Blues Caravan 2016
Released on Ruf Records
Atmosphere. It’s the magic ingredient that turns a good live album into a great one – and it comes spilling from the speakers on Blues Caravan 2016. This CD/DVD release puts you right there, in the heart of the crowd, on the hottest tour of the year, feeling the anticipation rise as the clock ticks down and the compère steps up: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Blue Sisters…!”
Twelve years after Thomas Ruf first had his brainwave, the Blues Caravan tour remains a grand tradition for the legendary Ruf Records label, showcasing three artists on the brink of the big-time. In 2016, crowds across the States and Europe were wowed by the Blue Sisters: an international bill taking in Finland’s rising star Ina Forsman, American R&B royalty Tasha Taylor and Canada’s celebrated singer-songwriter Layla Zoe. Now, with the release of Blues Caravan 2016, recorded February 22nd at the Hirsch club in Nürnberg, Germany, all the thrills of that tour come flooding back.
Ruf Records is renowned as a magnet for next-big-things, and as Tom Ruf says, “there’s always enough fresh talent to keep the show on the road”. When Ina Forsman hits the stage on Blues Caravan 2016, it’s easy to hear why she caught the label’s attention. Hailing from Helsinki, this smoky vocalist was gigging from the age of 18, and after a little early guidance from Finnish harmonica hero Helge Tallqvist, this February saw the release of her self-titled debut album (declared “joyous stuff” by Classic Rock).
Naturally, Ina’s Blues Caravan set draws on that album’s self-penned material – from the jazzy Hanging Loose to the hooky No Room For Love – but her spontaneous approach to stagecraft means that anything could happen. “Sometimes,” says the bandleader, “it’s good to just let the music take you there. I rarely plan anything, so what happens on the stage, just happens.”
Few performers can work a crowd quite like Tasha Taylor. Having spent her formative years on the road with her father (R&B pioneer and Stax titan Johnnie Taylor), Tasha’s own star rose with releases like Taylormade and this year’s Honey For The Biscuit: an album whose self-penned songs breathed new life into the soul, funk and blues genres. “The musicianship is top-notch,” noted The Blues Mag, “the production dials up a satisfying soul-funk sound, and Taylor’s voice is strong, supple and soulful throughout.”
Just wait until you hear her on Blues Caravan 2016, as Tasha rocket-fuels Biscuit cuts like Weatherman, and even salutes Taylor Senior with a cover of his famous Who’s Making Love. “I put everything into my performances,” she explains. “I love to see the audience connect to the emotion and energy of the music. If one person leaves with a new favourite song and the feeling of being moved by my vocals then I’m happy.”
A truly prolific talent, Layla Zoe has won global acclaim for her ten-album back catalogue, with 2013’s The Lily dubbed “thrilling” by The Blues and this year’s Breaking Free praised for its “passion and integrity”. But if you only know her studio albums, you’ve only heard one side of the coin. The Toronto songwriter made her first waves on the local live circuit, and since then, she’s triumphed at auspicious venues from Montreux to Rockpalast. “She’s created probably the biggest buzz vocally of any singer I’ve heard about in years,” noted the late blues great Jeff Healey. “She’s wonderful.”
Now, on Blues Caravan 2016, Layla brings even deeper emotion to moments like Never Met A Man Like You and Work Horse. “My show is raw, honest, emotional and intense,” she says. “People often say they’re moved to tears at my shows, and I feel it’s important that I give everything I have to my audience. I rip people’s hearts out – and then I put them back in!”
Three hot-tip performers. Three unforgettable sets. But of course, this wouldn’t be the Blues Caravan without the traditional onstage hook-up, and as the Blue Sisters unite to play us out with a climactic Rock Me Baby, you’ll be howling for more. It all adds up to another triumphant year for the Ruf Blues Caravan, and a CD/DVD release that catches every last drop of atmosphere in the bottle. When you play Blues Caravan 2016, you’ll be right there…