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DEEP # 3/2007 (October 2007)

  Ladies may lead this time, since they have come up with some goodies lately.  On the Southern soul indies front there seems to be a second wave of new female talent emerging in recent years.  Please enjoy my new interviews with Bettye LaVette, a Willie Mitchell protégé, Mashaá, and the new lead singer of the Spinners, Charlton Washington, as well as those from the vaults with Vickie Baker, Kenny Hamber and Ronnie Lovejoy.


Content and quick links:

Interviews:
Bettye LaVette
Mashaá
Charlton Washington

CD reviews:
Vickie Baker: CD I Could Show You
Sweet Angel: CD Another Man’s Meat on My Plate
Jewel J: CD That’s My Shugga Daddy
Barbara Carr: CD It’s My Time
O.B. Buchana: CD Goin’ Back Home
David Brinston: CD Here I Go Again
Patrick Harris: CD Long Time Comin’
Patrick Henry: CD Contagious
Mr. Sam: CD Lookin’ 4 Love
Z.Z. Hill Jr.: CD Goin’ To Mississippi
Mr. Sam: CD Lookin’ 4 Love
Kenny Hamber: CD Truly Blessed

Reissue/compilation CD reviews:
Luther Ingram: CD Pity For The Lonely/The Ko Ko Singles, volume 1
Bill Brandon: CD On The Rainbow Road
Rozetta Johnson: CD Personal Woman
Johnny Adams: CD Chasing Rainbows
Kenny Hamber: CD Best of


BETTYE LAVETTE

  The Scene of the Crime (Anti 6873-2, www.anti.com) is Bettye’s second album for the Anti- label after I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise two years ago.  Bettye: “I’m not really sure about the sales of that one, but it wasn’t as much as I was expecting.  But it did very well, and I got a tremendous amount of publicity from it.”  Produced by David Barbe, who also did the engineering and mixing, Patterson Hood, the son of David Hood and Bettye herself, the set was recorded at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.


On the pic above: Inside of Fame studios in 2000.

  Actually, that’s where the title of the CD derives from, since Bettye’s early 70s album, Child of the Seventies, was also cut in Muscle Shoals – only at different studios, at 3614 Jackson Highway – but then Atlantic Records shelved it, which still is the biggest disappointment for Bettye in her career.  So here we have the crime and the scene.  We finally got to hear that masterpiece, when in 2000 a French company, Art & Soul, released it under the title of Souvenirs.  “Andrew Kaulkin, the president of Anti-, came up with the idea to record with the Drive-By Truckers.  My husband, Kevin Kiley, came up with the idea of recording it in Muscle Shoals, at Fame.  They put it together and came up with a great little marketing idea.  And I came up with the songs.”

  Drive-By Truckers, a southern rock band (www.drivebytruckers.com), plays today in the line-up of Mike Cooley (guitar), Patterson Hood (guitar), Brad Morgan (drums), John Neff (guitar and pedal steel), Shonna Tucker (bass) and also Spooner Oldham (Wurlitzer and piano).  David Hood plays bass on three tracks on Bettye’s set.  “When Kevin and I got married five years ago, I’ve listened to more music than I’ve listened to in my entire 46-year-career.  In the five years we’ve been married I’ve found about thirty songs that I like of all the stuff he listens to all the time.  I sent those thirty tunes to the Truckers and the company, and they liked them.  So I chose ten out of the thirty.  I’ll do the other twenty some other time.”


  Southern “swamp” rock and Bettye’s soulful style make an interesting combination.  “You know how women are.  As long as you’re doing what they want you to do, they’re happy.  They did what I wanted them to do, and that was it.  I’m 61 years old.  I wasn’t going to compromise in any way, shape or form – not musically.  I sang the songs the way I wanted to sing them.”

  The set begins with a mid-tempo beater called I Still Want to Be Your Baby (Take Me Like I Am), which its writer, Eddie Hinton, recorded under the title of I Still Wanna Be Your Man, and along with Talking Old Soldiers it’s Betty’s own favourite on the CD.  “I really wanted to sing those two songs.  I hated it, when people write songs and close them into the point, where no-one else can sing them.  Then I have to rewrite them.  I just can’t let the song go by, just because a guy is singing it or it’s about a mouse or whatever…”

  Choices is a stripped-down, acoustic and plaintive ballad with a vulnerable interpretation from Bettye.  George Jones won a Grammy with the song in the “Best Male Country Vocal Performance” category in 1999.  “I’ve always liked the song.  I’ve liked it from the time I first heard it.  I never thought of it in terms of recording it.  Kevin is a great, great George Jones fan, and I’m a great country & western fan.  Kevin was very surprised to know that.  Kevin just wants you to listen to music.  When he finds out what you like, he gets 20,000 of those recordings and plays them.  My mother familiarized me with the Grand Ole Opry at a very early age, and over my career I’ve recorded a lot of country & western music.”

  Frankie Miller’s Jealousy is a gloomy beat ballad, with occasional vocal spurts.  Frankie himself recorded the song for his ’82 Standing on the Edge album, and cut it in Muscle Shoals.  “It was one of the tunes I heard by Frankie Miller that I wanted to sing.  Not that I liked it, but that I wanted to sing.  I’m not a jealous person.  I’m too arrogant to be jealous, but I’ve always liked the melody and all the darkness of it.  Here again it was something that was written from a different perspective that I wanted to sing it, but it’s the same song.  Everybody recognizes it.”

  Don Henley co-wrote and recorded a rocking mid-tempo song titled You Don’t Know Me At All in the mid-90s.  “It wasn’t a really big song.  I like something else by Don Henley, but after we watched him on television my husband brought out everything he had ever recorded.  Then I heard this and I said ‘I really like that, but it hasn’t enough words.  It just seems to be part of the story’.  When I rewrite these songs, I don’t ask anybody for any royalties or anything.  I don’t try to make the song better.  I just try to make it so that I can sing it.”

