April 22, 2024
Ndidi O – Simple Songs for Complicated Times


Ndidi O – Simple Songs for Complicated Times



11 tracks/40 minutes

Ndidi O is Ndidi Onukwulu, a Canadian singer-songwriter who was born in British Columbia. Onukwulu combines several genres in her jazz and blues; these include surf music, electric blues, gospel, and country. She ventured from BC to NYC, dabbling in hip hop and blues. Then she was off to Toronto and joined a rock band and later an electronica group.

At age 18 in 2006 she moved back towards the blues and released her first album. She hooked up with Canadian blues musician Steve Dawson and released her second album in 2008. She then decided a move to Europe was in order, so she was off across the Atlantic. She released two more albums in 2011 and 2014 while there.

Another move, this time to America’s West Coast and a return to her blues roots resulted in her fifth album in 2018, another solo effort. Then in 2022 she worked with Trish Klein and released a  blues album entitled The Blue and the Gold. Here we are four years later and she’s back working with Steve Dawson on her latest blues endeavor.

Ndidi’s voice is powerful, yet ethereal. It is raw, yet refined.  Her vocal prowess is amazing; she has a sound that is quite unique. I have a hard time quantifying how she sounds.  Breathy and wispy at times, and then she lets loose to be a force to be reckoned with. Her songs are blues and there is a lot of other things going on in there with the blues, but the blues are the core of her music.

The band here in support of her vocals are, of course, Steve Dawson on guitars, pedal steel and all things stringed,  Sam Howard on bass, Gary Craig on drums and Chris Gestrin on keys. Backing vocalists are Khari McClelland, Dawn Pemberton, and Keri Latimer.

“Get Gone” is cool song with a primal groove and dark bluesy sound. Haunting pedal steel guitar, nice keys and great vocals are the order of the day here in this cut about leaving toxic folks behind. “Ode To Death” is a dark cut with resonator and electric guitar and a breathy vocal lead that grows as the song progresses. More ghostly pedal steel adds nicely to the feel here. Next is “Light On,” a lighter cut with interesting guitar and keys. “So Cold” has a throbbing opening bass line and passionate vocals with stinging guitar, electric and slide.

“Don’t Come Back” is a song about dumping someone who has been nothing but huge problems.  Gutsy vocals and poignant pedal steel make this one quite cool. “In May” is a happier cut, evoking Spring and having a country feel to it with acoustic guitar and pedal steel setting a sweet mood. Next is “Change In This Like” has a cool spiritual feel to it. Ndidi pledges to make a change even if she’s got to get dirty doing it.

“Too Late” is a middle-aged despair piece about a music industry culture that favors the young. The song sounds bouncy and hopeful as Ndidi navigates the music biz. “Grief” follows, taking the emotions down. Her lilting and amazing voice softens the blows of life’s miseries for the listener as she gets back with her love. The guitar works is equally spectacular. “Working Girl” has a down home sound with acoustic guitar laying out a nice groove for Ms. O. It’s a cool blues with nice backing support by the band.  The album concludes with “Worth,” another cut about the “ravages” of approaching middle age. All the things up to now have no bearing as life goes forward with no life, no car, no man and not wanting some other guy’s kids. The organ solo is sublime as Ndidi stands up to what life as promised and not delivered on.

I was enamored with Ndidi O’s vocals. Her singing and simple yet moving original tunes that she and Dawson created collectively give us a geat new album to savor and enjoy over and over again. I really enjoyed this one and must go find some of her earlier music to listen to, too! She’s a fantastic singer!

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