Now Playing: Vanessa Collier’s ‘Heart on the Line’


American singer-songwriter and musician Vanessa Collier has just released a new self-produced fourth album. It’s titled Heart on the Line. But first, for those not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.

Vanessa Collier

According to her official website, Vanessa Collier’ is a native of Dallas, Texas, United States. She grew up in Columbia, Maryland. Collier’s interest in blues music can be traced back to her childhood. At the age of 11, she performed a sax solo over a blues progression in the jazz band. 

She earned degrees in Performance and Music Production & Engineering at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Collier was also a top-three finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition and made it to the semi-finals of the 2016 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee. She was nominated for five Blues Music Awards.  

Collier won one last year and a second one earlier this year. Her rockin’ resume also includes three prior platters including her debut solo disc, Heart Soul & Saxophone, (2014), and her previous release 2018’s Honey Up.

Signature sound

Collier’s signature sound is a mix of multiple music genres including blues, gospel, funk, rock, and soul. Her influences include Cannonball Adderley, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock, Norah Jones, Bonnie Raitt, Professor Longhair, Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Wood Brothers, and Snooks Eaglin.

Heart on the Line

The disc includes 11 tracks. Vanessa Collier leads the way on vocals, saxophones, and cowbell. She is backed by other artists including Nick Stevens (shuitar, drums and percussion), Laura Chavez (electric guitar), Willia Gorman (organ, piano, Wurlitzer, and clavinet), Quinn Carson (trombone), Doug Woolverton (trumpet), and C.C. Ellis, Scot and Sutherland (bass).

Track by Track

The album opens on a clever cover of James Brown’s classic cut “Super Bad.” It’s nice when an indie artist includes a cover or two because it automatically forges a common bond with new listeners. The gender switch here is actually refreshing.   

The second selection is the upbeat “What Makes You Beautiful.” It’s an effective intro to Collier’s songwriting skills for new listeners and the first single off the album.

“Bloodhound” is next here. It’s the second single off the release. Collier also adds a resonator guitar on this one which gives it its own little swampy identity.

“I Don’t Want Anything To Change” is the next reimagined recording. Here Collier presents her version of a song co-written by Maia Sharp and Liz Rose and made famous by Bonnie Raitt. It’s a nice heartfelt rendition of another well-known song.

Okay, we hear covers of Randy Newman’s “Leave Your Hat On” a lot. Still, Collier’s audio adaptation works well and she makes it her own. It’s smoky-sexy, slightly insistent, and works surprisingly well.

She keeps things moving with “Take A Chance On Me.” Not to be confused with the 1977 ABBA hit of the same name, this is an effective original Collier composition.

“If Only” follows as Collier continues to serve up her own originals. This one presents a musical life lesson.    

The next number is “Weep And Moan.” This slow, blues-tinged track has its own unique sound which is both old and new.  

“Who’s In Power?” has a jazzy contemporary element to it and yet remains in sync with the other audio offerings in this diverse dish of Collier cuts.  

“Freshly Squozen” is slightly slinky and just plain fun. In fact, it sounds like Collier and company had fun laying down the track. 

The closing cut is the title track and third single “Heart on the Line.” This one is definitely inspired by the music of New Orleans. You can clearly hear it. Cornell Williams guests on bass. 

Overall . . .

Overall, this 44-minute CD is a songwriter album. It concentrates Collier’s many different ideas and obvious inspirations. The tuneful topics include stories of perpetual dissatisfaction, excessive self-sacrifice, growing up, and personal discovery. Her music is modern and yet true to the traditions of blues music and her love of the saxophone. So check out Vanessa Collier’s Heart on the Line because she is “Super Bad.”