  Somebody Pick Up My Pieces, a very intimate and slow “hurting” song, was written by Willie Nelson and cut for his ’98 Teatro CD.  “He’s one of my greatest writers.  I like him as a singer, too.  This one my husband didn’t bring to me.  In fact, I heard a friend of his sing it in a club one night.  I said that if I ever get a chance to do another recording, I’m going to do that.  That was about three years ago.”

  Ray Charles cut W.T. Davidson’s slow beater named They Call It Love for his Do I Ever Cross Your Mind album in 1984.  “I don’t like a lot of singers, but I like Ray Charles three times, so that takes three singers right there.  He was one of the earliest people that I liked.  I’ve liked him since I was a little bitty girl, way before there was Bettye LaVette.  Kevin knew the singers that I liked, so he just recorded a whole bunch of stuff by Ray Charles to take on our honeymoon with us, and this was one of the songs.  I said that I really, really liked that song.  Always the thing with the Ray Charles songs is that I like the way he did them, so I don’t want to hear it any other way.  I like it just like that.  So Andrew Kaulkin came into the studio and said ‘why don’t you try it like this’.  If he had not changed the groove for me, I would not have recorded it because I just didn’t want to do it the way Ray did it.”

  John Hiatt recorded his rocky mover called The Last Time in 2003, and here we can’t avoid the inevitable comparison to Tina Turner again.  “She did start before I did, but I’ve never covered one of her recordings, but she’s covered a couple of mine, so what… (laughing).  I really love and admire Tina.  The whole thing that’s happened to her – that’s the only time I’ve had anything happen to one of my contemporaries, when I felt like it was happening to me.  Every time they gave her a reward or something, I cried.  I was so happy, plus she is the nicest person next to Smokey Robinson’s first wife, Claudette, and Joe Tex that I’ve ever met in show business.”

  “Most of the people, who was happening while I was happening, I wasn’t listening to them.  I was hanging with them and singing with them.  We were all listening to people, who happened before us.  But if you must compare me to someone, why won’t any of you guys look at the guys that I’m patterning myself after – Little Willie John and Bobby Bland and James Brown.”

  Elton John co-wrote with Bernie Taupin and recorded for his ’71 Tumbleweed Connection album a pouring song titled Talking Old Soldiers.  “First of all, I don’t drink beer and I’m not a soldier.  Every time I would hear something that I liked, Kevin put it on a list.  Every time he would make a new list, Old Soldiers would be on it, and I would say ‘but I didn’t ask you to put that on there’, but he said ‘I just wanted you to listen to it again’.  This went on like five years.  When I sent the thirty songs to the record company, of course, he put it in the group, and my record company president – it was one of his favourite songs as well.  So then of course they were ganging up on me.  Then I just rewrote it the way I wanted to sing it, and then when I got involved in it I just loved it.  It was very hard to sing, very hard to rewrite it, but I’m very proud of it.  I just thought the music listeners would say ‘oh, my goodness, how melodramatic could you be’!  It sounds like a scene out of a soap opera.  I really thought they would hate it, but they loved it.  I was stunned.”

  A rocking mid-tempo song called Before The Money Came (The Battle of Bettye LaVette) was written by Patterson Hood together with Bettye, and this is her first own song after Bettye’s Blues on the Blues Express album in 2003 titled A Woman Like Me.  “I wrote Bettye’s Blues, because Dennis Walker told me that any idiot could write a blues song.  All you have to write is ‘woke up one morning…’.  Patterson said that anybody, who could talk as much as I, could write a song.  Patterson really is a writer.  He wrote the liner notes, and they are perfectly written.  And he thinks that everyone can do that, and I was explaining to him that everyone just can’t do this.  If you give me something to write about, then I can write, but if you’re a writer you’re supposed to think of things to write about.  He said ‘just write the things that you keep saying to me’.  So I just wrote what I would say.  But I’m still not a writer.”

  The final song, I Guess We Shouldn’t Talk about That Now, is a beautiful, poignant ballad by Ed Pettersen and Kim Mclean.  “On the CD, Song of America (a 3-CD set on ‘31 Tigers’ in 2007), I do a Bruce Springsteen song, Streets of Philadelphia, and Ed Pettersen is the producer of that album.  When I went to Nashville, he said ‘would you take some of my songs back with you and just give them a listen’.  So I brought the songs back with me, and of course Kevin listened to them.  So we’re getting ready to go to Muscle Shoals and we had already chosen the songs, but Kevin said ‘you should just listen to this… you never know’.  There were five songs on that CD, and the last song was this one.”

  “The reviews of this CD have been just phenomenal.  I was prepared to talk about George Jones and Willie Nelson, and they’re talking about me!  I’m absolutely stunned.”  For more info on Bettye, you can read her story in our # 3/2004 printed paper, or you can visit her website at www.bettyelavette.com.


VICKIE BAKER

  I had a nice chat with a very beautiful lady, Vickie Baker, right after the release of her debut solo CD, Don’t Gimme No Lip, in 1997, and that interview is now once again available here.  After that Vickie released one CD, Good Loving, on her co-owned Fly Records in 2000, and after a relatively long period she now returns with I Could Show You on FaLife Productions out of Texas.

The CD was produced by Michael Gardner and Vickie’s brother, Luster Baker, who also handles most of the music, which in this case means machines, although on some tracks there are live guitar, bass and drums.  All eight songs are credited to Vickie and on four songs there’s her sister, Judy Baker, on background vocals.

