The long awaited debut album from vocalist and songwriter Erin Krebs has finally been released, and it’s easy to understand why her fans are glad about it.
“Love Always Wins” features 11 original Krebs tunes with some of the best musicians in northeast Wisconsin.
“I had wanted to do an album for a while, but it was always on the back burner because between being a school music teacher, a private lessons teacher, and performing I just didn’t have any time to put into it,” Krebs said. “In 2014 I made the decision to “lighten the load”- I stopped teaching in schools so I could focus more on practicing, performing, and songwriting. I decided that since I had more than enough originals for an album I would do an album of original music. Since it is my first album- my introduction to the world outside of where I perform, I thought it should represent both the jazz and blues sides of me.”
Krebs often performs in a duo with guitarist Jeff Johnston as well as being a frequent guest with The Jazz Orgy. The JO’s Mark Martin-Kriha co-wrote one of the tunes and contributes stellar keyboards, playing on several tracks.
The other players on the album include drummers Mike Underwood, James Lefevre and Mike Malone, bass players Andy Mertens, Justin Zopel and Drew Hicks, saxophonist Steve Cooper and keyboardist Brian Gruselle.
“Whenever I have thought about doing an album, even before I knew when I would record, I knew I wanted to do as much as possible live in the studio,” she said. “One reason is because of the type of music we do. We work together and feed off each other, especially when improvising, and I just feel like it sounds more authentic when it’s in the moment. Another reason I wanted to do it live with the musicians is because that’s how so much of my favorite music ever was recorded. It was an easy decision to make, given the level of talent of the musicians and how well we all work together. It was so much fun!”
Wasting no time, Krebs jumps on the gas and is off to the races on the opening cut, “Love Ride.” The Jazz Orgy (Martin-Kriha, Underwood, Mertens) provides a tight, uptempo foundation for Krebs precise vocals that support her contention that “I’m feeling so good I can’t stand it.” Martin-Kriha’s rhythmic arpeggios set up Krebs for one of her strengths, scatting, and Cooper’s very jazzy sax solo.
“Let’s get cozy and see what we can find” is a suggestion that Krebs and her understated vocal make in “Fall Song,” a ballad that reveals a sensual side to her voice. Martin-Kriha’s piano solo adds just the right flavoring.
Malone starts “It’s You, My Love” with a catchy samba beat that finds Krebs’ voice an ideal match for the lyrics, and in one of the album’s highlights, she adds a melodic and engaging flute solo.
She gives Malone, Mertens and Martin-Kriha room to stretch out on “I See You” and they respond with brief, but memorable playing that complements the music and Krebs’ stylish scatting.
Lefevre and Zopel join Martin-Kriha and Krebs on “My Favorite Day.” Her vocal is subtle and nuanced as she puts the song first and provides another pleasing go-round on the flute.
Johnston’s tasteful and understated guitar is all Krebs needs to make “One Summer Day” a lesson in less is more. She allows Johnston to frame her clear, easy vocal in a style that recalls a relaxing summer evening and makes it easy to believe that “every moment I’m with you is like that one summer day.”
“Nothing can make you smile like your favorite song” and Krebs insists that ‘you can always’ “Count On The Blues” ‘when you’re down and out and you don’t know what life’s about.” Johnston, Mertens and Malone supply a swing groove and Martin-Kriha’s piano drives the melody.
Martin-Kriha gets a co-writing credit on “When Love Comes To Play,” that features some of Cooper’s best playing and an inspired bass line from Zopel.
Gruselle, Hicks and Malone often join Krebs and Johnston to perform as The Swingin’ Johnsons. Co-written by Johnston, “Ahead of The Game” cranks the volume and showcases Gruselle’s world-class B3 playing.
Krebs keeps that lineup together, adds Cooper and takes the tempo up for “The Man I Want.” When she sings “the way you play that guitar is a work of art,” she seems to be referring to Johnston’s playing that is an excellent complement to Gruselle’s R&B style. Gruselle rocks another B3 solo, then Cooper rolls out a solo that both fits the groove and does not miss a high note. A listener will definitely want to hear this one live.
Johnston is Krebs co-writer on the title tune, “Love Always Wins” and he provides himself an opportunity to remind us that he is one of the better blues players around. Gruselle, Hicks and Malone set a classic blues tempo as Johnston accepts the spotlight and responds with a solo that is both inventive and an exercise in virtuosity that is right on the money. Krebs is a versatile vocalist with command of many styles; blues tunes give her a platform to cut loose and showcase her range and power.
If you would like a copy of the CD, you can pick one up at a show or order online. It is also available on her website or on iTunes and Amazon, and for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify. Krebs’ schedule and links are on her website: www.erinkrebs.com.”