Art Tipaldi Reviews Diamonds On the Desert Floor

Blues Revue March/ April Issue, 2011
By Art Tipaldi

Any singer who opens her record “Sitting outside with a shot of Drambuie, contemplating lady love in the moonlight” has got my ear. Add a dash of greasy slide guitar to Deb Landolt’s swampy, roadhouse voice and there’s an air of anticipation for what’s to come.

Landolt is a powerful singer who was raised in the dirt of Texas blues. Today, she and the Drifter Kings hail from Ohio. Her strengths are obvious from the start. Her earthy vocals meld with Ritchie Hamrick’s stylish guitar; and she writes with keen, songwriter’s eye. At this writing, the CD is one of the five finalists in the Blues Foundation’s Best Self Produced CD competition. And did I mention that the record is produced by Blues Mob’s Michael Hill?

Landolt is at her finest when she delivers “I’ll Be The One,” her ballad of personal heartache. As she uses the stage as her confessional to plead, the intensity of the suffering is articulated through her enormous expression. This highly personal delivery will touch every listener who has wished for love’s total commitment.

Another gem, “House On Fire” is a riveting tale told by a daughter of a Pentecostal who questions the black and white of an old time religious upbringing. A dark slide guitar frames Landolt’s personal crossroads, in an eerie, midnight bayou. Her spoken testimony of a baptismal in the muddy waters completes the metaphor.

Too many blues tunes focus on the “my man’s left me” theme. Landolt’s “What Kind Of Man” offers a slow blues call out to every man who has walked out on a child. Her mother’s anger simmers, as she explains why daddy doesn’t come around anymore. The saddest part is that too often this absentee father only raises another.

Sparely recorded, “Lay My Body Down” starts like a front-porch field recording. By the middle, Landolt leads slide guitar and harmonica in a scorching, Mississippi hill country free for all.

The record closes with Landolt and Hill joining forces on “Ride This Land,” a Hill composition where a parent tells the child of the ideals that unite all of America. To succeed, any singer must deliver the story in a believable fashion. Landolt’s achingly honest, torrid delivery captivates from the outset. These 11 originals sparkle like diamonds on a desert floor.