Canadian blues Ice Queen Sue Foley brings sizzle with her first solo album in more than a decade

Yes, her latest album may be called The Ice Queen, but blues guitar goddess Sue Foley has admitted it’s more a nod to her Canadian heritage than it is to her love of the frigid clime that holds the nation in its grasp for, oh, a good eight months out of the year.

In fact, having spent much of her time over the past 25 years in the southern states of the allegedly United one she will acknowledge that the cold of this country is not something she does well in.

So. An Alberta tour. Even in April.

What the hell was she thinking?

Foley laughs.

“I was thinking, ‘I’m touring an album and I’ve got to get to Alberta,’ ” she says on a call from the warmth and safety of that aforementioned ’Merican south. “I love Alberta and it’s always been a great spot for me to play … I’m just tickled to get back there, it’s a really important place for me.”

Well, fingers crossed that she and we can enjoy a brief reprieve from the solid precipitation at the end of this week when Foley stops in town for a Friday night show at Studio Bell.

That said, she’d be certain to melt anything before it landed.

The Ice Queen is a scorcher — a blistering, belligerent electric blues-rock offering from an artist at the height of her powers. Goddam, it’s fierce and fiery.

It’s also a welcome, sassy and almost angrily adamant return for the Ottawa-born Juno-winner, whose absence from the solo studio realm stretches back more than 10 years.

Not that she’d been entirely dormant during that time, working on a number of collaborative projects including a couple of albums with Peter Karp, but she was also flexing some of her more mental muscles, going back to school to work on her graduate degree and even teaching at a college in North Carolina for a year.

“All of those things kind of killed a decade,” she says, while noting that for the previous 15 years she was on the typical two-year album cycle of write, record, tour, repeat, so it was a nice break, nice change of pace.

The March released Ice Queen, though, is also a nice restart for her, something of a reboot considering it was recorded in Austin where she began her solo recording career with 1992’s Young Girl Blues on that city’s Antone’s Record Label, which grew from the storied club that helped give rise to the new Texas blues.

And as such, it finds Foley sounding positively refreshed, as if she’s having a blast.

“That’s true, it really is,” she says laughing again, before noting that it was recorded live in the studio, with all of the players in the same room.

“We were having a ball and everyone was responding in real time to the music and the vibe. It was just so nice to be able to take advantage of all the talent pool down here, have them just drop by the studio and play … It was fun.”

Her incredible talents — singing, playing — aside, it also benefits from a few Texas blues legends who did show up to help her out, including Charlie Sexton, Jimmie Vaughan, Zed Zed Topper Billy Gibbons and Double Trouble drummer Chris “Whipper” Layton .

“It was a big tip of the hat for me to have musicians of this calibre recognize what I do and like it,” she says. “It’s been huge.”

It also, she says, helped shape The Ice Queen, with the Lone Star State royalty coming in and doing what they do — Foley, a fan, certainly not about to tell them what to play and how to play it.

“Exactly,” she says before another burst of laughter. “In fact, Jimmy Vaughan will let us know what to play. Because by playing something so cool, you’ll respond to that and go, ‘OK, I’m going to change my part and make it different, accentuate what he’s doing.’

“It was like that with a lot of those guys.”

That said, by absolutely no means does the success of the album rely on those guests. Foley doesn’t just hold her own, she owns the album on every level.

That’s due greatly to the 12 tracks, themselves, which she says she’d been working on and living with since late 2015. And it helped, as well, that producer and B-3 player Mike Flanigin, was operating under the philosophy of “respect the song.”

“Those are the stars of the show, the songs and how we polished them up,” she says.

Actually, nah, more like they dirtied them down in a nastay, nastay blues way.

Highlights such as the horn-fuelled Gaslight, the saucy, crispy Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair, and the amazing title cut — the sludgiest bit of gnarl you’ll hear this side of the Mississippi — Foley’s guitar and voice make it known that she’ll go as deliciously low as necessary to get the job done.

And now, now she’s back on the record company hamster wheel, thanks to The Ice Queen’s release on Alberta’s immensely respected Stony Plain Records label.

That, again, underscores her love for this province and why she’s looking forward to bringing the album to this area, for the Studio Bell show and then later this summer for the Calgary International Blues Festival.

It will, she promises, warm things up no matter the season.

“Those songs are really coming to life, it’s been great, I can’t be any happier with the result,” Foley says.

“It’s a fun show to play, all of the songs stand out and I’ve been playing a lot of my older stuff too just to colour in the show, but I’m really focussing on The Ice Queen.”

Sue Foley performs Friday, April 6 at Studio Bell. For tickets, please click here. If you’d like to win a pair of tickets to the show, please click here.