San Francisco Bay area-based singer/songwriter Kaye Bohler is an international performer who might seem to be one of California’s little secrets. The 25-year veteran performer and Southern California native is still performing with her backing band named the Kaye Bohler Rhythm and Blues Band which currently includes Kelly Back (guitar), John Paul (drums) and Victor Revere (bass).
In some circles Bohler is referred to as "The White Tina Turner" because of “the power and authenticity” in her performances. But who really is Bohler and how did all this begin? Unfortunately, her press tends to focus more on her music than her roots.
One thing is certain; Bohler has been making music for a long time. She has performed at various venues including The Little Fox Theater, The Palms, Don Quixote’s International Music Hall and made multiple appearances at the Monterey Blues Festival. She recorded an eponymously-titled demo, Kaye Bohler, which features four songs yet to be included on any other later release: “Country Man”, “I Shiver All Over”, “Sunday Kind Of Love” and “Finders Keepers”.
The new millennium bore witness to the release of her first full-length CD Men and Music. This debut disc featured 11 of the singer-songwriter’s songs. It featured such selections as the titular “Men & Music”, the almost prerequisite “Wrong Man Blues” and the closing cut “I Know My Dreams”.
The response would inspire her to record another album. Bohler’s follow up-release would be born in 2003. This one was a live CD titled simply Kaye Bohler Live At Moe's Alley. It would features 8 blues tunes such as the apropos opener “Welcome Blues”, the fetching “Come to Momma” and a live version of the expected “Wrong Man Blues”.
This same year she would also be included on a compilation album. Bohler and 16 other San Francisco bay area blues artists were featured on San Francisco Bay’s Best Blues Volume 1. Bohler contributed the cut “Wrong Man Blues”. Bohler would continue to tour and perform but would not release another album for years.
In 2009 her fans rejoiced with Bohler’s release of her most recent recording Like A Flower. This ten-track disc features more of her original material. The lead-in is titled “He Helps Me” and includes Steve Evans (bass), Sammy Varela (lead guitar), Garth Webber (rhythm guitar), producer Tony Lufrano (keys), Cubby Ingram (percussion), Kathy Kennedy and Keta Bill (background vocals) and Paul on drums. This tune about a good man is an apt intro to Bohler’s abilities.
The second selection is the “questionable” cut “How Do I Get There". Here her blues are backed by Jimmy Sanchez (drums), Danny Caron (guitar), Tom Fuglestad (trumpet), Armen Boyd (sax), Joel Behman (trombone) Jackie Anderson (background vocals) and Webber picks up the tambourine. Evans, Lufrano and Kennedy encore here to complete the old school sound with some almost Al Green-like ingredients.
“Wasted On You” is just the kind of blues song one would expect a woman to write. It’s a song about cutting your losses as she bemoans a bad choice of lovers. Still, while it may not come as a surprise Kohler cruises through it thanks to the help of Tom Poole (trumpet), Stephanie Bamont and Nancy Wright (sax) and Mike Rinta (trombone). Sanchez, Evans, Caron, Lufrano, Kennedy and Anderson all return to further flesh it out.
The cut “Constant State of the Blues” comes next. . This is a traditional blues tune although still original that focuses on the ordeal of loss. Here she is supported by the same artists as the previous track minus background vocals
The next number is the blues shuffle “I Got to Know”. Here things pick up and get even a bit jazzy. Guest guitarist Tommy Castro and the returning musicians really come together on this cut.
It’s a sign of the times that a blues singer can croon a tune about alcohol abuse in bars and nightclubs. “Another Man’s Arms” may border on being PC and almost preachy but once the audience recalls that Bohler’s pieces are personal they can only perhaps admire her honesty and creativity and perhaps pity her for having to deal with the issue.
The seventh song is “Two Things at Once”. As on the previous track, no new musicians are brought in on a piece about making a tough choice between "two things at once," where one lover "pays the bills" while the other “gives (her) thrills."
“Got a Good Man” follows. This one is similar in theme to the album’s opener and provides a nice foil for all the “bluer” bits about bad choices and moments. The prerequisite although still pretty “My Heart Beats For Him” comes next. It’s a tuneful torch-like ballad that leads nicely to the closing cut—the titular “Like A Flower”. This is a slow burning musical metaphor focused on her future featuring Robben Ford (guitar) and Tamas Marius (flute).
Overall, Like A Flower remains an Introspective album on which Bohler seems to stretch her three octave plus vocal range a little while singing her songs of love and relationships both good and bad. It’s a nice blend of soul and R&B.
Bohler also recently released a special box set that includes the three previously discussed discs and a bonus CD of her Christmas songs including her own “Everybody’s Swingin’ At Christmas Time.” She continues to tour the concert and festival circuit entertaining audiences and rallying the troops to support the production of her upcoming project: Handle The Curves. Indeed, one might say Bohler’s busy doing “Two Things At Once”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.