Tuned In to Deb Callahan

January 28, 2010 9:37:09 AM PST
Our featured Tuned In artist this week is Deb Callahan. She is a blues artist from Philadelphia who has built a great following of fans. We caught up with her during one of our special taping sessions at Brittingham's, in Lafayette Hill.

Here is her biography

Philadelphia's blues and soul drenched vocalist and songwriter, Deb Callahan grew up in the Boston area but has been a fixture on the mid-Atlantic music scene since the late 90's. During this time she has gained a reputation for writing creative blues, soul and roots influenced original music and using her powerful, emotionally expressive voice and engaging stage presence to deliver a unique, high energy live show. Doing social work in the heart of Philadelphia would be a good place to learn about life's hard knocks and this urban school ground taught singer/songwriter Deb Callahan well. Her rich, honest and soulful tunes resonate with listeners and run the gamut from soulful ballads to upbeat, dance oriented romps

Deb's 2002 debut CD If the Blues Had Wings, garnered her positive acclaim from the blues and roots community and was featured as the hot debut in the Oct/Nov 2004 issue of Blues Revue Magazine. Blues Revue referred to her as the next Bonnie Raitt and raved "Philly's Deb Callahan has the pipes, the songs and the raw talent to graduate to the next level". Deb released her sophomore CD The Blue Pearl in November 2005 where she teamed up with producer and song-writer Chris Arms, to craft a contemporary sounding CD with all the elements of timeless blues, soul and rock music. From the New Orleans blues/funk of the title track "Blue Pearl Moon " to the marriage of traditional and modern in the "Credit Card Blues ". Deb incorporates thoughtful and often funny lyrics to tell a modern day blues tale. In a review of The Blue Pearl, Living Blues described Deb as a "gifted song-writer whose voice is matchless in the ring of sultry blues singers".

Her most recent effort Grace & Grit was released in September of 2008 and recently debuted in November of 2008 at #16 for The Living Blues Radio Chart. Deb once again collaborated with producer Chris Arms and featured original music as well as a cover of one of her favorite Ray Charles songs "Hallelujah I love him so" and a few a capella snippets of songs sung by Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin who have all been strong influences. One of the goals of this record was to go for a more live sound to capture the energy and spontaneity that live performance can bring. Thus all the vocal tracks were recorded with the band live in the studio. Grace & Grit has a strong blues base but brings in gospel, soul, rock and jazz elements and the material ranges from songs about being a single mother trying to make it in America in "Food on the Table" to the humorous No Taxi Driver about receiving to many wrong number calls from people who are looking for a taxi.

Blues Revue Magazine says of Grace & Grit "Deb Callahan possesses an instinctive feel for the blues. As a songwriter, Callahan's gift lies in bringing fresh perspectives to classic lyrical themes. Vocally she understand her strengths a pure, resonant tone and expressive phrasing and employs them to great effect. She also stands as a first rate song interpreter." Jazzreview.com says " Her powerful, soul-tinged bluesy vocals showcase both an abundance of grace along with more than just a smidgen of grit. On the grace/grit scale, she weighs in heavily alongside the finest female blues belters ever. In fact, the potent force of her vocals should secure her presence on the national blues scene for years."

Since 2005, Deb Callahan and her band have become part of the national blues scene with performances at festivals on both sides of the country, including California's Monterey Bay Blues Festival and Florida's Springing the Blues Festival, The Boundary Water Blues Festival in Ely, MN Cookin at McCooks in Niantic, CT, as well as many fests in the mid-Atlantic region such as The Western Maryland Blues Festival in Hagerstown, MD, The Heritage Festival in Wheeling, West Virginia, Red Bank Blues Fest in Red Bank, NJ, The Philadelphia Blues Festival at The World Cafe Live, The Berks Blues and Jazz Festival in Reading, PA, Lehigh Valley Blues Fest in Whitehall, PA, The Briggs Farm Festival in Nescopeck, PA, The Greater Eastern Blues Festival in Harrisonburg, VA, The Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival in Anapolis, MD, The Wilmington Blues Festival in Wilmington, DE, The Media Blues Stroll in Media., PA, The Shenandoah Valley Blues Bash, in Luray, VA, The Central Delaware Blues & Jazz Festival in Felton, DE, The Safeway BBQ & Blues Fest in Washington DC, The Belair BBQ & Blues Fest in Belair, MD, The Bucks County Blues Society R & B Picnic in Morrisville, PA and many more. She has toured the club circuit up and down the East Coast from Maine to Florida. Her top notch band consists of Philly greats Allen James on the guitar, Garry Lee on bass and Tom Walling on drums.

Deb's music has been played at radio stations around the United States and Europe. She has shared the stage with Buddy Guy, Billy Preston, James Cotton, Shemekia Copeland, Hubert Sumlin, Debbie Davies, Savoy Brown, Big Jack Johnson, Sean Costello, The Holmes Brothers, Phil Guy, Deanna Bogart, Ann Rabson, Nick Curran, Southside Johnny, Floyd Lee, NRBQ, Joe Bonamassa, Guitar Shorty, Little Ed and The Imperials, Bob Margolin, Paul Cebar, Tommy Castro, Anthony Gomes, Johhny Lee Hooker Junior, Sister Monica Parker. Marcia Ball, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Duke Robillard, Eric Lindell and more.

Deb Callahan is most often compared to singers such as Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Lydia Pense. She says "for me it is the blues and soul singers that have always gotten to my gut which includes people like Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Nina Simone, Otis Redding, Billie Holiday, Buddy Guy, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Bessie Smith, Joan Osborne, Ray Charles, Al Green and Mavis Staples and Irma Thomas?to name a few.

Deb came up with the idea for the title of the CD, The Blue Pearl from an Eastern spiritual concept which states that when in a state of deep meditation, a person will encounter a tiny, sparkling blue light in the forehead known as "The Blue Pearl". This is the light of the soul within a human being. Deb says "This felt right for this CD, because a lot of the lyrical ideas were about stripping down to the essence of things and not getting caught up in all the internal and external distractions and negativity that prevent us from being truly present with our deepest self. On a lighter note, I also just liked the image of the blues being at the center of the music deep within but it clearly being surrounded by other influences and musical ideas."

Please enjoy the performance video from her show Brittingham's in Lafayette Hill, PA

You are now Tuned In to Deb Callahan

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