by Rudy Palma
Blues is a vast genre of music that offers everything from delta blues, to Chicago blues, to Memphis blues and more. Jan Cronin has a strong affinity for blues that is flavored with jazz, a pinch of soul and Austin style country. Cronin began her professional singing career in Washington, DC. Nashville called in 1994 when, on a visit from DC, Cronin snagged Best Female Vocalist honors in a singing contest at the Nashville Palace. The win earned her an invitation to perform at the Palace for a week. After moving to Nashville, Cronin met the love of her life, the late songwriter/guitarist Lefty Ken Howell. Cronin over time became a regular member of his band, Lefty Ken and The Blues Rats.
Cronin has a new album out titled Tell Him I Said Hello, the album strongly identifies her versatility as a vocalist and features a number of songs composed by her late husband. The variety of tunes further exemplifies Cronin’s innate dynamic and stylistic range.
“Love’s Made That Way,” is a Cronin and Howell original. Cronin has a seasoned voice that resonates with experience, you can hear the conviction in her voice and her delivery is right on time. Rickey Godfrey lays down a righteous bluesy solo, while bassist Mark W. Winchester drives the bottom end resonance and drummer Chris Rosenstone sends it home with hard-driving rhythms. “Bad Thing,” is a Marcia Ball, Lou Ann Barton and Angela Strehli tune that is given a barroom piano sound. Cronin sticks close to the Lou Ann Barton version, complete with backing vocals by Debbie Robbins and Terri Calderon. Cronin’s weathered voice is horn like in its competence. She drives the tune with reverence and respect for the songwriter’s intentions.
Jazz and blues have always had a kinship together, and on “Tell Him I Said Hello,” a Betty Carter tune, it’s given a sultry reading and has that late-night smoky club ascetic. Cronin is convincing on this jazz gem. Tom Pallardy spins a hearty tone on his saxophone as he colorizes with a melodic solo full of jazz sonorities. Cronin has a classic jazz thrush sound. Her focused delivery offers a Billie Holiday vibe – unadorned, yet deeply connecting. Another tune that Cronin shows her jazz slip on is the classic “My Baby Just Cares For Me.” Though Cronin gives it more of a doo-wop reading versus a jazz sensibility.
Overall, Cronin has pulled together a tasty album that serves up a gumbo of blues, jazz and old soul tunes that percolates with a Nashville bluesy sound. Solid songwriting and well-chosen covers add up to a solid listen throughout. Lots of meat and potatoes from a weighty artist.