“Two Sides”
Screen Door Records
Publicity: Blind Raccoon
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © August 2020
I try not to make a habit of doing things like this but from time to time, as I set out to do a review of a CD, I realize that there’s absolutely no better way to open than with letting the artist have their say first.  That said, I now give you Kirsten Thien:

“Two Sides is a collection of songs that will take you on a journey, one that will bring us through different musical influences and aspects of life. We take off with Buddy Guy-inspired Blues, spread our wings with ’60s gospel, and glide toward the easy-going ’70s California sound.  We’ll crash headlong into British Blues Rock, then get a taste of Latin’ Caribbean Blues, and follow that with a breath of fresh Smokey Mountain air before we ride out with a Texas-Blues rocker.  All the while, we will cover an array of the human experience. We’ll make stops to explore self-doubt and struggle, then rev up toward optimism and empowerment, and ultimately arrive at the triumph of the human spirit. As you travel through this album, imagine you have four 45’s, with an A-Side and a B-Side queued up on your record player.  Like two sides of a coin, each pair of songs are meant to highlight the contrast in a given experience, even while they are inextricably connected at the core.”

– Kirsten Thien

“Two Sides” is Kirsten Thien’s fifth release, with seven of the album’s eight tracks being originals.  Singing all the lead vocals, and playing slide acoustic guitar and rhythm and lead guitar, Kirsten is joined by: disc’s producer Erik Boyd on acoustic and various styles and types of bass guitars; Arthur Neilson on lead, slide and rhythm guitars and guitarlin; Steve Holley and Wes Little on drums; Alex Alexander on drums and percussion; Tommy Mandel on clavinet, piano, organ and Wurlitzer; Raul Midón on acoustic guitar and translations; Fabian Almazan on piano; John Benthal on Cuatro and Requinito; Tarriona Tank Ball and Jelly Joseph on backing vocals; and Doug Macleod on acoustic and resonator guitars.
The disc opens with Kirsten’s sarcastic take on the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” idiom.  Lyrically, she runs through a list of things she “Shoulda Been” and the theoretical situations that could have, or would have, evolved had she done so. In retrospect – which her matter-of-fact attitude will attest to – Kirsten appears to have absolutely no regrets.  Musically, between the one-two slide guitar knock-out punches of Arthur (electric) and Kirsten (acoustic) and the aging rhythm Erik, Steve and Tommy are blowing out on the slide bass, the drums and the clavinet, calling it a smoker would indeed be an understatement.
“After I Left Home (Song For Buddy Guy)” is an inspiration of, as well as a tribute to, one of Kirsten’s mentors and heroes – the one and only, Mr. Buddy Guy.  That being said, if you’re assuming if it will feature slow, burning and range roving vocals; extended scorching guitar solos; and an utterly intense rhythm; you’ve assumed correctly.
“Say It Out Loud” has so much going on it could have literally been two separate tracks: the first being an angelic, hymn-like A-capela song featuring the heavenly vocalizing of Kirsten, Tarriona and Jelly; and the second being a powerfully percussive, dance floor filling instrumental.  On the other hand, all of that put perfectly together by producer Erik Boyd – along with a flawless acoustic guitar solo by Raul – was quite masterful.
This one’s titled “I Gotta Man” but it’s the lyrics that follow that tell the songs story…..dealing with the uncertainty Kirsten’s facing of having a man who’s apparently doing right by her and yet her wanting to leave him.  With killer toe-to-toe dueling guitar solos by Kirsten and Arthur, before this rocker comes on, make sure you’ve got your air guitars pumped up.   
“Montañas” Is a song that’s completely, and so beautifully sung in Spanish and I could care less that I didn’t understand one word.  The wonderfully melodic and exotic vocals and the vibrant Latin percussion were all the translation I needed.  The music Fabian, Erik, Alex and John (on instruments I’ve never hear of) combined with Kirsten’s amorous vocal presentation, transcended me to small, dark, crowded club in Buenos Aires, and I didn’t want to leave.
Just as Freddie King did with this Leon Russell song, Kirsten Thien and this band could easily have a hit single with “I’d Rather Be Blind”.  This rendition has an energy and enthusiasm level easily equal to Freddie’s.
Two other originals on “Two Sides” are the apparent B side titled “Sweet Lost And Found” and the A side titled “Better Or You’re Gonna Get Burned”.  
To find out more about Kirsten Thien just go to her website – www.kirstenthien.com.  Wherever you go and whomever you talk to, please tell them that the Blewzzman sent you.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro
Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Recipient