Chris O – Peckman’s Plateau
CD review by Tony Smith
TN2357-84 – $20 Published in TN152 Nov 22
Chris Okunbor is one of a number of fine musicians who have worked in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.
This album of 11 classic blues tracks was recorded and mastered by Eliot Reynolds at Song Cave Studios Hazelbrook and Chris O pays her respects to the Traditional Custodians of the lands of the Gundungurra and Darug Peoples.
On the cover is a photograph of Chris O in a close bush setting.
Clearly, this first album, covering ‘Delta’ blues standards, was recorded when Chris O was still developing her own style.
Since then, she has collaborated with numerous musicians locally and internationally and has produced a wide repertoire of her own take on the blues.
Peckman’s Plateau, named for a lookout in lofty Katoomba, features nine classic tracks.
These include: ‘Arrangement for Me Blues’ (Bo Carter), ‘Devil Got My Man’ (Skip James), ‘Me and My Chaffeur’ (Memphis Minnie McCoy), ‘Stocking Feet Blues’ (Blind Lemon Jefferson), ‘Police Dog Blues’ (Blind Blake), ‘Special Rider Blues’ (Skip James), ‘Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning’ (Traditional/ Blind Willie Johnson), ‘Catfish Blues’ (Traditional/ Skip James) and ‘Shake em on Down’ (Traditional/ Furry Lewis * Beats by Blockfrei).
The originals are ‘Blue Wednesday’ (Chris O and Derek Phillips) and ‘Cruising with the Blues’ (Chris O).
It is interesting that just the one song ‘Me and My Chaffeur’ is by a woman.
Three songs are by Skip James, clearly a favourite.
It is also interesting that three songs are by blind men which could be a reflection of the limited job opportunities available to blind people, especially people of colour, across the south of the USA, and also a hint of how blind people might compensate with extraordinary hearing and musical sense.
Since releasing this fine album on which every song is enjoyable, Chris O has produced another couple of CDs and has toured extensively both in Australia and overseas.
Her current focus is on Tasmania where she was booked for festivals.
She carries resonator, lap dobro, banjo, ukulele, guitar, bamboo flute and harmonica and gives popular workshops for blues players.
All the blues riffs are here, especially on resonator.
Chris O has a fine, strong voice for expressing the blues, with a good range, especially with her lower voice.
Peckmans Plateau places her in the top rank of Australian blues artists and especially among those aspiring to sing the Delta Blues, where the genre was born.
It is no surprise that she has gone on to compose originals about people and places and to gain such respect among other musicians.