Vickie starts with an Anita Baker type of a ballad titled Right Thang Wrong Man, smooth and slightly jazzy, but right after that she returns to the more typical Betty Wright style with the mid-tempo title song.  Big Feet and Get Me Weak are nice, easy bouncers, too, but still I prefer another soft and pretty ballad called He Say She Say.  The third downtempo track is Straight Talkin, which is just what the title says – Vickie talking about her music and fans and haters.  Two party tracks aside, I found this CD offering plenty of caressing and soothing music.


SWEET ANGEL

  Sweet Angel aka Clifetta Colbert (www.sweetangel.org) is a native Memphis girl, who’s still residing there and who earlier this year came up with her debut CD titled Another Man’s Meat on My Plate.  It was recorded at Ecko Sound Studio, and almost completely produced by Sweet Angel’s fiancé, Mike Dobbins, who also wrote six songs for it.  The only outside contribution is a mid-tempo and mellow, a bit jazzy number called Easy Loving You, which was produced and written by Morris J. Williams, and on that particular track the saxophone is played by Sweet Angel herself.

  The opener, I Must Be Crazy, is a fascinating ballad, which starts like Rose Royce’s I Wanna Get Next to You – one of my favourite tunes, by the way – and it’s followed by another slow but slightly more bluesy and ominous song called Another Man’s Meat on My PlateI Got Love for You is a bouncy mid-pacer, whereas Mike’s Place is a moderate dancer with a disturbing rock guitar break.  Mike’s Place actually is an existing bar and grill in Memphis, and that’s where the host, Mr. Dobbins, celebrated his 63rd birthday at the end of September.  The night included a special performance by – yes, you guessed it – Sweet Angel.

  So far the tempo has picked up gradually, but the plaintive Right Street, Wrong Way brings us back to a slowed-down soul mood again.  Finally Please Come Back is a lilting beat ballad.  The most irritating thing on this otherwise pleasant CD is so called “background vocals by Morris J. Williams!”  Although multi-voiced, he doesn’t come even close to the real thing, a genuine female backing choir.  Travesty rather than an extra soulful element.  I really could do without his “vocals”, and my groan concerns not only this CD.  This primitive method has been in use on many indie CDs in recent years.


INTRODUCING… MASHAÁ

  “Mashaá comes from my first and my last names - the last two letters of my first name, Erma, and the SHA from my last name, Shaw, and then I added a little French touch to it, ’a’ with an accent.”

  Mashaá was born in Memphis, Tennessee.  “My mother, who’s deceased now, was my best friend in the whole world.  She taught me about Willie Mitchell, Lionel Hampton and all these people, when I was just a little child.  My mom sang gospel.  My father played piano.  They were never professionally involved in music.”

  “When I was young, I loved everybody - Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Phoebe Snow, the Carpenters, Barbra Streisand… everybody!  Most people would tell you that they started singing in church, which I did too.  I actually started singing, when I was about seven years old.  I was always involved in the production of musical things in my school.  I’m the type of person that singing is what keeps me going.  I even sing at grocery stores, and people call me ‘the happy shopper’.”

  “I guess I was fourteen, when I first sang in a studio.  It was at Stax, for Mrs. Estelle Axton, who together with her brother is the founder of Stax Records.  I did a remake of Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.  It was the first thing that I ever did in a studio.  It wasn’t released.  The first thing that was released was a back-up vocal part.  Then I kind of disappeared, kind of went around, worked in different bands.  My brother, Lawrence Morris, has a band too.”

  “I won first place in Songwriters Association Contest, like in ’77.  Estelle was one of the judges on it.  At that time Stax had stopped doing the records, so she said she’ll take me to Willie Mitchell.  She took me to Willie, and I’ve been there on and off since then.  I had a trio called Silver, Diamond and Gold, and that was the first professional project with Willie.  We did a song called You’re Always Here to Say Goodnite (Zot 4600, in 1979) for T.K. Productions out of Florida.”

  “Then I sang background on O.V. Wright’s last album (We’re Still Together, in 1979).  People like me singing on their records, and I’ve done quite a bit.  Randy VanWarmer had a song called Just When I Needed You Most (gold on Bearsville in 1979)… that, and the Bar-Kays, Denise LaSalle, Paul Butterfield, Otis Clay, on Otis Rush’ Any Place I’m Going (’98).  I sing both on stage, and background on records… B.B. King, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs, J. Blackfoot, Preston Shannon.  I sang lead and backup and arranged all vocals on Willie’s Last Dance LP” (on Bearsville 3520 in 1981).

  “I was also the lead singer for Gino Soccio for a long time in the early 80s.  He’s out of Montreal, Canada.  During the disco days he had Try It Out (on Atlantic in ’81), and I’m the lead singer on that as well.  It was number one on Billboard’s Dance charts at that time.  I did a few albums with him.  When I went to Frankfurt, Germany, everybody at the airport was singing Try It Out.  I’ve been to Europe several times – to Italy, Switzerland, England and other countries.”

  In spite of an over 30-year-career behind her, Anytime Anyplace Anywhere (Waylo 095805010125; 2007), is Mashaá’s first solo album (www.myspace.com/mashaa39 and www.mashaalive.com).  Produced by Willie Mitchell and recorded at his Royal Studios, the engineers are Archie and Boo Mitchell & Jason Hohenberg, and among the players you can spot many of Willie’s trusted musicians throughout the years: Steve Potts (drums), Leroy Hodges (bass), Lester Snell and Lannie McMillan (piano), Bobby Manuel and Charles Pitts (guitar), Robert Clayborne (organ), Hector Diaz (congas) plus a horn section of Jim Spake, Lannie McMillan, Kirk Smothers and Scott Thompson.  “They’re the same players that played on Al Green’s last two albums.”


