Rita Chiarelli

Breakfast at Midnight

Canada isn’t usually considered a hotbed of blues, but listen to Rita Chiarelli’s full-blooded, whiskey-tinted voice and you might think that Toronto was where the blues began. And not just the blues, either—though every note she sings is colored by Mississippi river water and edged with Chicago grit, she also rocks out in a sort of Cajun-conjunto style on "Never Been Loved Before" and evokes the spirit of Phoebe Snow on "Memphis Has Got the Blues." Her backing musicians are worth taking note of, especially the sly and skillful slide guitarist Colin Linden and Hammond organist Richard Bell. But what makes everything else work on this exceptional album is the consistently high quality of Chiarelli’s songs, which are sharp, tightly crafted and mature. Highly recommended.