Ana Popović is a 37-year-old blues guitarist-vocalist. She lives in Memphis and her most recent album carries a typical blues title: “Can You Stand the Heat.”
Nothing unusual here.
Well, not so fast. As her last name’s piece of punctuation hints, Popović’s background varies a bit from the American blues standard. Turns out she was born and raised in Serbia was and introduced to the music by her father. Popović picked up the guitar at 15 and formed her first band, Hush, a few years later. The group was big in its native country and Greece but disbanded when Popović moved to the Netherlands to take further her musical education. She has been fronting her own band ever since, first in Amsterdam and since 2012 in Memphis.
Quite a collision, blues and that background. Northern Californians wanting to hear the results have the opportunity to do so Sunday as Popović and her band perform at Yoshi’s in San Francisco.
Her influences are fairly straightforward, Popović told an interviewer last year.
I really liked Albert King, and I liked Stevie Ray Vaughan and Ronnie Earl – basically all different players. Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson … those are all people who really inspired me when I started playing. Before that, I was listening to the blues as a kid … some kids just get it and they feel it, and some don’t. I don’t think you can really push it onto kids or make them want to listen to it. But for me, I always felt that it was a very groovy music, and I sang those songs even before I could really speak English. I have a sister who’s five years younger, and she was brought up in the same surrounding but is completely into another style of music. You can’t really force anyone to like it or listen to it. It’s a very specific style of music that you can’t really describe. You just have to feel it.
It’s worth noting that Popović apparently has no qualms about placing her good looks and impressive figure in the service of selling albums (for evidence, see the slide show). That’s a rare occurrence in blues, although some smooth jazz women (Mindi Abair and Candy Dulfer leap to mind) have chosen a similar path. Purists will scoff but it’s at least worth noting that in this hyper-media age anything that catches the public’s attention and directs it toward blues has some intrinsic value.
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