Michelle Willson and the Evil Gal Festival Orchestra

Sunday, July 22; Broadway Oyster Bar.

Those familiar with Michelle Willson's music know there's a simple explanation behind the goofily sinister name of her backing band, the Evil Gal Festival Orchestra. When Willson, a Massachusetts native, started singing the blues, one of her signature tunes was "Evil Gal Blues," a Lionel Hampton composition originally made famous by Dinah Washington. This connection to the legendary Washington goes a long way toward explaining Willson's musical approach. Sure, she's basically a blues singer, an assertion borne out by her victory in the 1993 Blues Foundation International Competition and her subsequent nomination for a W.C. Handy Award. However, Willson can also swing and groove like a jazz vocalist. On her forthcoming Rounder recording, Wake Up Call (set to hit record stores on Aug. 7), Willson moves easily from jump blues à la Louis Jordan ("Water, Water") to scat ("Mi My Moo"). Accompanied by plenty of slinky Hammond B-3 organ licks and tasty sax solos, Willson proves herself equally adept at soulful ballads and even a little New Orleans second-line action.

Wrap it all up in the funky ambience of the Broadway Oyster Bar, and you've got one great way to spend a Sunday evening. Plus, the music kicks off around 8 p.m., so you'll have time to recover for work on Monday.

 
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