While she's by no means a straight-ahead blues artist, vocalist and songwriter Reneé Austin has great potential to bring many new fans to the idiom. Attractive, intelligent, and a good showperson, Austin was born in San Diego and raised in Texas, growing up steeped in Texas roadhouse blues and soul-blues, as well as gospel music. Sweet Talk, Austin's 2003 debut for the San Francisco-based Blind Pig Records label, has been very well received. Austin grew up in Kingsland, TX, and began singing as a toddler. Encouraged to continue singing by her parents, by the time she was a teenager she'd written her first few songs. Austin sang at school and in church, and by her later high-school years she knew she'd like to try singing and recording for at least part of her living. She counts among her many singing influences the great female blues and soul vocalists, including Aretha Franklin, Etta James, and Tina Turner.
After moving to Minneapolis during her college years, she began performing in that city's lively blues club scene and released her first album, Dancin' With Mr. Blue, which won kudos from the Minnesota Music Academy and won an award for Best Blues Recording. She was also recognized as Best Female Vocalist and Best Blues Artist, and Austin began opening shows for Robert Cray, Delbert McClinton, and Lonnie Brooks when they made tour stops in Minneapolis. Austin teams up with vocalist McClinton for a duet on "Pretend We Never Met" on her debut. The two hooked up in Nashville to record the track, written by keyboardist Bruce McCabe. Austin's debut showcases seven of her originals, Joanna Cotten's "When Something Is Wrong," and two songs by producer Kevin Bowe. Stylistically, it runs the gamut from slow, sultry ballads like "Fool Moon" to the more rockin' roadhouse blues-belting numbers like her duet with McClinton and "Pour the Sugar Slowly."
While future recordings from this talented singer/songwriter may be more focused, its OK for this up-and-coming singer to show off on her first internationally distributed album, to show radio programmers and blues festival booking agents what she's capable of. She's already shared festival and concert stages with Jonny Lang, Blues Traveler, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, and Keb' Mo'. If she can avoid burning herself out with the grueling tour schedules that so many blues performers seem to keep, good things are in the offing for Reneé Austin.
A second album, Sweet Talk, was released on Blind Pig in 2003, followed by Right About Love in 2005, also on Blind Pig Records. ~ Richard Skelly