Dana Fuchs – Bliss Avenue (review)

Dana Fuchs – Bliss Avenue (Ruf Records) review

Bliss Avenue is the third studio album from power-house vocalist Dana Fuchs, and it’s undeniably her finest to date.  The strength of the record lies in its diversity – straight-ahead rockers like the Mott the Hoople-infused “How Did Things Get This Way” rub shoulders with the soulful blues of “Livin’ on Sunday.” There’s the barrelhouse twanger “Nothin’ on My Mind,” where she muses “thanks for nothing / and fucking up my life” over piano that would make Floyd Cramer proud.

The leadoff track, “Bliss Avenue,” is certainly meant to shock – a full-on assault, with Fuchs sounding a whole lot like Janis Joplin’s “Ball & Chain” straight out of Monterey.  And while the comparisons to the legendary performer are warranted (she played Janis in an off-Broadway musical), Fuchs’ range is a lot wider.  I’m not sure Joplin would be capable of a straight-ahead Tom Petty-style rocker like “Baby Loves the Life,” or the restraint Fuchs shows in the gorgeous ballad “So Hard to Move.” What holds the record together is the fantastic guitar work from Jon Diamond (check out his James Gang riffing on “Keep on Walking”), and Fuchs’ inspired vocals.

She saves some of the best for last – “Long Long Game” starts with a mandolin then builds into an intense rocker with some fantastic guitar work from Diamond and some gospel-tinged background vocals.

A lot of singers with strong voices have trouble making great records.  Yet, Dana Fuchs has succeeded by assembling a fine collection of songs that cover a wide range, but never   stray outside her comfort zone.  A high octane winner.  –Tony Peters