By Bobby Reed | Published February 2021
With one spin of Veronica Lewis’ debut album, You Ain’t Unlucky, blues fans immediately will recognize some key artistic influences on the 17-year-old singer/pianist. Along with an original tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis (no relation), she unleashes a rollicking version of Katie Webster’s “Whoo Whee Sweet Daddy” (found on the 1988 album The Swamp Boogie Queen). The New Hampshire native concludes the program with a boogie-woogie romp, “The Memphis Train,” in which she name-checks Webster, Jerry Lee and Pinetop Perkins—three pianists unlikely to turn up on the playlists of the average U.S. teen.
Gifted with a voice that combines power with an elastic range, Lewis delivers a program centered around her original compositions, all of which nod to tradition. Eschewing tender ballads in favor of rowdy barn burners, she offers up a rarity in the blues world nowadays: an album without any type of guitar. She recruited five musicians for the sessions, but the instrumentation remains consistent throughout the program: a trio of piano, saxophone and drums. Unafraid to utilize all 88 keys, Lewis favors a beat that’s steady, a horn that honks and piano that talks. (Three cuts feature acoustic piano lines recorded at Lewis’ home, where she played a 115-year-old upright named Margaret.)
This fat-free, 33-minute program probably won’t inspire a musicologist to write a dissertation on Lewis’ charming, straightforward lyrics, but it will motivate listeners to lace up their dancing shoes. You Ain’t Unlucky, a charming gem currently generating airplay, announces the arrival of a young talent who can belt out a narrative with authority and pound out a piano solo with marvelous muscularity.