Philly vocalist Deb Callahan has been singing the blues for 20 years, and plans to do a lot of celebrating to mark the milestone. The festivities kicked off back in March with a headlining anniversary showcase back in March; from there, Callahan and her three bandmates — bassist Garry Lee, guitarist Allen James and drummer Tom Walling — have a calendar of shows plotted out through June, showcasing their recent fifth album Sweet Soul and digging back through their back catalog.
We got to see some of what they can do in this week’s Key Studio Session, and for a four-piece without much in the way of fanfare or instrumental excess, their sound is remarkably full. James’ guitar emulates a Rhodes keyboard tone on the swinging “Seven States Away,” a Florida-to-Pennsylvania travelogue Callahan wrote about wanting to return home and see her son; on “Carry Me,” his playing resonates its way down a dusky delta swamp, while the set-closing “I Keep Things Running” has a jagged rock edge. Lee’s bass is warm and enveloping, filling in sonic nooks and crannies in subtle but important ways, and Walling’s drums are precision-tight, with loud accents aplenty but just as much studious simplicity.
The glue holding it all together, the reason we’re here in the first place, is Callahan’s voice, an instrument in itself that is dynamic in range and full of emotion, from determination to frustration to humor and more.
Watch Callahan and the band perform “Carry Me” and stream the entire session down below. Their next gig is this Saturday, April 21st, at Bethany Blues in Lewes, Delaware. They’re back in the Philly region on Friday, April 27th for a gig at Jamie’s House of Music in Lansdowne (a new space run by the folks behind Overbook’s Psalm Salon) and May 4th at 118 North in Wayne. For information on all these shows and more, head to the band’s website.Deb Callahan Band, The Key Studio Sessions