  The set opens with a dancer called Love Somebody Else, written by Erma and Lannie McMillan.  “Lannie is a fantastic saxophone player and a writer.  As a matter of fact, when I first came to Italy, Porretta, it was through Lannie.  I stayed there about three months.  I wasn’t supposed to be there that long, but they kept asking me to stay loner, so I stayed longer.”

  Erma co-wrote ten out of the twelve songs on the album, including a plaintive beat ballad titled Is It Love.  “I did backup vocals on that song with Tosho Orito a long time ago.  He’s from Japan.  I don’t think it ever got off the ground, but I never forget a good song.”

  Countin’ on Love is a beautiful slowie with a sax solo by Lannie McMillan.  The song was co-written by Jason Hohenberg.  “Jason is a partner with Willie in his publishing company.”  It’s back to dancing on Slippin’ Away.  “I had done backup vocals in Japan with Toshio also on Slippin’ Away.” 

  All My Life is a melodic and soft uptempo bouncer.  “It was written by Sandra Rhodes from Rhodes-Chalmers-Rhodes.  They did all the backup vocals for Al Green.”  The Reason, written by Willie and Erma, is an atmospheric slowie.  “The first song that was written for this album was The Reason.”

  Somebody Else’s Bed was composed by Erma and her brother, Lawrence Morris.  “It’s the single release, and it’s doing pretty well.”  We Are One is a poppy bouncer, co-written by Melvin Ragin.  “Melvin Wah-Wah Watson” Ragin has played with everybody.  He was Marvin Gaye’s guitar player, when Marvin died.”

  The title tune is another beautiful ballad (by Jason, Willie and Erma), whereas All We Need has a heavier beat to it.  “All We Need is a song that I co-wrote with Marti Pellow from the Wet Wet Wet band.  I sang on several of Marti’s projects, too.”  I Never Thought is the third slowie in a row… and with a rock guitar solo.  “Preston Shannon is playing that rock guitar.  My brother did another version of that particular song, wrote other lyrics and actually did it for my mother.  Then I dedicated the whole album to my mother, as well.”  Finally the melodic Let’s Go for It is Mashaá’s duet with her brother, Lawrence Morris.  “That’s a song that Willie and Earl Randle did.  That song came for Lanier & Co.

  Anytime Anyplace Anywhere definitively is one of the best CDs this year, with that distinctive “Poppa” sound and arrangements all over it.  This simply is timeless music.  Mashaá: “My future plan is to sing, sing, sing… I have this song that I wrote called I Just Wanna Sing.  It’s not on this CD, and I’m not really planning for it to be on a CD.  This is a song that I wrote just mainly for opening my show.”

  “I’ve been working on a CD of cover songs from people that have inspired me since I was a child.  One of the songs is Let’s Stay Together from Al Green, and another one is I Can’t Stand the Rain from Ann Peebles.  I call it My Inspirations.  This is what I’m about.  I write songs and I sing songs that mean something.  I try to uplift somebody’s spirit, instead of bringing them down.  I can’t sing a song that hasn’t a meaning to it.”


JEWEL J.

  There are a lot of new CDs from Memphis, TN, this time.  Jewel Jones is a lady, who has been the vocalist for such bands as the Soul Rangers, the King Beez, the Memphis Icebreakers and her own Jewelstone.  On the road she has worked with Denise LaSalle, Shirley Brown and J. Blackfoot, and her first CD (Goddess of the Blues) dates back to 2002.

  Her latest album, That’s My Shugga Daddy (Q.T. Records; 33 min.!), was produced by Eddie Q.T. Taylor, and six out of nine songs were written by John Cummings.  Eddie also is one of the persons in charge of “Arrangements” and “Rhythm & Tracks”, and for an experienced interpreter that tells there aren’t a lot of real instruments around.

  The CD consists almost completely of mid-paced, bouncing dancers, which intensify into heavier beaters towards the end.  The wistful Love’s a Game is the only slowie on the set.  While those light tracks are mostly pleasant, sweet and purring, they don’t leave a lasting impression.  They are nice but indifferent, without any bigger catch.


BARBARA CARR

  Four tracks on Barbara’s latest CD, It’s My Time (Ecko, ECD 1092; www.eckorecords.com), were produced by Harrison Calloway.  They were cut in Jackson, Mississippi, and according to Barbara’s own words “my late husband Charles Carr worked very hard along with myself for the release of the four songs on this CD.”

    Of those four, While You Was out Playing Jody and This Is the Party are easy toe-tappers (the latter was cut earlier by Rick Lawson), Love Triangle is a traditional “other man-other woman” mid-tempo drama - energetically interpreted, though – but the cover of I Can’t Stand the Rain, alas, is a let-down.  It simply lacks intensity.

  John Ward produced the rest six songs, which include two nice mid-pacers (I’m Not Going down without a Fight and I’m Just a Lucky Girl), one catchy dancer (Kick Him to the Curb), two bluesy shufflers (It Sho Was Me at the Hole in the Wall and the more stomping A Woman Can Take It and She Can Dish It Out) and finally a version of Billy Soul Bonds’ hit, Scat Cat, Here Kitty Kitty.  This CD is not on a par with Barbara’s previous album (Down Low Brother), partly because on some tracks the machines have stepped in again, but nevertheless it’s a release worth checking out.


O.B. BUCHANA

  Goin’ Back Home (ECD 1093) is O.B.’s 4th Ecko CD, and this time there are only three songs that he wrote or co-wrote.  Both his Come and Get It While He’s gone, and Booty Mover are speedy dancers, while another fast track, All My Money’s Gone, sounds to these ears the weakest of the lot this time, almost like a demo.

