Deb Callahan

by Ken Horner

The Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Pastorius Park concert  at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, will feature a performance by a funk-infused blues outfit called the Deb Callahan Band.

The Philadelphia-based band, led by frontwoman Deb Callahan, has been a staple in the mid-Atlantic music scene since the late 90’s and has released four albums since its inception — the most recent being “Tell It Like It Is” in October 2010.

The four-piece band’s music has been praised for its unique and creative spin on the blues that injects upbeat rhythms to complement singer/songwriter Callahan’s rich, soulful voice, which many have described as a wonderful balance between grace and grit.

Originally from the Boston area, Callahan, who cites musicians like Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and Ray Charles as influences, gained a deeper sense of the blues genre after years of doing social work in impoverished areas of Philadelphia.

This experience has given Callahan and her band’s music an authenticity and honesty that truly resonate with audiences, making for powerful and emotional live shows.

The band’s debut album, “If the Blues Had Wings,” was released in 2002 to critical acclaim and was featured in an issue of Blues Revue Magazine.  A Blues Revue critic went as far as to proclaim Callahan as the next Bonnie Raitt.

“The Blue Pearl,” the Deb Callahan Band’s 2004 sophomore release, marked the first collaboration between the band and Philadelphia-based producer/songwriter Chris Arms.  The album produced a successful blend of the timeless aspects of blues with more contemporary elements of funk and rock music.

The band’s third album, 2008’s “Grace and Grit,” was released to rave reviews, received significant airplay on stations around the country, and debuted on the Living Blues Radio Charts for November 2008 at #16.

The album featured original music as well as a cover of Ray Charles’ “Hallelujah I love Him So” and helped propel Callahan and the band into a more rigorous touring schedule up and down the east coast and even in festivals in the Midwest.

Now roadtested, the band, which also features guitarist Allen James, bassist Garry Lee, and drummer Tom Walling, has been touring in support of its fourth release, 2010’s “Tell It Like It Is.”  Once again produced by Chris Arms, the album was recorded at Studio 4 in Conshohocken by Grammy Award winning producer/engineer Phil Nicolo.

“Tell It Like It Is” includes nine original tracks and covers of both Tina Turner’s hit “Funkier Than a Mosquita’s Tweeter” and Bob Dylan’s “Cold Irons Bound.”  The songs on the album can be described as a mix of blues, gospel, soul, rock and jazz that tackle themes of “love and joy, finding spirituality and giving voice to the experience of homeless children without family support,” according to the band’s website.

The Deb Callahan Band’s performance promises to be a unique combination of the hard-hitting realities of the blues and the high-energy sounds of funk, gospel and rock that is sure to leave those attending the Pastorius Park concert series feeling satisfied.

The Pastorius Park Concert Series is sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Community Association, The Chestnut Hill Community Fund and Chestnut Hill Hospital.