Rising up from the Texas blues tradition is a new voice to be reckoned with--one that sounds like your lover, confidant, girlfriend telling it to you straight, and chanteuse.
The voice is Austin singer and songwriter Joanna Ramirez who released her blend of soulful rhythm and blues in a debut CD entitled "Satisfy Me" produced by Mark Hallman (Ani DiFranco, Sister 7, Davíd Garza) in June 2001. She makes a stylish splash on stage in only 5 foot 3 inches exuding a magnetic energy through dance movements and percussion instruments. But don't let her size fool you. She summons up a big, rich voice with such commanding power it becomes one of the strongest instruments in the band and transforms the blues from sheer guts to whispering heights and goes straight to the listener's soul.
Born and raised in Dallas, Joanna is carrying on the family music tradition started by her grandfather, a mariachi singer and guitar player. Her grandfather made a lasting impression on her when she saw him perform as a young girl in New Orleans. He sang directly to her in a big, booming voice, which did not require a microphone. At that moment, she learned of the power of the human voice and its ability to move people.
All of Joanna's uncles and her father, Joe Ramirez, performed in North Texas playing a wide range of music, from R&B to pop to traditional Mexican folk songs. With music all around her, Joanna's musical tastes ranged from The Beatles to Stevie Wonder to funk. In her late teens, another Stevie entered her consciousness.
Stevie Ray Vaughan's first album, Texas Flood, had a profound influence on Joanna. When she first heard his music she finally understood what her father had been pursuing musically for years. She realized her musical influences came together in blues and she began developing her voice and writing songs while actively pursuing opportunities to perform.
Joanna formed the Denison-based Soul Providers in 1993 and then moved to Austin in 1998, creating the band then named "Shake 'em on Down" a year later with keyboards and saxophone player Jack Paine and guitarist J.P. Lilliston, adding bassist Jeff Hayes and drummer Scott French. Joanna penned seven of the songs on the album and collaborated with the band on music arrangements.
Satisfy Me takes the listener on a journey through life and relationships and the struggle between losing control and getting it back again. Joanna conveys many moods with her voice transitioning gracefully between playful and broken-hearted to sensual and even vengeful.
"For me, music starts with the heart," says Joanna. "If I don't feel it, I can't sing it. All of these songs are very special to me. Every time I sing them, I do what comes naturally to me, and I give it all I've got."
Each song brings a different flavor of blues-rooted music from the rumba beat of the Professor Longhair-inspired "Good Enough" to the funky bass and wailing saxophone of "Easy As 1, 2, 3."
The ballads "Love Again" and "Outta Tears" are delivered with fierce determination and the gospel-chords underscore Joanna's heartfelt storytelling. Guitarist J.P. Lilliston skillfully interplays with the vocals delivering the right combination of intensity and subtlety.
The hard-driving blues of "Fool For You, Baby" demonstrates the depth of talent and mature musicianship of the band.
The album's title track concludes the journey with sparse instrumentation of slide guitar and harmonica (Walter Higgs) which accents the melody and exposes the raw nerve of desire.
"I see myself as a vehicle for the music. It isn't me creating the music, it's from somewhere else," she says, sweeping her hand through the air. "I was given a gift, but I don't own it. I'm just sharing it with others, trying to touch them through music. If I move someone I feel I've done my job."
REVIEWS FOR "SATISFY ME":
"A super band and Ramirez's deceptively cool vocal approach makes "Satisfy Me" (self-release) a bullseye."
By Tom Hyslop
Blues Revue Magazine
“If Angela Strehli had a younger sister, she'd sound like Ramirez, whose bluesy, sensual style is a comfortable mix of original ("Out of Tears," "Satisfy Me") and traditional ("Same Old Blues," "All Around the World").”
By Margaret Moser
Austin Chronicle, Phases & Stages column, “Girlie Action”
April 26, 2002
“…You want to know if she can burn a barn! All you need is the title track for an answer. It wouldn't take you long to figure out that Ramirez is a very talented lady and that this is a great CD… An excellent introduction and debut for a good up and coming performer. Check her out!”
By Bill Fountain
Southwest Blues Magazine