Written by James Killen
Back in the early 1990’s I had a cassette tape titled, “Antone’s Women: Bringing you the best in blues”. Along with Marcia Ball, Toni Price, Lou Ann Barton, Angela Strehli, Sarah Brown, Barbara Lynn and Lavelle White, there was a young guitar slinging Canadian named Sue Foley that contributed “Queen Bee”, “Cuban Getaway” and “But I Forgave You”. I played that tape until it broke and then Sue Foley was gone…until late in 2017.
So like, 25 years later, our Jim Bille went to Austin to cover Billy Gibbon’s Jungle Show and there in the middle of it all was the very same diminutive, red-headed ball of fire, Sue Foley, featured prominently. In fact everyone that participated in that star studded show ended up on Foley’s latest record, “The Ice Queen”. Word has come down the pike that Sue has established digs in Austin and is now officially open for business in the state of Texas.
Tonight was Ms. Foley’s first show in Houston in many years and she came prepared to impress, kicking off with a blazing instrumental on her signature pink Telecaster. She continued featuring songs from her Ice Queen CD, doing some very nice chops on “Come to Me” and going country style on “Fool’s Gold”.
Sue introduced the title track to her “Ice Queen” album referencing several icy references, including Albert Collins, being Canadian and having bitchy moments. She went on to play “Gaslight” about the passive-aggressive behavior by that name. She was then joined on stage by her twenty one year old son, Joe, playing a jazzier style on her Telecaster while Sue picked up her acoustic to play her fusion of flamenco and blues that she has named “Fluze”. Both Sue and Joe played amazing riffs.
Ms. Foley put in a little plug for her column in Guitar Player Magazine, the Foley Files, as she broke into several vintage acoustic blues numbers like Memphis Minnie’s “Chauffer Blues” (also covered on Jefferson Airplane’s first record) and Minnie’s classic “In My Girlish Days”. She also covered Mother Maybelle Carter’s “Cannonball Blues”. Sue went back to a Latin style, referring to 70’s pop singer, Charo, on “The Dance” and remained acoustic on the slightly jazzy, “Death of a Dream”.
The Telecaster came back out for the instrumental, “Hideout” and then ending her official set with the rocking “Run”. Sue saved Bessie Smith’s “Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair” for her encore, solidifying her traditional blues core. Her band, including award winning, Chris Maresh, on upright bass was tight and supporting.
Eddie and I didn’t get enough on Friday night of the Ice Queen, so we showed up at Cactus Music on Saturday afternoon to see Sue perform acoustic versions of many of her electric and acoustic songs, supported by Chris Maresh. This was just as satisfying, although shorter than the previous night’s show.
The show at the Duck was a wonderful re-introduction of Sue Foley to the Houston scene. If anything, she has matured in her talent and presentation since the 1990’s. Foley’s entire demeanor is that of a blues aficionado, presenting blues history from a strong woman’s point of view. Welcome, Sue, welcome home.