Remember when you stacked your favourite 45s on the turntable and they dropped one by one? Remember when 45s had two sides – A-side/B-side and the B-side brought as much joy as the A-side? Kirsten Thien’s new album 'Two Sides' brings that kind of joy. In the gloomy age of Covid, this is a bubble of good old fashioned raunchy blues – kicking off with the rocking 'Shoulda Been'.
Kirsten Thien’s sheer energy bursts through in this opening track, setting the scene for ‘Two Sides’ – for as you’d expect, there are two sides to this album – a to and fro of styles, themes, rhythms and rhymes.
No surprise then that ‘Two Sides’ reflects the two sides to Thien and her unlikely path from Georgetown University Business School to following her true joy and passion – to be a blues and roots rock singer-songwriter. Just weeks before starting a career on Wall Street she did a dramatic turnaround and swapped for an uncertain life in music. That business training should stand her in good stead as she navigates her way through the industry though – and this woman has talent in abundance.
‘Two Sides’ explores that duality. It explores contrast – the light and dark, the contrasts between success and failure, self-doubt versus empowerment, and struggles against hope.
The eight tracks on this fast-paced, rocking album bring the New York-based, modern-day blues woman on to a new level. With ease, she flits from blues to rock, gospel to soul – that powerful voice robustly rocking through a spectrum of moods and methods; synching extreme guitar skills and exceptional vocals.
Like everyone everywhere who loves live music, I’m missing getting to gigs this year – I would love to see Kristen Thien live. We all need to let our hair down when this lockdown is over and we can enjoy the thrill of live music again – but in the meantime – Thien’s ‘Two Sides’ is worth blasting out in the confines of your own four walls.
We all get by with a little help from our friends and for ‘Two Sides’, Thien has assembled a team that includes bassist and producer Erik Boyd, special guests Raul Midon, Doug McLeod, and Jelly Joseph (Tank the Jelly) from New Orleans.
The sessions and collaborations took place over a few years – with the final masters completed during the darkest months of the NYC pandemic lockdown.
The opening track really sets the pace, then the follow up ‘Sweet Lost and Found’ explains the two sides to this feisty character. The pedigree of the best and the brilliant of American blues are referenced in Thien’s influences – from Bo Didley and Buddy Guy. The guitar solos on this album are divine. She’s described as “an artist in touch with her muse” and you can easily hear why.
The collaboration with Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Raul Midon pushes Thien as an artist. She sings in Spanish on the Latin blues-mambo ‘Montanas’ featuring South American style guitar and piano by John Benthal and Fabian Almazon respectively.
The Delta blues ‘Better Or Your Gonna Get Burned’ features Nashville drummer Wes Little and legendary Doug McLeod on resonator guitar. Closing ‘Two Sides’ is the Leon Russell soul-blues classic ‘I’d Rather Be Blind’ – first recorded in 1972 and still as meaningful almost fifty years later.