HGR CD Review: Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats

MISS MELANIE AND THE VALLEY RATS – YOU’RE ALL I GOT (no label) Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats exploded onto the Pennsylvania blues scene three years ago; introducing the fiery and emotionally-charged voice of singer and namesake Melanie Morrison Ziegler. Setting the table with their 2011 half-studio, half-live debut Slow Down, the group further defines and expands their blues horizons on their sophomore studio album, You’re All I Got. Again, Miss Melanie is front and center throughout the disc’s ten tracks, flexing her vocal range and exuding a broad variety of passion and emotion with every note. She owns every song she touches; pushing the highs higher on the rousing disc opener “Tell Me Where It’s At” and the slow blues of the title track “You’re All I Got,” growling deeper on the rowdy motorcycle-themed joyride “Let’s Ride,” getting playful on the alcohol ode “Whiskey & Me,” and offering reserve and reverence on the beautiful disc-ending treatment of “Amazing Grace.” Helping Miss Melanie shine is the band surrounding her, as they skillfully support her performance with appropriate mood-setting backdrops. Guitarist Mark Ross, keyboardist Rev. James Harton and drummer Matt Zelenz provide the perfect blend of tones and intensity to color and shape each song. Ross styles and profiles on his guitar strings during punchier numbers like “Lookin’ for a King Bee” and the jump blues of “Good Man,” and he and Harton provide the dynamic peaks and valleys to enhance the moodiness of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” Harton’s organ groan ranges from soft to boisterous, and his gentle accordion tones color the Tex-Mex-flavored “Promise of Dawn.” Several guests help out along the way, including sax players Doug Bernstein and Tom Gallagher, and bass players Rene Witzke and Pat McGinnis. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Bill Filer at Audible Images Recording Studio in Stormstown and produced by Theo Wesley Maxwell, You’re All I Got sounds clean, balanced and polished; with Miss Melanie’s voice and all the instrumental ingredients standing clear and distinct. You’re All I Got is the creation of a focused, seasoned band, as Miss Melanie and the Valley Rats show their mastery on a variety of blues tones and flavors. (The CD can be obtained through the group’s website, www.missmelanieandthevalleyrats.com.)