(UK Album Review)
Chicago born guitarist and singer songwriter Donna Herula has brought us 11 original tracks and three carefully selected covers for her third album, Bang At The Door. On this new album she has made a departure from the first two by moving away from being solo to surrounding herself with some wonderful band members and special guests. Proceedings begin with the title track, an acoustic slide guitar driven rhumba which tells the tale of a guy coming home late and drunk but he’s already been thrown out before and there’s no chance of a reunion. A cautionary tale of repeated offences and a good start to the album. Pass The Biscuits has a shuffling, New Orleans vibe with nice tones from her resonator slide guitar and a clean, clear vocal. Written about her mentor and host of the King Biscuit Hour radio show, the late Sonny Payne, it is a touching tribute. Donna is joined on vocals by her husband, Tony Nardiello, for Can’t Wait To See My Baby, a strident acoustic Chicago Blues. They work well together and the added voice brings further depth to the song. There’s more of an Americana feel to Promise Me, a song of the loss felt when a partner is in prison. Her voice suits this to a tee and with Jon Shain on mandolin playing in the background it feels like a bunch of mates sitting in the front room and just playing for the love of it. The slinky, contemporary Jazz Blues of Not Lookin’ Back is a slight departure with piano (Doug Hammer) playing a big part but with the ubiquitous slide guitar never far away. Drummer, Dana Thalheimer taps out the rhythm well with lots of hi-hat and cymbal action. Bill Newton is introduced on harmonica for I Got No Way Home, an upbeat Chicago jam with Herula and Newton indulging in a bit of call and response. Daryl Davis also gets a piece of the action on piano. Donna cements her place in the higher echelons of female slide guitarists on the instrumental, Black Ice, and there’s quite a few of them around nowadays to compete with.
Donna pays tribute to bottleneck originator Bukka White with a strong, in your face from the outset, version of Fixin’ To Die. She doesn’t have the greatest of ranges vocally but uses what she has well. She is a far better guitar player as the solo confirms. Husband Tony returns for Jackson as they return to the Americana field for a gentle and lovely harmonised ballad. Donna has a bit of fun with the Ragtime Piedmont Blues of Movin’ Back Home, where she fingerpicks dextrously around lyrics about the trials of having to move back in with your parents! It’s good fun and will resonate with people who, like me, have had to return to live in their parents’ house for whatever reason. The slide guitar is back for Got What I Deserve, a slow, slick shuffler of a Country Blues with Anne Harris on violin before Donna returns to fingerpicking for Who’s Been Cookin’ In My Kitchen. This one is full of Blues innuendo but sung with a prim and proper voice as a wonderful counterpoint. Donna goes all sassy and gets a bit of emotion into her voice on Something’s Wrong With My Baby but the guitar remains the star. This is her best vocal of the album. She finishes with yet another top-class guitar performance on The Soul Of A Man and she has also been getting better vocally as the album goes on. I’d say there is a certain amount of comfort when backing vocals are in place.
Donna Herula is a slide guitar star for the 2020s and beyond.
Staff Reviewer, BluesBlues - UK Album Review