Despite a couple of Top 40 hits at rock radio and reviews that favorably compared her debut, 1999’s Loud Guitars, Big Suspcions, to early-era Bonnie Raitt, erstwhile blues-rock prodigy Shannon Curfman fell off the radar for the better part of a decade, finally reemerging with her sophomore album, Fast Lane Addiction, in 2007. Thankfully, she hasn’t taken nearly so long for her third effort, the fiery What You’re Getting Into.
While many contemporary blues records are undermined by too-slick engineering, Curfman and co-producer Jason Miller instead opt for more lo-fi, ragged arrangements, leaving often heavy reverb in the sound mixes to add texture to Curfman’s guitar licks. Though the arrangements may not be particularly innovative, cuts like “The Core” and the aggressive “Curious” include some tremendous, powerful blues structures. There’s something to be said for defying convention, but Curfman’s mastery of tried-and-true blues forms is impressive in its own right.
Curfman’s primary selling point, though, remains her enormous, versatile voice. At turns gritty and soulful, she wails a ferocious version of Eric Clapton’s “The Core” and standout original “What Would Mama Say” with conviction. She plays coy on the sex-fuelled “Heaven Is on Your Mind,” and conveys some real vulnerability beneath the bluster of “All I Have.” But the highlight of the set is a cover Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well.” It’s the album’s meatiest song, and Curfman simply belts the ever-living shit out of it.
Other than Beth Hart, there isn’t a female rock singer working today who’s better or who could equal the tour-de-force performance she gives on What You’re Getting Into. When her songwriting starts to match the maturity of her phenomenal voice and her arrangements reflect the same fearlessness as her performances, Curfman could emerge as a modern blues powerhouse. Still only in her mid-20s, she’s well on her way.