  Other uptempo cuts include two easy swayers, Mississippi Swing and I’m Goin’ Back Home, Chuck Roberson’s Lollipop Man and a song that Dr. “Feelgood” Potts cut earlier, Hard Working Lady.  The mid-tempo I’m about to Lose My Woman to My Wife introduces another possible twist in personal relationships. 

  This actually is a party CD, but hopefully O.B. gets back to ballads, too, in the future, because he showed his vocal prowess on the fine I Can’t Stop Drinkin’ CD.  On this disc the only slowie is Everything Sweet Reminds Me of You, an emotive declaration of love.


DAVID BRINSTON

  Now David has joined Ecko, too.  First they re-released his Mett album, Somebody’s Cuttin’ My Cake, from eight years back (ECD 1094) and shortly after that they put out this new CD, Here I Go Again (Ecko, ECD 1095).  You can read about David’s early career at http://www.soulexpress.net/brinston.htm.

  Jointly produced by John Ward and Morris J. Williams, Davis was a composer on three songs while the producers penned most of the rest eight, with some help from their established staff.  This is almost like a continuous cavalcade of feelgood and quite melodic dancers, with no aim at deeper musical values, whatsoever.  Al Green could have cut a sing-along jogger titled Back It up and Put It Here (actually, Bill Coday was the one to do it on his Take Me CD), and on Too Many Women the composers might just as well have given some credit to the writers of Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You, too.

  Three slowies cut the chain of movers, and of them David himself wrote Ain’t It Funny, a “God Bless Our Love” type of a ballad.  Other than that, this is a party CD.  Work That Thang (another rework from Bill Coday’s CD), which I like the least, has become a small hit, so what do I know…


PATRICK HARRIS

  Last year a Louisiana singer, Patrick Harris, released an EP, which this year has been extended to a full album, Long Time Comin’ (Lyn-Rome) - produced, arranged and written by Rick and Patrick Harris.  Featuring mostly a live rhythm section, the CD kicks off with the title tune, an exhilarating r&b jump, which is followed by a throaty delivery of a mid-tempo song called Help Me Make This Dream Come True, almost like from Lloyd Price’s songbook.

  Right On Time is a strong, bouncing mover, but Give Her What She Been Missin’ switches into a higher gear, still.  Moan is a slowish song in a Bobby Womack style, while Missin’ Your Love is more mellow.

  So far, very good!  But then on I Wanna Love You and Gotta Whole Lotta Lovin’ Patrick chooses machines and a more contemporary style, and the level of music drops significantly.  He gets back to goodies, though, on a melodic beat ballad titled I Fooled You This Time and on a mid-tempo blues song called I’ve Changed My Ways.  With the exception of those two “modern” tracks, this CD offers honest, straight-forward old school soul music from the rougher side.  Recommended!


PATRICK HENRY

  Another Patrick, another seasoned singer, but a lesser CD in terms of quality, I’m afraid.  Also from Louisiana, “Mr. Excitement” (www.patrickhenrymusic.com) hasn’t been able to avoid machines on the background of his Contagious CD (Drove Entertainment; www.droveentertainment.com). 

  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: no matter how many times these veterans say that they’re only trying to reach out for a wider audience with their rap experiments, they lose it both ways.  They ignore their own fan base and get no respect from youngsters, either.  One listen to the five rap-spiced tracks on this CD did it for me.  I chose to skip them after that.  Also I won’t go into credits on this record – like who wrote and who produced which track – simply because you can’t read the text.  In their search for artistic impression, they made the text in the sleeve almost invisible.

  Patrick’s voice bears a slight resemblance to that of Jesse James, although on the moaning title tune Latimore and his style come to your mind first.  Among the other decent cuts there’s a softish ballad titled Let Me Love You and two more intense slowies, Tears of Yester Years and Bye Bye Baby, the latter ruined by a rock guitar solo, though.  I’m Hooked is a “hooky” dancer, while She Whispers is a bubbly mid-pacer.


MR. SAM

  Sam Fallie turned fifty in May this year.  This Memphis-born and still Memphis-based artist has performed in a number of groups, but mostly he’s known as a prolific songwriter (for the Bar-Kays, Archie Love, J. Blackfoot, Lacee, Theodis Ealey, Jerry L etc.).  You can read more about Sam at http://www.soul-treasures.com/featurearticles/mrsam/mrsam.htm.

    Lookin’ 4 Love on MiLaJa Records out of Tennessee is Sam’s first solo CD, and it’s produced by him together with some of his friends, namely Ron Mack, Tahi Cole, Ezra Williams, Morris J. Williams and Elvis Williams.  They are also the main writers, although we must add Archie Love to that group, since he co-wrote four songs.  No musicians are listed, which must mean that there aren’t many.

  Sam, whose high voice bears a slight resemblance to Babyface, opens with three slow songs.  The title tune is a memorable beat ballad, track # 2, I’m Comin’ Home, is a downtempo pleader and # 3, which is one of the cream cuts, 12 Steps for Cheaters, tells about a healing program for Cheaters Anonymous and musically reminds you of Ten Commandments of Love.

  Onwards the tempo picks up.  Back N Da Day is still a mid-pacer, but Since You’ve Been Gone works already at full speed.  This time I must give credit to Morris J. Williams, since he was involved in this brisk and infectious, 70s style dancer.  With such a rich arrangement as on this track, also Sam whips himself into an inspired vocal performance.

  Unfortunately the next three beaters (Work Yo Body, Who Is Mr. Sam and Dirty South Steppin) are more mediocre and formulaic, but the two closing ballads – Tribute to Luther and the inspirational Teach Me – restore the mood and level of the opening trio of songs.


Z.Z. Hill Jr.

