Karen Carroll has plenty of opportunity to strut her stuff on her debut, Had My Fun. Unlike many contemporary blues albums, which are highly polished blasts of blues-rock, Had My Fun takes its time. Many of the songs are torchy slow blues or down and dirty Chicago blues – either way, they sound natural, never forced. That's appropriate, since Carroll sings like a natural, caressing the ballads and growling the nastier numbers. Best of all, there's actual grit in the production – four of the songs were recorded live – and that allows Carroll to achieve her full potential on this impressive debut.
Released not long after Warren Zevon announced that he was suffering from terminal cancer, perhaps some could argue that the single-disc Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon exploits his tragedy by recycling his catalog. The argument holds no water, because not only is it worth celebrating the work of this singer/songwriter, but his catalog was calling out for a collection like this. Although there was the double-disc set I'll Sleep When I'm Dead and a 1986 hits collection, there was no set produced during the CD era that chronicled not just his heyday, but his late-'80s comeback while cherrypicking highlights from the '90s. This does exactly that over the course of a generous, sharply selected 22 tracks. Given the space, it's inevitable that some great songs are missing, but if you're looking for a comprehensive overview, turn to the two-disc set. If you're looking for an introduction or simply a stellar selection of highlights, this suits the bill perfectly.
Like many fans, one of the things you can always love about the music of Warren Zevon has been his frequent refusal to play nice. While Zevon could write with tenderness and compassion when the spirit moved him, he was more likely to sound sarcastic, spiteful, venomous, and generally announce (loudly and with enthusiasm) that the emperor was naked given the appropriate subject, and he wasn't afraid to take on his friends and collaborators when so inclined.