Canadian Blues And Country Artist Crystal Shawanda To Release New Album 'Midnight Blues'
JUNO Award-winning powerhouse Crystal Shawanda is back with the announcement of her new studio album, Midnight Blues, set for release this September 30th on True North Records. The latest fiery blues collection features “How Bad Do You Want It” — available now — showcasing her full-throttle raspy voice, unmatched in today’s musical landscape, and an authenticity for the genre dating back to her youth.
“Growing up, all of my favourite music had these breadcrumbs that led me to the blues,” Crystal says. “I often quote Willie Dixon: ‘Blues is the roots and everything else is the fruits.’ Even today's pop music, there's all this influence that derives from the blues. I was just always really attracted to the rawness and the realness of the blues.”
Produced and engineered in Nashville by her husband and long-time collaborator Dewayne Strobel, Midnight Blues — her eighth studio album, and fifth since switching from a chart-topping career as a country artist — is a collection of original songs, such as the seductive-sounding rocker “Midnight Blues,” swampy dancefloor groove “Rumpshaker,” and gentler “Take A Little Walk With The Moon,” as well as covers of the Howlin’ Wolf classic “Evil” and her take on Celine Dion’s hit “That’s Just The Woman In Me.”
There’s a tendency these days to try to pigeonhole any artist that attempts to breach the boundaries. Chalk it up to the restrictions of radio playlists or the media’s attempt to strictly define musicians by the music it believes artists ought to be making, creative instincts be damned.
Nevertheless Crystal Shawanda opted to defy those demands and chart her own path forward. Initially signed to RCA in 2007, she hit her stride as a country singer and songwriter when she scored a top 20 hit with her song “You Can Let Go” and subsequently tallied sales of over 50,000 copies of her debut album Dawn of a New Day and subsequently debuted in the Billboard Top 20. Nevertheless, she began to realize that the blues had captured her muse, and with that, she left the label, shifted her stance and began recording albums that reflected her love of blues and her natural affinity for that sound.
As she once told an interviewer, “The whole time I was singing Patsy Cline on stage, I was singing Etta James at home.”
It’s that free spirited approach that’s found her becoming a critical favorite. Her album, VooDoo Woman, elevated the Canadian-bred, now Nashville-based singer to the upper strata of today’s most expressive and exhilarating performers. Although influenced by such iconic individuals as Etta James, Koko Taylor and the Staple Singers, she claims a specific signature style all her own.
Still, Crystal is hardly what one might call an overnight sensation. “I grew up with blues music and I used to jam with blues musicians when I was living in Canada,” she recalls. “It’s funny. After moving to Nashville the second time in 2000, I was discovered while actually playing the blues — the music made by Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Big Mama Thornton, Janis Joplin. But when I was offered the record deal to make country music, it felt like the opportunity of a lifetime, and so I took it and ran.”
After scoring initial success as a country artist, she garnered a legion of devotees, marquee status as a major headliner, and even became the subject of a reality show, “Crystal: Living the Dream” as seen on the CMT television network.
She followed her stint at RCA with an independent effort Just Like You, garnering Canada’s prestigious Juno Award in the process. She also had the distinction of performing at President Barrack Obama’s inauguration festivities in 2013. She’s since made her name as a motivational speaker and currently serves as board member of the not-for-profit Nike 7 charitable foundation.
“I veered towards the blues because that’s the music I love to sing,” Crystal says in retrospect. “It feels so natural, the kind of music I was meant to sing. It’s a beautiful release. It’s like letting a bird out of a cage. This is what I’m supposed to do. This is how I fly.”