Diana Rein gifts us her third full length effort in Queen of My Castle. She has already proved herself an accomplished singer songwriter steeped in the sounds and licks of Chicago blues, and now aims a rung higher on her latest effort. Her previous albums The Back Room and Long Road, let her voice wander both sonically and lyrically from Liz Phair to Bonnie Raitt to Chris Robinson. Queen of My Castle places plaintive, personal tones in the background to make room for a collection that is strident and at times welcomely boastful.
The album is not really one, but two. The first six songs are unabashedly centered around standard blues structures and tones. This is not derisive, but rather a nod to Rein’s arrival as a fully formed blues figure who is not afraid to showcase her gruffly sparkled voice and creative guitar ideas.
If you were to confuse “Yes I Sing the Blues” with Buddy Guy’s “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” you wouldn’t be faulted. She’s channeling blues legends in the best of ways. There is nothing improper here, no stealing. It’s just a loving nod to the sounds and artists that Rein admires from her Chicago youth,. She’s not shy in handing out praise through her playing. Much like the first track, “The Midnight Line” doesn’t veer far from traditional Chicago blues, but with an uptempo drive. “Queen of My Castle” hammers home her newfound confidence in the same manner. “I’m the queen of my castle, and you’ll never be king.” Ouch.
“I can’t quit you” finds Rein in the same territory. Solid and inventive blues musings over an intro that blends Cream’s “Strange Brew” and Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful.” She has dialed in a close cousin of the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughn tone and uses it to great results. Whereas her previous two albums worked to blend her with the backing band, on Queen she has achieved a cohesive sound.
The second half of the album says goodbye to traditional 12 bar and welcomes some of Rein’s natural rock instincts. “Pure Soul” starts the back side with a lively groove that moves straight into the haunting backing vocals of “It’s You.” The bossa nova feel of “My Love” is notable largely as a novelty piece then we quickly arrive at “Worth,” the flag-bearer for the album. If strident, unapologetic bluesy songwriting is the aim, “Worth” is the lynchpin. While “Worth” may be the strongest song on the album, Rein throws in a couple teases of what may lay ahead in the fuzzed-out sound of “Heat” and the nice instrumental “Zoe” to close.
Diana Rein’s previous albums displayed her talent and those who listened knew she was good. On Queen of My Castle, Rein also believes this and it is reflected in the character of the songs. Newcomers to Rein will likely use this album as an entry point from where they can explore her back catalogue, whereas veterans will likely be anticipating her fourth. In the meantime, this offering is more than enough for several listens.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– The Midnight Line
– Queen of My Castle
– Pure Soul
– It’s You
The Big Hit
Review by Willie Witten