Crystal Thomas is big and she’s bluesy, and she’s raw. She can grind a note and use it any way she wants to. After all, she grew up listening to Muddy and Jimmy Reed and Johnnie Taylor and rapped a little, too. Raw and gritty music is in her blood.
And she loves her musical life. Crystal sang before she talked. She sings in her car at red lights. And she belts it out in church, in juke joints, and not long ago in Japan, Spain and Hong Kong â€“ wowing the crowds. This woman’s voice makes you glad you are alive even if your girlfriend dumped you.
Ask Crystal about where she came from. She’ll lean back and smile and tell you about growing up in Mansfield, Louisiana in the deep country. She remembers her favorite hog turned into supper. Mostly, she remembers playing DJ while her family played cards and learning the trombone in fifth grade because her brother had given up on it and her mom didn’t want to pay for another instrument.
Having Crystal step out front with a super-star band that includes Lucky Peterson on keys, he allows her to lean into the mic and sing with abandon. Lucky has played with everyone. Otis Rush, Etta James, Bobby Bland. Brothers Johnny and Jason Moeller offer up guitar and drums – Johnny finding time between tours with the Thunderbirds and Jason with the cred that comes from backing artists from the Thunderbirds to Jewel Brown and Little Joe Washington. Bass player extraordinaire, Chuck Rainey, starts the list with Aretha, Fats Domino, Barbara Streisand, and quite literally hundreds more. Crystal takes full advantage of the grooves they lay down and even plays a little trombone here. Something she did working with Johnnie Taylor just before he passed on. Johnnie didn’t know she sang until near the end. He’d decided to take her to Malaco to record but ran out of time. Thankfully, Dialtone finally made that record. Hallelujah!
Scott M. Bock
Living Blues Magazine