Beverly McClellan has been adding a little bit of magic to the bars and clubs of Fort Lauderdale, Florida for almost 20 years, so if it took a musical talent show to bring her ‘Voice’ out to a world audience then I humbly eat my (not so encouraging) past words on such programming matters.
She’s got soul, blues, rock and whole plethora of much more to come.
It is no wonder that Steve Vai, on hearing Beverly and watching her perform, signed her to his label, got her in to sing lead vocals on ‘John The Revelator’ on his 2012 album ‘The Story of Light’ (look up the video, it’s well worth it) and subsequently invited her on the European/UK Tour to promote both of their albums. (For personal reasons Beverly had to return home early from the tour).
‘Fear Nothing’ is the title of Beverly McClellan’s album. This Tour Edition, released on December 1st is only available in Europe and features three never released before bonus tracks.
Recorded at Los Angeles’ House of Blues Studio, Fear Nothing starts as it means to go on, punches straight in with a groove that is maintained throughout. Some tracks are slower towards the latter part of the album but the power of the lyrics and the way they are delivered carried by simply great composition won’t disappoint, perhaps more so after a couple of listens.
The whole thing is beautifully mixed. Produced by David Z (Prince, Buddy Guy, Billy Idol, Fine Young Cannibals) I can’t fault the levels or the warmth omitted from this recording.
Being able to compare or liken McClellan’s voice to any other iconic female vocalist is both easy and difficult at the same time. At some points there are traits of Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell and Eva Cassidy (to name a few), but ultimately her range, not only of tone and volume, emotion but also genre are so vast that I can only say that she has something of all my favourite singers in her style… and I think she has just that, her own style.
McClellan is, most importantly, a musician (she plays upwards of 10 instruments) which gleams through in the structure of her songs, the enjoyment that comes through the speakers, the communication with the band and her inability to refrain from jamming along vocally when it’s not her turn are, all things I love.
“Making ‘Fear Nothing’ was as smooth as melting butter on an oven-hot slice of bread”. She said, “I showed the songs to the guys and then we played some of them two or three times, but a lot of performances on the album are first takes, so they have that edgy, live feeling just like on stage”.
The first burst of vocal is fuelled with drive and passion in ‘I see Love’, so much that you believe she literally does see love, as do you by the end of the song, perhaps it’s the rumble of drums that make you fall!
'Lyin’ To' has got everything. I adore her change of intonation and natural rhythm. The interaction with the keys player and sense of her loving and meaning every word resonate, and soon you find you’re asking the same question of yourself. The communication with the audience, even though it’s a studio recording, makes you think you’re at her gig.
'It Ain’t Me' starts out like a late night driving song but drifts in to one of those hot lazy day songs when time seems to be going in slow motion. Lovely breaks, great licks on the guitar, brilliant instrumentals are all important, as music to me is a band not ‘an act’, - a package.
'Nobody’s Fault But Mine' begins with a tasty guitar. This fantastic little blues number is a kind of modern take on the Blind Willie Johnson or Nina Simone versions I grew up with. They play it quite clean, but with enough of the original to make it work well.
'I Can’t Hide Me'. To me, this is the type of music that comes to mind when I think of American bars, if you’ve seen the film Overboard with Jim Dandy to the Rescue, you’ll know where I’m coming from - the kind of place where as soon as you walk in your foot’s tapping, your shoulders slow shimmy and before you know it you’re smiling and dancing with your new best friends.
'Well Wondered' Bass! The warmth of her voice carries the momentum of the song and I love the vocal fills.
'Love Will Find A Way Out' this song features Keb Mo the blues guitarist, singer, songwriter who has won three American Grammys and in the past played with Bonnie Raitt, Big Joe Turner and Albert Collins. The little jibes of guitar featured are so addictive that you find yourself singing along to them.
'Come to Me' I’ve been to a lot of blues jams and this is the song I’d want to hear at the end of a rough day as I looked hard in to my whiskey and contemplated life. It begins bluesy, with a slight resemblance of Sam Cooke’s Bring it On Home, but then it rocks up a bit, which is alright in my book and then McClellan brings it all back down again. The line ‘you can come to me’ becomes both comforting and inspirational.
'I Never Will Forget' is a good exhibition of her vocal range with tones of an older Joni Mitchell and even a little bit of Annie Lennox? Anyway, I must stop making comparisons. The song progresses in to a powerful tale, the slow steady tempo finds you nodding along.
'Tender Of The Most' I can imagine this song on a film soundtrack.
'Precious times' is a pop/rock number. This is one for the mums I think.
'Do It' The first of the bonus tracks. This song actually stopped me in my tracks. Delicate juxtaposed with an assured lilting power and rambling piano.
'As I Walk' demonstrates an adaptability of voice that is ready for all genres.
'A Case of You' is Beverly McClellan’s version of the Joni Mitchell classic, this is a brave task she’s taken on and I think has succeeded in making it her own to suit the warmth and depth of her voice. She softens the often harsh moments of the original and in turn adds a new drama, subtly slower and I think (at the risk of alienating half my family) a more appropriate and touching version.
Lyrically, musically, amazingly this album whizzes you through the emotional gambit with ever present positivity. I am one step closer to fearing nothing.
Fear Nothing (Tour Edition) Track Listing:
1. I See Love
2. Lyin’ To
3. It Ain’t Me
4. Nobody’s Fault But Mine
5. I Can’t Hide Me
6. Well Wondered
7. Love Will Find A Way Out Feat Keb Mo
8. Come To Me
9. I Will Never Forget
10. Tender Of The Most
11. Precious Times
12. Do It
13. As I Walk
14. A Case of You
All articles are © Michelle Nevill