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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Lucy Woodward

When Lucy Woodward stepped in front of the red velvet curtain at Cafe 939, the crowd of college students seated pretzel-style on the floor might have mistaken her as one of them. Sporting a tiered mini-skirt, graphic T and hair in ringlets, few would guess that this cheerful blonde could know anything about the blues. But Woodward wasted no time proving herself a standout among trendy femme fatales. In fact, Woodward is no Johnny-come-lately to the current blues revival; despite having a Top 40 hit with the MTV-ready “Dumb Girls” in 2003, her singing career started in jazz cafes while growing up in the Bronx. After being discovered by Atlantic Records and subsequently dropped during a merger/artist purging, Woodward independently recorded her new album Lucy Woodward… is Hot and Bothered, opting to distribute it exclusively through Barnes & Noble and via download at iTunes.com.

As with the new record, Woodward opened her Tuesday night set with the mischievous “Love Is Gonna Getcha,” then moved into “Too Much to Live For,” in which, as though alluding to the fate of her mainstream single, she assures, “you won’t find me crying over something dumb.” The theme of getting back on her feet and rediscovering herself also appears in her new single, “Slow Recovery,” a more delicate declaration of self-respect. And it rings true – Woodward certainly appeared far from broken up about being an independent woman, whether professionally or romantically. Her flirtatious yet personable stage presence charmed the whole venue, so much that when she asked if anyone would mind taking pictures on her personal camera, it didn’t seem at all like an odd request. Having shattered the conventional barrier between herself and her audience, she also made sure to dissolve the one between herself and her three-piece band – drummer Steve Williams, bassist Keith Golden, and pianist/guitarist Russell Graham – crediting them on several occasions for the team effort that kept the songs tight and the show rousing.

Indeed it was just as much the jugging drums and playful bass-line that got the audience on their feet for a scat-filled cover of The Jungle Book’s “I Wanna Be Like You.” It would have been easy to cash in on other old school hits of that ilk, but Woodward chose to showcase her range as a songwriter by sticking to mostly original material. Selections from her current record tag-teamed the motifs of past and present, addressing the à propos with a critique of gentrification in “Geographical Cure” and merging her grandmother’s Yiddish lullaby with Woodward’s lyrics in the slinky power ballad “Hot & Bothered.”

Romanced by the foursome’s versatility and the genuine good time they seemed to be having together, listeners remained invested in each tune, including the stripped down encore performance of “Please Baby Please,” a coy, naughty girl anthem set only to Graham’s lounge-style piano accompaniment. In it Woodward laments various temptations and pleads with an imagined lover to set her free to do as she feels. If her performance of …Hot and Bothered is any indication of what she can produce unrestrained and unsupported by a major record label, then one would have to agree with her that freedom suits Ms. Woodward best.

Amy Julian can be reached at [email protected]