You’re alone. You’re in a dimly-lit, whiskey-soaked speakeasy deep in the gritty urban bowels of New York City or Chicago or maybe even London. It’s balmy and there’s tumblers of gin and whiskey all around.
Except you’re not alone, after all. There’s someone else in the shadows, singing just to you.
That someone is Ina Forsman.
Forsman is a vocal blues force-to-be-reckoned-with from Finland. As she sings the blues from her heart, her perfectly-coiffed red hair shimmers in the spotlight, or maybe it’s the moonlight, you can’t be sure.
Her burnt-honey voice grips you with emotion. Her voice carries with it the pain of a jilted lover, the desire of a seductive siren, and the spring air sweetness of new young love.
You can’t escape the music, and you don’t want to. Ina Forsman has you now, and soon, she will have the international blues scene as well.
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One listen to Ina Forsman’s self-titled debut album and you’re instantly transported to a timelessly nostalgic world. Forsman lives in the space between flapper dresses and gin-stained alleyways and ash-stained fingertips.
She’s a soul-blues singer, with a special emphasis on soul. Her voice snakes its way through a dense haze of fresh cigarette smoke and blaring neon and whiskey-soaked barroom tables.
She may have grown up in the dusk-ridden coldness of contemporary Finland, but her blazing soul is all-American blues kissed by the harshness of the Mississippi Delta fields and blended with the steel-tipped bravado of mid-20th century Chicago electricity.
And her timelessness is oh-so-timely.
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On her debut studio record, Ina Forsman marries the verve of the classic female blues singers with the elegance of Duke Ellington and the confessional grit of Tom Waits. She’s as comfortable swinging in the horn-drenched 1920’s big band era as she is wailing along with Texas-blues infused electric guitars that cry out like a lonely Houston night.
In fact, Forsman recorded the album in the music soaked lanes of Austin, Texas at the Wire Recording studio, where so much musical adventure is undertaken night in and night out. Her band kicks out infectiously rhythmic tracks over which her vocals soar, filled to the brim with guitars and brassy woodwinds, the latter played by the famous Texas Horns.
Produced by Texas Horns sax man Kaz Kazanoff, the album also features an important mentor of Forsman’s, Helge Tallqvist, on harmonica. The album, influenced by everything from soul to jazz, is embedded with dedication, passion, and love.
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Forsman’s more than just a virtuosic singer. Ten of the eleven tracks on her spirited and hypnotic debut were self-written. The lone cover is a tasteful, dignified nod to the past, her classic female blues roots, in Nina Simone’s “I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl.”
“For me,” divulges Ina, “it’s very important to sound original. There is no other way for me than to write the songs on my own. I have a story and no one else can tell it quite like I do.” And with her flair for combining vintage cool with contemporary sophistication, sound original she very much does.
To study up and prepare for her recording, Forsman did her due diligence, immersing herself in the music of Donny Hathaway and Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke. But there’s equal parts Bessie Smith and Count Basie and John Lee Hooker here, too. Forsman covers all the blues-heavy basics, laying an unshakable foundation that is going to last for many spins of this record.
Forsman is currently out on tour throughout Europe. Catch her if you can. I have a feeling tickets are going to become significantly harder to get.
Brian M. Reiser,