Fuck me, what's going on? When the UK has talent competitions we vote for fucking dancing dogs, camp Jordan wannabes or screaming divas. The Americans, however, have different ideas, giving us the likes of this young lady, Beverley McClellan, who though not winning the first season of America's version of The Voice - she came 3rd or 4th - her sultry bluesy voice still outclasses anything the Brits seem to be able to come up with.
I don't usually have time for cast offs from reality shows but I think in McClellan's case I can make an exception. She has a fantastically smoky belter of a voice that sounds just as at home on a laid back gospel blues ('Nobody's Fault But Mine') as it does howling on some roughneck SRV hybrid Texan country blues rocker ('Love Will Find A Way Out') or a lopping country road song ('Tender Of The Most').
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Signed to Steve Vai's Favoured Nations label, Beverley has managed to keep the corporate suits at arm's length, granting the album enough elbow room to breathe and make full use of the whiskey and fags quality of her voice. However, 'Fear Nothing...' is nowhere gritty enough to frighten off your average punter.
Primarily a country blues album, it skips over various styles from the breezy Bruce Hornsby-lite 'Precious Times' to 'I Can't Hide Me' with its groove reminiscent of a mellowed out Dan Baird and if Frankie Miller was able he'd kill for a shot at 'Come To Me' but Beverley nonetheless does it credit. Throughout, the album is graced with some nice swampy bottle neck and touches of bluesy country finger picking Americana.
Yet 'Fear Nothing...' still carries a hangover from the artificial environs of the TV reality show. There are moments where her voice sounds forced, too many of the songs are generic anonymous radio friendly ditties that anyone could do and the production, by David Z whose credits include work with Buddy Guy, and you can tell here, is polished enough to iron out any herd worrying jaggedness. The whole thing panders to the lowest common denominators of blatant musical commercialism.
'Fear Nothing...', especially in the last half of the album, has much that will appeal to the trouser swinging middle aged affluent white blues 'fan' and will certainly not have the average housewife rushing to turn off the stereo in righteous fear of offending the Good Lord. Aimed squarely at the chicken-in-a-basket circuit this is an album for sipping cocktails to rather than standing at a bar in a smoky late night club necking Jack and smoking a Marlboro.
Yet, what we have here is a voice that is capable of rivalling the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Melissa Etheridge. Hell, 'Fear Nothing...' even dares to suggest that when pushed, Beverley McClellan could go head to head with Joanna Dean and Sass Jordan. The problem is going to be getting McClellan material that will do her voice justice.
Hopefully Vai and his cohorts won't damn Beverley McClellan to the sort of bland commercial hell 'Fear Nothing...' flirts with. This is Beverley's sixth album so her experience and obvious strength of character should empower her to tell folk to fuck off when they try to stick their damn fingers in her pie.
The girl has the voice, background, native American ancestry and the musical skill to produce something special. Now that she has scratched the commercial itch picked up from the TV studio, let's hope her next album will be the visceral tour de force 'Fear Nothing...' suggests she is capable of.
The best, if we haven't already missed it, is hopefully yet to come.