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Heather Hardy: Get Out of the Road (Lil'Mama) 

To say Heather Hardy is to the electric violin as Jimi Hendrix is to the guitar may be a bit of a stretch ... but not by much.

The variety of sounds she can coax from her instrument is amazing, and not surprisingly, she uses the violin to lead, support and drive her third release. What's not as predictable is everything else she brings to this collection of mostly funky blues: Great melodic hooks and a big voice that's as silky-smooth as it is strong both compete with the violin for center stage.

These songs are fully fleshed-out compositions rather than jams, with sophisticated arrangements expertly executed by a killer backup band, with Ed DeLucia on guitar, Larry Lee Lerma on bass, Ralph Gilmore on drums, and Don Nottingham contributing harmony vocals. Their work is augmented by special guests Michael P. Nordberg, Sabra Faulk, Danny Krieger and Eric-Jan Overbeek (aka Mr. Boogie Woogie), all of whom shine. Teenage son Jacob Hardy even plays drums on the title track.

Dedicated to the late Sam Taylor, this work is a spiritual offering with words both clever and heartfelt. Tunes like "Change," "Sittin' and Wondering Why" and the exquisite "Give Me Love" all showcase an artist hitting on all cylinders.

More by Jim Lipson

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