  Jr. is not related to the great and late Z.Z. Hill.  Here’s what his producer, arranger and writer, Mr. Twist Turner, says about the stage name: “I never asked him about that name.  I do know he’s not really Z.Z’s son.  He uses the name like others in Chicago do; we have had Bobby Bland Jr, B.B. King Jr, Muddy Waters Jr, Little Howlin Wolf, Howlin Wolf Jr, Elmore James Jr etc. performing here over the years.  I think the name is more of a tribute to Z.Z. Hill, although if you ask me he sings more like Clarence Fountain of the Five Blind Boys.”

  The songs on Goin’ To Mississippi (Delta Roots Records, DR 1001; www.deltaroots.com) have been cut during the past twelve years and they feature mostly real instruments (excluding strings), also a horn section.  Twist: “Z.Z. and I have been friends for about 18 years, we’ve done gigs together over the years and I attempted 3 times to produce a CD by him.  I succeeded this time.”

  The only problem I have with Z.Z. is his singing style.  Perhaps he sounds great on stage, but on this CD his voice is strained on many tracks, and his throaty delivery sounds artificial.  You can listen to samples at http://www.MySpace.com/zzhilljr.

  Of the twelve songs on display as many as nine were written by Twist Tuner.  The three outside tunes are all fast ones.  Among them there are so-so covers of Stuck in Chicago (Syl Johnson) and Lookin’ for a New Love (Luther Ingram), and also the third one, Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You, pales in comparison with Wilson Pickett’s original.  The last one is actually quite compelling, but then there’s that growl again.

  Lean on Me, on the other hand, is a catchy dancer, and of the four straight blues songs It Ain’t Easy is the most appealing one.  The four soulful ballads include two intense deepies, Now That I’ve gone (6:32) and Try Love One More Time, and one smoother and more melodic song, Not the Cheatin’ Kind.  Twist: “Z.Z’s a great soul singer and I thought he needed some good material and a good CD, so he could share his gift with the world.  I guess it is working.  We are getting really good reviews and it is selling very quickly as well.”

  You do, of course, remember that most of these Southern soul indies can be easily purchased at http://www.intodeepmusic.com.


INTRODUCING… CHARLTON WASHINGTON

  Frank Washington had been the lead singer for the Spinners since early 2003, but for over three months now a gentleman by the name of Charlton Washington has replaced him.  Bobbie Smith (of the Spinners): “We had a meeting about Frank the way he was performing songs, and I guess he got angry and he didn’t show up anymore.”  Charlton: “Frank was ‘awol’ (absent without leave) for maybe two and a half months.  He missed several, several shows, and they had to move on.  They didn’t know what was going on.  They couldn’t get in touch.”

  Turns out that Bobbie Smith’s daughter, Barbara, introduced not only Harold Bonhart to the group in 2004 (please read his interview at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep304.htm), but also Charlton Washington this year.  Charlton: “By me living here in Detroit, I knew one of the Spinners’ nephews very well.  We grew up with him.  He was a friend, but he was also a big fan of my career, with the groups that I was in and also as a solo singer.  One of the Spinners’ daughters, which was this friend’s first cousin, used to live with him, and she kept in touch with one of the group members, who was also a good friend of mine.” 

  “When they thought the position was coming available for the Spinners, she talked to my friend and me about coming down and meeting her dad, which was Bobbie Smith, and auditioning for that position.  We did that.  We flew down south to Orlando and we auditioned for the position.  I waited around eight months, and then finally the spot became available, the lead vocalist for the Spinners.  I told them I was ready for the spot, even though I hadn’t ever rehearsed with them, but I had their CD, a current CD of their show, and I had studied it.”

  “They had a show coming up in Detroit, July 10th this year.  They had a meeting, but they decided to go against me first, because they didn’t want to pull me on stage without any rehearsal.  I told them ‘let me do the sound check’.  Once they saw how well I was prepared, they let me do the show.  I got a standing ovation, and I’ve been with them ever since.”

  Charlton Washington was born in Detroit on August 21 in 1959.  “My father is a great singer here in the city.  He sang in a lot of clubs.  He’s an exceptional talent.  His name is Cornelius Washington.  We’re related to Sam Cooke through him, on his side, so the music definitely runs in my family tree.”

  “I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and when I was growing up as a kid Motown was coming into its heyday.  It was really big around here in the city, and we were influenced by all the Motown stars.  In particular I was very fond of the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder and Marvin, also Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson.  I also have female idols like Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight.  I just love great music.  As I became an adult, I was really fond of Luther Vandross.  I think he had a great voice and a great control of his voice.  I enjoyed James Brown as an entertainer, quite naturally.”

  “I sang a little gospel in churches when growing up, and I also did some work in choirs in school.  I was inclined to music at a very early age.  When I was about ten or eleven, I started singing seriously and caught on real fast.  I started singing around our house with my brothers.  I did my tutelage under them.  They had a group.  By the time I was twelve, we did a live show with the group.  I did a lot of the lead parts, and people responded very well to me.  I had a knack for singing, and I was a lot more talented than my brothers, and they saw that early on.  So that made them work with me even harder.”

  “As I grew into a young adult, I started a group of my own and we did a lot of local shows around here in the Detroit area.  I’ve sung with several local groups, and when these groups parted I’ve done a lot of solo work.  The name of my first group was Rabone.  It existed about three years in the late 70s, early 80s.  We weren’t given an opportunity to make records with that group.  After that I sang with different groups on and off in the early 80s.”

  “The name of my next group was Lestim.  We did a lot of concerts here in the Detroit area.  It was a pretty good group.  Then I started another group, and the name of it was 5.0.  I didn’t record with that group, either.  We stayed together about two years in the late 80s, early 90s.  I did a lot of solo work in the 90s.  I did concerts for Detroit public schools, at least fifty-sixty shows for the kids throughout the city.  I also did a worldwide performance in Texas.”

