the blues while maintaining a vintage brand of roadhouse authenticity."
- Bloggin the Blues Web site
"Looking at the demure picture of Wisconsin-based singer/songwriter Mare Edstrom on the cover of her sophomore release one would be hard put to guess at the fire that’s hiding inside. Edstrom pays homage to an array of blues artist, both old and new and she does so by putting a new twist on the genre. She has a powerful and broad-ranged voice that’s not your typical blues growl, but actually works well on this eclectic collection of songs. She belts out a rollicking version of T-Bone Walker’s "Treat Me So Low Down" and offers a more refined and higher pitched vocal on a lively "Cherry Wine." She handles Memphis Minnie’s "North Memphis Blues" with an air of authority and ease while she is altogether more moody and soulful on a gritty take of Chris Smither’s "I Feel The Same." Producer Kenn Fox deserves lots of credit here. He adds some superb guitar and bass throughout the album, is responsible for all the arrangements and wrote the two original tunes, "Tried So Hard" and "Tell Me" as well as "Got Mud in My Soul," the latter which is segued from Muddy Water’s "Rollin’s and Tumblin.’" But perhaps the best song on the album is the emotive closing version of Blind Willie Johnson’s "In My Time of Dyin’" which, surprisingly, has the most original and non-blues vocal on the album. However, the sheer beauty and intensity of Edstrom’s vocal coupled with the imaginative arrangement makes this special. There’s no doubt that she is a talented and versatile vocalist."
- Mick Skidmore