Material: The “blues” afternoon on Sundays from about 4:30 p.m. at this dockside bar and grill in Long Beach isn’t necessarily the most conducive environment for checking out a blues artist as warm and authentic as Diana Rein. The place seems to be filled with dancing white people that have either spent the preceding time on a Harley or a yacht. The booze has been flowing as the spring weather takes a good hard grip of Southern California, and that leads to some questionable moves on the floor. Sure, everyone’s having a good time. But this is about as far from the Delta as one can get. So all of that has to be blanked out while focusing on Rein, who was born in Romania and lived in Chicago before making her way to the Los Angeles area. Her recent sophomore album is called Long Road, and we get tunes from it here. She opens with an enthusiastic, defiant ditty called “Yes I Sing the Blues,” and that establishes a theme. “Done Me Dirty,” “Can’t Quit You” and “Queen of My Castle” follow, before a closing, brilliant “Talk to Me Baby.”
Musicianship: Clearly all eyes are on the main woman, and Rein is a talented guitarist, pulling out one lick after another and making it look effortless. Her voice isn’t the strongest, particularly when compared to other local blues singers such as Janiva Magness. But she’s more than gifted enough to convey the emotion in her song while, importantly, making herself heard over an ever-chatty crowd. Meanwhile, bassist Maria Vega and drummer David Kida form an impressive rhythm section––a strong unit that works as a spine, allowing Rein the freedom to play around a little.
Performance: Rein clearly loves the blues. She appears to have studied it, and she puts all of herself into her performance. She isn’t one to close her eyes and pull pained expressions, while throwing all manner of guitar shapes. Rather, there’s an effortless cool and a sly smile about her. She knows how good she is. She rarely speaks between songs but for the occasional “thank-you,” preferring to let the music do the talking.
Summary: The world of blues is so expansive and vast that there is room for all manner of musicians, created by people from all walks of life. That a white female from Romania can come to the United States and kick ass is testament to the people who created the music in the first place.