“I love you!” some guy yelled in the quiet lull following a song. Ana Popovic giggled and shot back, “Are you handsome and rich?” To which some other male fan retorted, “No, that’s me!” More laughter and giggles.
Ana responded, “No, I am joking – we don’t care about these things. We just want to play Blues all night! Here, try this.” She then picked some rhythmic notes solo while her bassist and drummer tried to decide into what song she was heading. They quickly jumped in, and off they tore into “Bigtown Playboy” with thunderous audience approval.
We were just putty in her hands after that!
Seeing the 31-year-old Serbian born Popovic live at the Slippery Noodle Inn in Indianapolis seared into my brain three facts: she is dangerously attractive, she is a dynamic performer, and she is a serious triple threat – songwriter with an international social conscience, singer, and guitarist. Once called the female “incarnation of Jimi Hendrix,” she is not likely to be a big hit with blues Nazi purists. Ana plays blues based rock, fluid jazz, acoustic numbers, and she can light up a room on slide guitar.
After three albums on Germany’s Ruf Records after a European debut self release, Popovic has been signed to Randy Chortkoff’s Delta Groove spin off independent label, Electro Groove. This album is being called her “American debut,” and they have spared no expense in recording layer after layer of sound (horns, organ, background vocals), producing by famed John Porter and David Z, and including an 8 page liner notes booklet with lyrics. Numbering no less than 18, guest studio artists abound including Jon Cleary on piano, Tony Braunagel on drums, and Lenny Castro on percussion.
Popovic has so many wonderfully unique musical abilities, it’s a shame that the first song merely reminds us, instrumentally, that she can play guitar like Jimi Hendrix. Skip this track and go to track 2. You can hear the love-song lyrics from the first track (like “If you ever leave me baby, Can I come along?”) in its reprise on track 14, the “Blues Version.”
The real treasures of this CD begin with the third track, “Between Our Worlds,” where The Texacali Horns are joined by B3 organ, clavinet, electric piano, and background vocals. The music is mesmerizing and Popovic’s thoughtful lyrics are a powerful reminder of the shortcomings of all the Western country’s efforts at relieving hunger, AIDS, and suffering in Africa.
Track 6 is another example of Popovic’s special qualities. It’s a cool jazzy number with Ana singing a pleading love song in a sensuous, breathy mode.
A product herself of the Milosevic era of violence in Serbia, Popovic uses the title track to remind us the time for reform is now. “Why don’t we give peace another chance? Because, we’re still making history.”
If you can remember that Stevie Ray Vaughan played jazz, too, and you enjoyed it, then you will love this CD.
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