Annika Chambers & The Houston All-Stars - Making My Mark

A fine and funky outing featuring absolutely sublime vocals
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Making My Mark proves an apt title indeed for the debut recording from Annika Chambers.  Possessed of a powerhouse set of pipes, she's firmly in control through a varied set that ranges from self-penned declarations of defiant intent (opening manifesto "Move") to affirmative anthems of soul-searing regret (Bobby Charles' classic "Jealous Kind").

Chambers' command of the considerable resources on hand here should come as no surprise given her background.  Rising to the rank of Sergeant in the US Army (including deployments to both Afghanistan and Kosovo), she left to pursue her musical dreams, and as of the release of her debut she was one semester away from earning a Bachelor's Degree in Communications.

Here Chambers is backed by a big, fat, funky band absolutely oozes soul.  Led by bassist and arranger Larry Fulcher (who also contributes guitar on a track and co-wrote two), there are no fewer than eighteen musicians and singers participating the project, yet they achieve the ideal balance between tight grooves and a loose and raucously raunchy feel.

Most of the material is 'old school' soul, churning grooves with bold, brassy accents and lots going on.  Chambers is nothing if not versatile, though, showing a thoughtful side on heartfelt ballad "Down South," taking it to church on Steve Cropper and Eddie Floyd's "Love's Sweet Sensation," and getting down and (explicitly) dirty on "Lick 'Er" (sample lyric: "I got what Jack ain't got" / I wanna be your licker ...") and the salaciously celebratory "Let's Get Down To Business."  She injects hard-core blues ("It Hurts Me To My Heart") with an unexpected tenderness, adopts a bawdy swagger on "Barnyard Blues," and builds her own "Guitar Boy" from intimate confession to a blistering and boisterous climax.

Instrumental contributions are uniformly excellent throughout - searing sax, a thick, rich cushion of B3, chunky guitar, and a slippery, supple rhythm section that pulses with irrepressible energy.   Yet the band, as good as it is, never overshadows the sheer power and glory that is Chambers' voice.  She struts and roars, she growls and she purrs, equally capable of caressing a lyric with loving care or reaching the rafters with disarming ease.

This one's definitely worth a listen, and Annika Chambers is a name to watch for - and a sublime voice to listen to and for ...