Review: Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers Blend Rock and Blues on 'No Good Deed'
Even if you haven't heard of Mindi Abair, there's a very good chance you've heard her, or at least her saxaphone. The Grammy nominated artist spent years as a session and touring musician, working with a diverse group of artists that include Keb' Mo', Duran Duran, and The Backstreet Boys. Now Abair is preparing to release the third album with her band The Boneshakers, No Good Deed, and that diverse background pays off with an album that blurs the lines between rock, jazz, blues, and soul.
Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers keep a blues foundation across the 11 tracks of No Good Deed, but inject heavy doses of hard rock guitar, courtesy of guitarist and former Was (Not Was) member Randy Jacobs and producer Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin). The harder edge shows up in some unusual places, none more so than the band's cover of The Young Rascals' 1966 hit “You Better Run.” The song had already gotten a guitar rock makeover in 1980 by Pat Benatar, but Jacobs turns Neil Geraldo's guitar work from that cover to 11 and Abair proves herself more than capable of keeping up vocally, sounding a bit like the love child of Chrissie Hynde and Lita Ford. Easily the album's best track.
On the other end of the spectrum is the soulful blues ballad “Sweetest Lies.” While Jacobs keeps the guitar on full volume here as well, it's in the service of a mournful blues wail instead of a hard rock romp. Vocally, Abair trades her growl for a soulful jazz vamp, crooning “Is it wrong? Is it right? That I let you make me cry?” with a conviction that evokes a smoky lounge, a slinky dress, and possibly a trench coated detective staring up from the audience.
The best showcase of Abair's signature saxophone work is “Good Day for the Blues.” Name dropping artists like Bobby Blue Bland, B.B. King, and Magic Sam, the song's highlight is the extended sax solo in the middle, a surprisingly upbeat instrumental number for a song about drifting love, and one that is bolstered by pianist Rodney Lee's foundation.
Boneshakers drummer Third Richardson gets his chance to shine on the band's cover of Ike and Tina Turner's “Baby Get It On”, where he steps out from behind the kit to perform and electric vocal duet with Abair that retains all of the hyperkinetic energy of the Turners' version while remaining thoroughly original.
If you're looking for a hard rocking blues album that is unafraid to color outside the lines, then No Good Deed is going to scratch that itch. The energy level is high throughout, Abair’s vocals are on point, and the instrumental work is outstanding. It's a solid entry in Abair's catalog and worth a listen or five.