I listened to Sue Foley's Pinky's Blues as I was reading Alan Paul and Andy Aledort's Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan, so hard-driving Texas blues was already on my mind. But even without that book—and Vaughan—running through my head, you can't deny he and Foley share an ability to create huge tones and grooves.
Singer/guitarist Foley, like Vaughan, is a Texan, but by way of Canada. Her voice isn't always powerful, but she knows how to work her material around her vocals. But she also knows her strength is her guitar playing, which is filled with equal parts melody and passion. She can rip when she wants to, but a Foley bend between notes is worth 25 notes from most other blues rock guitarists.
Foley also wears her Vaughan influence on her sleeve, working with Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton across the album, and Vaughan's brother Jimmie on "Hurricane Girl," an original based upon the iconic Elmore James "Dust My Broom" riff. Foley works to sing over the guitars, almost sounding like someone trying to hold on through a hurricane, although of course, in the song, Foley herself is the titular weather.
Foley's voice is much better suited to "Stop These Teardrops," a track by Lillia Lavell "Lavelle" White. Foley doesn't have White's soulful voice, which practically has the timbre of a saxophone. Instead, Foley works the song as a 60s go-go blues, becoming the version of Nancy Sinatra that was born and raised in Austin. Similarly, Foley sounds wonderful on "Think It Over," a 50s Jimmy Donley ballad, Foley tapping into a deep sadness. Those two tracks, coupled with "Boogie Real Low," a 1950s rock track by Frankie Lee Sims, creates a wonderful album within the album, of old fashioned rock and roll given a blues injection by Foley's guitar playing.
But there's still plenty of straight-up, high-octane blues rock, too. The title track, which also leads off the album, is a slow blues instrumental that showcases Foley's sense of melody, but also doesn't feel like someone jamming before a take. It's composed and organized, but also exciting and live-sounding. She manages to do the same thing on "Okie Dokie Stomp," a Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown song and the album's other instrumental.
Foley only wrote three of the album's 12 songs, and one of those is an instrumental. And yet you still leave Pinky's Blues having a vivid picture of who Foley is as an artist. That's because she's a true interpreter, not in terms of rewriting songs, but putting her own stamp on them. Foley's gift, other than her brilliant guitar playing, that almost doesn't even need a band behind it, is how she's always able to sound like herself, even within the licks and grooves of others. Her personality can't be contained and comes across every second of Pinky's Blues.