  “Later on I recorded on my own as a solo artist in 1999.  The song was called In the Mood, and the label was Top Of The Line Records.  It was a label that I had established.  That song is still on the World Wide Web.  You can purchase that CD on the internet.”  In the Mood is a single CD with two edits of a pretty, smooth ballad, and so far it remains the only record Charlton has released as a solo singer so far. 

  “I’ve been writing on and off.  When I put that CD out, I did everything myself.  I recorded it, I had it mastered, I started the record label…  The promotion part of it was so expensive that by the time I got to the point to promote the CD, I was out of money.  You run into a wall, because you try to get the radio stations play your song and you’re competing against major recording labels.  I had sent my stuff out to record labels, but they sent it back without listening to it, because they wanted you to have an agent and an attorney to represent you.  It was so expensive that I just couldn’t do it.”

  “Then I got with a Motown band here, and this was like in 2003, 2004.  We had a Motown act, Misty Love and the Motown Sound, and we performed in New York and here locally.”  The line-up of the Spinners consists now of two age groups – Bobbie, Henry and Pervis were all born in the latter part of the thirties, while Charlton and Harold derive from the late 50s and early 60s.  (Acknowledgements to SisDetroit).  www.thespinnersmusic.com

REISSUE RUSH


LUTHER INGRAM

  Luther’s first ten KoKo singles, covering the period from early 1967 till 1971, are now available on Pity For The Lonely/The Ko Ko Singles, volume 1 (Kent, CDKEND 279; 19 tracks, 60 min.; www.acerecords.com).  Tony Rounce compiled it and wrote the liner notes.

  Luther’s early dancers and stompers were mostly cut by Willie Mitchell at his studio, and some of those songs (I Can’t Stop, Missing You, Since You Don’t Want Me) Luther re-recorded later, only at a different tempo.  Stax started distributing KoKo since late 1968, and right away Luther came up with such gems as Oh Baby, You Can Depend On Me, the second version of Since You Don’t Want Me and Pity for the Lonely, which is a Drifters type of a light and poppy, melodic ditty.

  Luther’s cover of Ain’t That Lovin’ You (For More Reasons Than One) – originally cut by Johnnie Taylor – opened everybody’s eyes to see Luther’s forte as a balladeer.  To The Other Man (somewhat resembling Honey) and the haunting I’ll Love you until the End followed, and soon after that 10th single his first album, I’ve Been Here All the Time, was released in 1971.

  Although Luther’s biggest hits will appear in volume 2 by the end of this year, this is a top-class compilation, too, and I highly recommend it.


BILL BRANDON

  On The Rainbow Road (Soulscape, SSCD 7001; 24 tracks; 73 min.; liners by John Ridley) is a great start for Garry J. Cape’s new label (www.garryjcape.com). Produced by Spooner Oldham, Quin Ivy, Clinton Moon, Sam Dees and Frederick Knight, these Bill Brandon sides were recorded in Alabama between 1967 and ’76 and released on such labels as South Camp, Tower, Quinvy, Moonsong and Piedmont.  Bill is still around but has abandoned the business about twenty years ago.

  Although Bill cut some blues, funk and powerful, driving movers (Whatever I Am, I’m Yours, The Streets Got My Lady and Let Me Be Your Full Time Groover with Lorraine Johnson), he’s best remembered for his excellent deep ballads – Self Preservation, the plaintive Rainbow Road, I’m A Believer Now and the poppy Little By Little with a country tinge to it.

  My own number one is Sam Dees’ magnificent Johnnie Mae Wright, but there are many, many other thrilling tracks, which simply make you stop and listen – Piece Of My Heart, It’s All Wrong, It’s All Right, Tag Tag, the previously unreleased I’ll Be Your Puppet and Let’s Make Our New Love Something Special, again with Lorraine Johnson.  I can’t praise this compilation enough, and this should belong to the collection of every serious rootsy southern soul fan.


ROZETTA JOHNSON

  After the Bill Brandon CD, Soulscape released an equally intriguing compilation titled Cheaters Never Win by another southern soul singer, Tony Borders, and a collection of some Chicago sides by producer Clarence Johnson titled South Side Soul Survey.

  Rozetta’s Personal Woman (SSCD 7004; 16 tracks, 51 min; liners by Paul Mooney) is the fourth release on the label, and the main body of the CD consists of six Clintone singles between 1970 and ’75 by this Alabama lady.  As accustomed in those days, one side of the single was a ballad and the flip was an uptempo song.  Among those six fast ones there were stompers, there was funk, one screamer and even one decent disco number, (I like Making That) Early Morning Love.  My preference goes to the b-side of her first Clintone single, an effective dancer called Mine Was Real.

  Rozetta’s recordings have appeared earlier on different Various Artists compilations, and usually the companies have chosen one of her big-voiced, impressive soul ballads – most likely, either the Nancy Wilson influenced A Woman’s Way (# 39-soul, Billboard), or her other charted single, the haunting Who Are You Gonna Love (Your Woman or Your Wife) (# 45-soul).  For this scribe there are two even stronger cuts, a gospelly deepie titled Holding the Losing Hand and the equally intense It’s Been So Nice.  Most of these songs were written and produced by Sam Dees.

  I’ve Come Too Far With You (To Turn Back Now), which sounds like an unfinished soul slowie, and a vibrant, stormy dancer called You Better Keep What You Got are two cuts, which were left in the can at the time but were found and put out recently.  The two closing cuts – another “Nancy Wilson” ballad named For That Man of Mine and the slightly funky Mama Was a Bad Seed, which was influenced by Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone – were never released before.  With the exception of her two 60s singles, we now should have Rozetta’s whole recording output on one disc.

