BY TOM CALLAHAN
After honing her craft and leading her own band for over two decades, Deanna Bogart has become one of the greatest musicians and songwriters working in America today. She proves this in her ability to grow and create new musical paths on each album. She just keeps getting stronger each time out. Her latest Bling Pig release–Just A Wish Away… chronicles a yearlong personal and musical journey from Nashville to the high desert of Southern California to the Louisiana Bayou, where the album was recorded. It is a very good CD.
When you first encounter Bogart, the word that comes to mind is virtuosity. She is an excellent piano player but also excels on sax. Indeed, she captured Blues Music Award for three consecutive years for her horn work and was honored another year for her piano playing. She calls her sound “blusion.” Just as she defies simple categorization as a musician, so too does her music capture a lot of different genres: blues, country, jazz, swing, boogie woogie, even standards.
On Just A Wish Away… that musical diversity becomes clear on the first track—“If It’s Going to Be Like This”—as the first discordant piano notes gives way to a country swing sound. Or listen to the horn driven jazz sound of “Collarbone.” She ends the album with the classic “Bye, Bye Blackbird” that starts out as something you might hear a New Orleans’s marching band perform.
Bogart is the real deal; it is not just her playing, but her songwriting that has matured to the point of greatness. Her writing is full of life in all its joy and sadness. Listen to a sad and slow country tinged song like “ If You Have Crying Eyes” and you can feel the true emotion, where she sings, “Oh, the night is a river where the lonely are drowned.” Contrast that with the swamp swing of “Fine By Me Good Bayou” where, on the video, Bogart leads a great horn section and takes a sax solo herself atop a bar. You can see the pure joy in her eyes and her sound. This is fun.
All of this adds up to Just A Wish Away… being one of the best albums of 2014. But Deanna Bogart has accomplished something even better here, if possible. Like a jazz artist, she is not afraid to be creative and follow her muse wherever it takes her. And in the process her music has become transcendent as only the greatest artists can make it. Her music has the ability to actually give you hope when precious little hope remains and give you joy when you need it most. She can both reflect the darkness around us and dispel it on the same CD. That is something only a true artist can do.
DOWNLOAD: “Fine By Me Good Bayou” “Collarbone” “If You Have Crying Eyes”