Fans of Brandi Carlile and KT Tunstall have a friend in Jen Murdza, who delivers on the promise of 2007’s Reboundin’ with Good Little Worker Bees, an 11-track showcase for her smoothly soulful sound. Murdza’s all over the place on the album; she played multiple instruments, produced the sessions, and wrote all the tracks, right down to the horn charts and string arrangements. She’s got an admirable amount of chutzpah for such a young artist — Bees is, for better or worse, her album, and not just because it’s her name above the title. Happily, she proves up to the many tasks she’s assigned herself: though her songs are really pretty basic, Murdza’s been gifted with a nice, bluesy set of pipes, and her charisma helps make Little Worker Bees more than just another unobtrusively pleasant blues-rock record.
It also doesn’t hurt that Murdza assembled a hell of a band for these recordings, particularly lead guitarist Joe Feloni, and had the good sense to adopt a “less is more” approach as a producer — in fact, these performances sound like they might not have been touched since engineer Mark Davidson tracked them, which is a very good thing. The brass is bright, the rhythm section breathes, Feloni’s leads sting, and Murdza tops everything off with vocals that are equal parts smoke and honey. No particular song — or moment from a song — really lingers after the last chords fade, but whatever Bees lacks in immediacy, it makes up in sheer replay value. It’s the kind of record you can put on while you’re doing housework or making dinner — it doesn’t really beg for your attention, but it’ll lift your mood and shake your ass just because it’s on.