JOHNNY ADAMS


  CHASING RAINBOWS (Shout D36; 32 tracks, 2 h 9 min; www.shoutrecords.co.uk) is a fine 2-cd compilation from “The Tan Canary’s” four albums with Senator Jones between 1976 and ’81.  Clive Richardson compiled it and wrote the sleeve notes.

  Actually it goes a little further than that, since the four last tracks derive from the latter part of Johnny’s SSS International era (1969 – ’71), and they include I Can’t Be All Bad, a follow-up and somewhat similar to Reconsider Me, a strong inspirational soul ballad called Born To Love You and the softer Just Call Me Darling.

  Two albums are here in their entirety.  Stand by Me was released on Chelsea 525 in 1976, but for me it doesn’t present Johnny at his best.  It’s actually his “concert album” with Johnny performing some of the cover songs he used to sing on stage those days.  His rhythm section is backing him up, with added horn parts here and there.  Especially on I Don’t Wanna Cry, Nothing Takes the Place of You and Share Your Love with Me Johnny’s interpretations sound indifferent, but he’s in a better form on such slowies as Give Me a Chance and Your Love Is All I Need.  The title track is transformed into a close to 7-minute dancer.

  After All the Good Is Gone on Ariola 50036 in 1978 is another story altogether.  Actually, for me this is Johnny’s best album alongside Heart & Soul (SSS 5 in 1969).  When listing representative country & soul albums, this is the one people tend to forget.  After all, this basically IS a country & soul album, with some pop and show tunes thrown in.  In 1983 Johnny still cut The Sweet Country Voice of Johnny Adams for Hep’ Me Records (160), but it was a disappointment and pales in comparison with this set.  The cream cuts for me are the title tune, written by Conway Twitty, Selfish, I Can’t Believe She Gives It All To Me and The Image of Me.  Among the ten tracks there are only two fast ones (Chasing Rainbows and It’s Been So Long).

  Five songs come from another good album titled The Many Sides of Johnny Adams (Hep’ Me 158 in 1981).  Cream cuts include a ballad called It’s Got to Be something, a melodic mid-pacer titled It Only Rains on Me and a beautiful country tune named Put It Off Till Tomorrow.   My own number one song from that period, Hell Yes I Cheated, is not included this time.

  Bells of St. Mary and White Christmas derive from the 1981 album, Christmas in New Orleans with Johnny Adams (Hep’ Me 159), and, again, I would have picked up Silent Night, too.  If you don’t have Johnny’s Hep’ Me material, this is a compilation not to be missed.

  Shout Records have also released …Good Feelin’… by T.Bone Walker (Shout 37; 12 tracks, 39 min.).  Recorded in Paris in 1968 and released in 1969, it won a Grammy in 1970.  Close to 60-year-old T-Bone sings and plays guitar for his party blues fans.

GO GOSPEL GO!


KENNY HAMBER

  The best element on Kenny’s recent gospel set, Truly Blessed (Jewel/MCK), is the man himself and his soulful voice.  Otherwise musically we’re talking about a low-budget, machine-dominated project that on some tracks, at least, has loud female choirs (the Aviles Sisters, Voices and Judah) on the background.

  The set is produced by Kenny and Darrell “DJ Fella” Brown, and they’re also in charge of most of the writing.  Of the three movers, Without Jesus All I Can Do Is Fall is almost like a sing-along ditty, while among the three mid-tempo items on I Know Where My Blessings Come From Kenny’s voice vocally bears a resemblance to both Little Milton and Dennis Edwards; yes, he is that good!  Washed by the Blood is another big-voiced and energetic mid-pacer.

  The five slowies offer the soothing Be Not Dismayed, a swaying duet with Rev. Lisa Clayton called No Not One, the peaceful Truly Blessed, the pleading Work On Me and the highlight for this scribe, God Is, with intense vocalizing from Kenny.


  The Best of Kenny Hamber (It’s Soul Time! Records, STCD-002; 18 tracks, 77 min.!; www.itssoultime.com) is a very welcome overview on this underrated singer’s career.  You can read about Kenny’s career, either in the liner notes of this CD by Andy Lothian, on Kenny’s website at www.KennyHamber.com, or in my interview with him in 1996.

  Here we go back as far as to Kenny’s ’61 doowop ballad called Tears In My Eyes on Zenette in 1961, and continue with two ’63 De Jac cuts, a quick dancer called Time and a Drifters type of an uptown song titled Show Me Your Monkey, both produced by Bert Berns.  Next we have a couple of Arctic dancers from 1967 and ’68 (Anything You Want, Looking For a Love), and a disco version of Never Found a Girl on Million Dollar Entertainment in 1986 precedes the cuts from Kenny’s two recent r&b albums, This Is R&B (in 1996) and In A Romantic Mood (in 2005).  Vocally on those two albums there are some excellent vocal performances, such as I’m so Proud, Can’t Let You Go, Members Only (superb!), I Believe In You and Me, Twelve Midnight).  Kenny is one of the most soulful rootsy singers around.

RONNIE LOVEJOY

  Ronnie was not only a respected recording artist, but also a prolific songwriter.  In eight years he released six albums on Evejim, Ace/Avanti and Good Time Records.  He had health problems with his heart for a long time, and finally on October 23 in 2001, two days after he had turned fifty-one, he passed away in his hometown of Wetumpka in Alabama.  I had the pleasure of talking to Ronnie three times, and our very first session in early 1993 is repeated here.  I’ll do a tribute to Sterling Harrison in my next column.

Heikki Suosalo


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