Review and photographs by Fred Rudofsky
Imagine having just 35-40 minutes to make an impression on thousands basking in the heat of an Albany afternoon. Kirsten Thien and her fine band from NYC met that challenge as the opening band for Dickey Betts & Great Southern at Albany’s Alive at Five in Corning Preserve last week.
“Love That’s Made to Share,” the first song of several off her excellent “Delicious” album (Screen Door Records), invited the crowd to get up and move from the opening chords. Thien’s voice brought to mind Bonnie Raitt and Maria McKee, soulful and confident, as she played acoustic guitar and smiled in the late afternoon sun, while lead guitarist Arthur Neilson (known by many for his tenure with Shemekia Copeland) nailed pinched note solos and fills.
The Memphis-styled “Nobody’s Ever Loved Me Like You Do” got folks dancing a bit in front of the stage, and Thien’s take on “Taxi Love,” a song written by Charlie Feldman and Jon Tiven for Wilson Pickett, brought smiles and laughter with its swaggering tale of lust in the fast lane.
With a shout-out to her friend, the late, great blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin (who played on the studio cut), Thien played up the double entendres of “Please Drive” over a sultry groove laid down by bassist Eric Boyd and drummer Dylan Wissing. Neilson’s crackling solos would have made Sumlin smile with approval.
Putting aside her guitar, Thien prowled the stage for “Treat ‘im Like a Man”, a rocking blues about how some women could learn a few lessons in giving a lover some respect and freedom rather than treating him “like property.” The title track to her new album lived up to its name, too. A tasty ode to love, Thien’s lyrics dealt with eschewing material gifts and embracing simpler things instead.
“Here’s a song about living in the moment!” exclaimed Thien, who got an immediate response from the audience. To the delight of fans of vintage 1970s blues, the band closed out the set with an uptempo yet full-of-yearning take on Freddie King’s chestnut, “I’d Rather Be Blind.” As anyone in the crowd or later at the merchandise table could attest, this vivacious singer and her band are welcome back anytime, hopefully as a headliner.
Richard Brody’s review of the Kirsten Thien Band and Dickey Betts & Great Southern at Nippertown