Manhattan Oz: A Gotham Odyssey from “Cajun Queen” Christina Gaudet combines the different cultural worlds that make up American music. Sung through the lens of a blues rocker and Louisiana-firecracker, Gaudet interprets the equally beguiling New York City rock beds into her song journey. With just a hint of that French drawl on certain words, but ripe with street-smart, NYC-residue rock guitars and drum arrangements, Gaudet is the perfect torch bearer for the American blues/rock scene. Manhattan Oz: A Gotham Odyssey is beyond a doubt, one of 2022’s best releases.
“New York City” is the album’s first track and it immediately grips the listener. Gaudet’s vocals remind me a bit of Adele (if Adele weren’t British) and maybe the smoky hue of Cher. And, maybe just maybe, a slice of Lita Ford in that vocal delivery – Gaudet is made for the stage and to be behind the mic. The first crop of songs also includes “Breath Fierce Love” and “Transend Time”. They all bring a mighty mix of flavorful guitars and Gaudet’s customary, idyllic vocals.
In all there are 10 tracks on this album. Rather than give a rundown of each one, I’d like to highlight the sixth and seventh tracks, “Immigrants” and “Black Bayou”. Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in or the way that this song grabbed me, but it quickly became my favorite. Gaudet is a born storyteller and this song really shares her family’s history. Some came via Canada, we call came to Louisiana, she sings. We came for a better life, we came for opportunity, she continues. In “Black Bayou”, a faint fiddle in the background plays with joy. The line – bring me the rain and cleanse my pain – struck me the most. I loved that line. It’s this idea of being in the swampy, river lands. And the rain can also mean flooding. She makes the rain a great thing, and it washes away the hurt. This song has tones where she’s basking in a relaxed, pondering tone. Then, she also sings with a hurried rush, as if time were slipping away.
“Black Bayou” felt like the song that encapsulated the entire album. It’s like she has one foot in New York City, but her mind and her soul is back in Louisiana.
I also really liked “Lessons of The Water”. The organ keys bleed just the right amount. She still enlists the help of a piano and the sound of both the keys in tandem makes for a contemplative and relaxing sound. Still, all the while you feel chill, there’s a burning furnace at the soul of this song that makes you think, as a listener, it might just blast away. It doesn’t but based on the other tracks, you think it might just happen. She has a track record of making the songs just jump and burst with energy and light. Take me home, now bring me peace, Gaudet sings. Perhaps I’m just in the water mood – there’s that theme again! Gaudet really shines when she’s singing about home and her beloved Louisiana. There’s just nothing like it.