Tina Schlieske has a long history in the music business. When she was a teenager, her band Tina and the B-Sides gathered fans in the Midwest and released records on Sire; after that, she played rhythm guitar and sang lead with Stevie Ray Vaughn's band, Double Trouble, among other projects. Slow Burn
is Schlieske's solo debut. If there's any doubt that she belongs among the Bonnie Raitts of blues rock, this record should lay it to rest.
According to the liner notes, Slow Burn was recorded on "a shoestring and a couple cases of Modelo Especial", but it has the hallmarks of a bigger budget and a cheaper beer. Sheldon Gomberg's production (he also plays bass) brings Schlieske's songs to life -- there's not a whiff of lo-fi about the place. This is especially impressive considering the relatively large number of backup musicians. Aside from a guitar/bass/drums core and Schlieske's own acoustic six-string, several tracks are enlivened with pedal steel, Rhodes or piano, lending a country twang to catchy midtempo semi-rockouts like "Honey, Baby, Sweetie" and "Adeline". "Everyday" is triumphant with organ and gospel backup singers, and the wild-card hidden track features steel drums and celebratory splashes of brass.
The ballads are where Schlieske really makes her mark. Her smoke-and-gravel voice is utterly convincing, a grittily soulful counterweight to album highlight "Never Knew Love"'s soaring harmonies. Schlieske's ability to tear out her heart, plop it on tape and start a party on the next track is part of what makes Slow Burn such an assured debut -- but lots of experience and talented friends sure don't hurt.