Frozen solid, after having it broken almost beyond repair, it would take a blow torch to melt Sue Foley’s heart. At least that’s the impression she gives in a tough, mean little nut of a title track—drawn out slowly, with Foley swearing off love, maybe for good—on the Canadian blues songstress’s sassy and sublime new album The Ice Queen, as she declares, “Before I compromise my love again, it’ll be a cold, damn day in hell.”
Taken advantage of too many times, Foley surely means it. Hardened by experience, Foley’s vocals suffused with world-weary resignation, she’s not going to be anyone’s fool going forward. And yet, her strong, bold vocals can turn vulnerable and yielding, as they do in the soulful “If I Have Forsaken You” – where smooth, shapely horns wrap her pleas in vintage R&B velvet right before Foley’s delightfully wicked retelling of Bessie Smith’s murderous “Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair.” Just as she exhibits a great bluesy feel playing her trusty pink paisley Fender Telecaster, expertly plucking out mean, satisfying guitar licks throughout, Foley also sings with attitude, style and honesty, her coquettish charm as intoxicating as French perfume.
It’s easy then to see why guest stars such as ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Charlie Sexton and Jimmie Vaughan were so drawn to working on The Ice Queen with Foley, a past Juno Award winner whose increasing maturity and diversity as a songwriter is something to behold. From the wild, ‘60s garage-rock swagger of “Run” to the smoldering, organ-driven “81” and a warm, cheery “The Lucky Ones,” where a coy Foley duets playfully with Vaughan, The Ice Queen—one of the most enjoyable blues records in recent memory—is moody, but easy to love. Just don’t try any funny business.