Sandra Hall's 1995 debut, Showin' Off, combined ribald roadhouse boogies and sultry, sophisticated soul blues in more or less equal measure. Since then the Atlanta-based singer has upset that balance, throwing herself with gusto into the role of big, bad, red-hot hoochie mama--but as she proves on the forthcoming Miss Red Riding Hood, she can still call up admirable emotional and artistic depth. The album's more nuanced fare includes a gospel-influenced ballad, "Travelin' the Blues," on which her voice ascends from a heartbroken near whisper to a full-bodied wail brimming with fear and hope. And on "Perfect Lie," from the pen of publicist-turned-songwriter Karen Leipziger, Hall builds from a caustic, street-hardened rasp into a triumphant shout, skewering false ideals--Princess Di's storybook life among them--and declaring her freedom from them ("Ain't no shock, it ain't no shame / Choosin' not to play the game"). Of course, she shows no signs of abandoning the raunchy persona that's made her such a crowd pleaser. "Jump Into My Fire" kicks off with a burbling soul-blues intro, then plunges into a storm of slashing guitar, hammering rock rhythms, and Hall's raucous bellow. The choogling shuffle "I Demand a Lotta Love," on which she modulates her voice from an emery board croon to a ripsaw holler, all but drips with salaciousness: "You get up way before the break of day / Run in the bathroom to wash it all away." On the title tune, Hall howls like a wolf through lines like "You're riding Miss Hood tonight / I'm ready for that big one / Makin' my evening right"; her vocal parts are powerfully rhythmic, and here she follows the band's undulating cadence beat for beat. A live favorite, "I'm Not a Size Six," sounds restrained on the disc, but in concert she struts across the stage, flaunting the power and sexuality of her ample body, and challenges any man in the audience who thinks he can handle her to give it a try. Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28, 10 PM, Reservation Blues, 1566 N. Milwaukee; 773-645-5200.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jennifer Girard.