Reviews of CDs by Ruthie and the Wranglers, Nina Storey and Touch of Charm 

Now Hear This

Ruthie and the Wranglers, "Live at Chick Hall's Surf Club," (Lasso) - The Washington-based Wranglers' new CD catches this award-winning band on a typically lively night. Mixing new original tunes and covers and songs from the band's past two CDs, Ruthie and the boys roll through 25 country-flavored tunes with a freewheeling spirit that's gets more irresistible with each cut. Singer Ruthie Logsdon is in fine form in her role as the upfront and foxy focus of the sound. Her vocal style is a playful one that catches the ear with melodic twists and turns, and her songwriting improves with each Wrangler effort. Bassist Mark Noone and drummer Joel App lock down the rhythm, while sax legend Joe Stanley raises the hair on the neck with some gutsy guest horn solos. Guitarist Phil Matthieu positively smokes whether he's chicken pickin' or blazing a fret-burning lead. If you've heard the band at one of its many Richmond shows during the past few years and enjoy Ruthie and her Loretta Lynn-flavored songs about wayward men and tough-minded women, you won't be disappointed by "Live." If you've never experienced the Wranglers' infectious stage show, catch the band Thursday, May 18 at Poe's Pub.
— Ames Arnold

Nina Storey, "Shades," (Red Lady) — In a music scene chock-full of good-looking young women who boast neither compelling voices nor fashion sense, Nina Storey pours out of your speakers like a refreshing aural waterfall. The music on Storey's "Shades" combines blues, rock, gospel and folk, and she hits dead center on each cut with soaring chops that ring real and true. From the startling dynamics of "Intro" to the rough-and-tumble growls of "Coffee and Margaritas" to the quiet gentleness of "Crown" through the a cappella willfulness of "No Man," Storey shows amazing range and versatility. Storey grew up in a self-termed "artsy" household, where a sound engineer dad, record producer mom and a big-band sax playing grandma exposed her to everything from the Beatles to Aretha, Annie Lennox and Billie Holliday. Storey soaked it all up by the sound of things. Although far from a household name, she's appeared through the years on nationwide festival stages including Lilith Fair, the Aspen Jazz Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. "Shades" is her third independent CD, and if it's an accurate representation of her talent, we should be hearing a good deal more from Nina Storey. This 26-year-old Boulder-based singer has got it all.
— A.A.

Touch of Charm, "I Caught an Angel" — If you thought the era of lush and languorous soul singing had disappeared in a haze of bad raps and gang-banging braggadocio, give a listen to Petersburg-based A Touch of Charm and to the group's independent nine-cut disc "I Caught an Angel." This satin-smooth vocal group mixes some Temptations-type soul with modern rhythms to create a thoroughly pleasing and relaxing sound made for times when the lights are low. Whether covering classic tunes, such as "Sideshow" and "Just My Imagination," or singing originals, these guys succeed throughout, thanks to beautiful leads, carefully layered harmonies and musical arrangements that support the main vocal event with understated grace. Highlights include "Undercover" where the group hits a solid groove with some tasty tenor and falsetto vocals. An updated "Imagination" brings the '70s Temptations tune into today while retaining the class of the original. A Spanish cut is a bit puzzling and the closing Christmas tune may not always be timely, but this is overall an excellent project. The group recently bested 77 East Coast groups in a Black Entertainment Network-sponsored contest. One listen to "Angel" will reveal why. (The CD is available through P.O. Box 411, Chesterfield, Va. 23832. Some of the proceeds from the CD go to a scholarship program that assists minority students with college tuition at historically black colleges.)
— A.A.


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