Cheryl Arena


"Cheryl Arena’s new album Blues Got Me showcases her impressive blues harp virtuosity accented by her relaxed vocal style and considerable song writing skills."
-Duke Robillard

"I think Cheryl is one of the most gifted harmonica players I've ever met and in no way is she a novelty" - Andrew Jr. Boy Jones

'Cheryl sounds  better than ever on her new record Blues Got Me, great harp tone and she doesn't overplay which is refreshing."- Charlie Musselwhite

"Cheryl is the real deal, great tone and lots of soul in her playing.. I know because I played with the best of them."-Tyler Pedersen (former bassist with William Clarke)

"She may be from Boston, but her heart's from Mississippi"- Johnny Rawls

"Cheryl Arena’s blues have got me good. "
-Art Tripaldi

"Straight-up Blues…. Rich, tasty harmonica work by Arena."
-Blues Revue

"This band is one of the strongest draws on the New England Blues Club Circuit."
-Boston Blues Society

"She has the talent to take her wherever she wants to go…"
-Bnois King - Smokin’ Joe Kubek Band

"No B.S. Just night after night delivering the goods in clubs, winning over audiences from Beantown to Florida."
-Frank John Hadley -Boston Phoenix

"Harmonica mastery keeps Cheryl Arena in the Blues Spotlight… She’s a musical standout."
-New Hampshire Sunday News

"Cheryl Arena… the blues harmonica queen. She’s cool, she’s hot, she’s the baddest harp player - male or female - I’ve heard in many a   year."
-Rock Bottom - Godfather of Gator Country Blues

"Watching Arena’s energetic performance for one set is enough to exhaust you."
-Blues Beat


Cheryl Arena

Blues Got Me

The music world should be very happy that the blues got Cheryl.   Her harp has been on the Boston blues scene for years.  If you dig out your old Kat in the Hat recordings from 1996 and follow her blows and draws through the Woodburn/Arena band days and her most recent band gigs, it is obvious she's paid her necessary woodsheddin' dues. Though she and her husband, guitar ace Matt Woodburn are Boston's own, I've found them through the years touring in Florida and on Beale St. in Memphis. In fact on one such occasion, Cheryl excitedly told me in the Black Diamond she was off to Junior's Juke Joint in Holly Springs, MS. to play. Proof she let the blues take her on the road to the right places. And, it shows. The CD opens with one of the strongest songs I've heard so far in this Year of the Blues. The gentle swing of the acoustic guitar and harmonica compliment the winter wishes of every New Englander, to go South. But when the electricity kicks in, Arena wants her trip South to be for the blues life. Her personal photo album offers pics of catfish, cotton, Beale and jukes.

Thanks for reminding us why we love those who love the blues and understand it's a Southern essence. This is no one song recording.  Through the 13 songs, recorded in Duke Robillard's Mood Room  and produced by Duke, Arena displays expertise in all areas,  song writing, singing, harp playing, and song choice.  The title cut is a gritty display. As Duke underlines the song wiht a Howlin' Wolf style guitar voice, Arena confesses the hold blues got on her. Robert Johnson sang about blues "is a low down, shakin' chill". Arena sings that blues " found me in the dark....came round and fixed my broken heart." This alone may exemplify the change in perception of the blues over the years. Vocally, Cheryl is no Susan Tedeschi or Shemekia, and thankfully, she doesn't try to be. Instead, her vocal style relies on staying within her range and letting her individualistic nuances deliver the lesson. " Love Gone Wrong," a Jimmie Vaughan styled Texas R&B offering, lets Arena voice heartbreak through her voice and harmonica while Woodburn tears up the fretboard. Arena's versatility as a singer/songwriter is evident on her second line beat on "Listen To What I Say" and her big band jazz take on two from the Buddy Johnson songbook, " Any Day Now" and "About To Break My Heart".  Both bring in some of Boston's finest brass, Sax Beadle, Scott Shetler, and Scott Aruda. After years of ridin' to places and absorbin' the blues, Cheryl Arena's blues have got me good.

-Art Tripaldi

USA – CHERYL ARENA “Blues Got Me”, No label/no. 13 tracks, 49:50 mins.

As a reader of BM you will know Boston is one of the Blues hotbeds, you may well be aware it is the stomping ground of one of if not the best female harpists, Annie Raines – now add CHERYL ARENA! Like Little Annie, Cheryl is no one trick pony with country to swing styles in a great tone & delivery. The gal sings real good too, and though the disc is credited to Cheryl only they usually go by the names of herself, and guitarist Matt Woodburn (Woodburn-Arena band). Their CD is a mix of vaudeville blues, West Coast blues, Texas swing, country, lounge jazz, boogie swing and 50’s pop. The overall feel you get is – a band with a difference, Cheryl and the boys are no wallpaper band. Let’s spin the disc, and listen up! First comes a romantic yearning for the bluesy South in a country way, lovely melody and Duke Robillard the albums producer on Dobro. Cheryl then goes from acoustic to bullet harp, and her co-bandleader Matt Woodburn starts to show his chops. Then we are transported back to the Charleston period for a real bouncy and remarkably un-smutty shavin’ song. The albums horns kick in (well it is a Robillard/Mood Room recording) with the great Gordon beadle amongst the cheek bulges. This band has your body moving in an unconscious luring. The title track is a dirty Hooker-ish easy rockin’ tune, where the smashing groove is punctuated with lovely leads by Robillard & Arena. Apart from the seven tracks Cheryl has a hand in two lovely Little Walter covers sit in with four other uncommon re-runs. This album comes without promotional fanfares, and decent distribution, but that’s part of what makes a Blues gem…

Billy Hutchinson -  Blues Matters Magazine UK

HOOT  (Harmonica organization of Texas)  Newsletter Feb. 2006

"WOW" Cheryl, thank you for coming to Texas. What a great album. I first met Cheryl about a year ago at a local open mic jam in Addison Tx. hosted by Mike Morgan. She had just moved here from here native Boston due to the thriving local blues scene in the DFW Metroplex. Johnny Rawls has said "She may be from Boston but her heart's from Mississippi." She visited our club a few months ago with Aaron Burton and put on a wonderful concert for us. The last time I saw her perform was at the KNON annual "Blues Fest" at Poor David's Pub in Dallas. She was exceptional again and earned the unofficial "MVP" (most valuable player) honors from KNON's Don O. Our own beloved Sam Myers seemed to be giving her his special "mojo" back rub blessing before her stellar performances. Cheryl, you surely are an asset to our local blues scene.

Her 13 track album is superbly produced and mixed. It shows an incredible range of harp techniques, musical styles, relaxed vocals and song writing skills. Her Chicago Blues,
Mississippi Delta Blues and Dixie Land Jazz music styles are all well executed.

Steve Sullivan- Hoot Newsletter