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Lacee at Porretta Soul Festival (photo by Pertti Nurmi)

L A C E E –

THE QUEEN OF GROWN AND SEXY

  One of the definitions in Urban dictionary for the word Lacee reads “an extremely sexy lady, who will speak her mind --- She is beautiful and is hot headed.  She is known for her quick temper and for being a loyal and supportive of others around her.”  I’m not sure about hot-headiness, but I agree with the rest.  A certain amount of explosiveness is required anyway to be able to put up a show like Lacee did back in July this year in Porretta, Italy.  Opening with the dynamic Juke Joint Jump, she took the tempo down for an intense delivery of Dr. Feelgood.  An easy dancer called Good Ole Days was followed by the torchy Try a Little Tenderness, which closed her Saturday night set.  Backed by the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra, on Sunday she still redid Juke Joint Jump and introduced another joyous dancer, Lacee’s Groove.

BACKGROUND FOR LITTLE MILTON

  Lacy Yvonne Reed was born in Memphis, TN, on July the 1st.  Lacee: “My mother JoAnn did a lot of singing in our local Mercy Seat Baptist Church..  She passed in 1988.  My father Joe is a preacher as well.  He did the preaching and she did the singing in the same church. He passed one year earlier, in 1987.”

  When asked about her biggest musical influences, Lacee names Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight.  “I love those artists because they’re strong entertainers, as well as their vocal capabilities are very strong.  I just like the pitches that Patti gives and Gladys’ style of singing.  I also like Natalie Cole, because I do like jazz.  I actually did one of her songs called Can’t Say No (see later).  It’s always nice to listen to Ella Fitzgerald and Della Reese...  I have a lot of singers that I really admire.”

  Lacee started singing in church at the tender age of five.  “My mom wouldn’t let me just sit there and not sing, so she did a lot of the teaching, how to utilize my vocals.  When you’re young, you have to be trained.  You have to have a coach to help you.  She was very skilful in showing me how to do these things.”

  “I did a lot of singing in school, in talent shows and any type of programs we had in school.  I did a lot of competitions outside of school as well.  In school I auditioned for Star Search back in the day.  It’s a big national TV show.  I didn’t win the first place, but I did come second.  Even as I got older, I did a lot of competitions in different clubs and actually won one that was at Stewart’s Night Club in Memphis.  From winning the talent show, I met one of the radio personalities, Reggie Fine from V101.1 FM out of Memphis, Tennessee.  He also played the drums.  From there I just started getting booked to do gigs locally around Memphis – interim shows, interim singing.”

  “Little Milton needed a background singer, so from doing all of those talent shows and competitions I landed a gig with Little Milton.  That was in 1989 or ’90, and with Milton I worked for about two years.  After working with him, I kind of laid low and just kept singing.  Then I actually went back with him like in 1993.  After that I took off a little bit.  I was constantly doing my own thing, and kept singing.”  


SOULFUL BUS DRIVER

  “When you’re backgrounding, that really doesn’t pay all your bills, so I had to find a job.  Actually I drove a school bus.  I drove for the elementary, then I drove for middle school and then I drove for high school, and I think I like elementary better” (laughing).

  “There’s a guy by the name of Simon McNeal out of Memphis, and we did a gospel CD that was never released.  Raise Him Up is one of the songs we were going to release as a single.  It was in 1997.  I think that we were ahead of our time, because at that particular time you didn’t have contemporary gospel, and that’s basically what we did.  We first started off doing a little r&b-ish type of music, but we all decided we want to do gospel, but it was never released.  Nothing really came out of it.  I just took time after work to record.  I never stopped working.”

  “Doing the school bus for years - driving and driving - I was still trying to sing, doing little gigs.  I came to Italy in 1999.  I was in Italy with a gentleman by the name of Stevenson Clark, and he did gospel.  I was in Italy for three weeks.  We did Rome, Florence and Sicily.”  These days Stevenson, who is also known as “The Little Prince of Gospel Music”, works out of Southaven, MS.

  “Once I got back from Italy in 2000, I went back to work, but then I started looking for more gigs.  The radio guy, Reggie Fine, used to put together gigs, and that’s how we landed gigs with Isaac Hayes.  I did them for over a year.  I had a contract with the Isaac Hayes Club, but in the process of working with Isaac I was told that J. Blackfoot was looking for a singer, because Ann Hines was sick.  That’s how I got with J. Blackfoot, and I had tons and tons of material to learn.  I took Ann’s place for a little while, but once she came back, I stayed.”  Soon Lacee was approached by Archie Love, which resulted in her first released CD in April 2006 titled The Songstress.


Lacee at Porretta Soul Festival (photo by Pertti Nurmi)

THE SONGSTRESS

  Right after the release of The Songstress I interviewed Lacee for the first time (http://www.soulexpress.net/deep106.htm - please scroll down a bit), and that’s when she pointed out that “I had met those guys years before the CD actually came out.  After singing with Isaac Hayes, I started singing in a group with Archie Love.  I met Sam Fallie through Archie.  Then I met Larry Dodson and James Alexander – all of them through Archie.”  Most of these musicians were also the members of the Bar-Kays at that point.

  Produced by Archie and Sam and recorded at Archie’s Loveland Studios in Memphis, TN, the songs for the CD were mainly written by Sam, Archie, EZ Rock and Lacee herself.  “Most of my songs come from my personal experience, like Two Wrongs Don’t Make It Right.  I put something on paper, then I go to Archie and he puts something on paper, then Sam.  We all collaborate together, and we come up with one good song.”

  Two Wrongs Don’t Make It Right is a melodic mid-pacer as well as I’m in over My Head, but on this CD Lacee’s forte lies in delivering such ballads as A Woman Knows, I’m Tired and Sweetest Hangover.  “I’m basically a ballad type of person, but I really have to cater to a wide variety of people.  Some like to listen to ballads, some like to listen to uptempo songs.”  In the latter category the best example is the first single, the punchy You-Gon-Make Me (Clown about My Man). 

  Ooh Wee is a downtempo soulblues duet with Archie, but on this debut set there’s also one notable remake - Dr. Feelgood from Aretha Franklin’s first Atlantic album in 1967.  “It was Archie’s idea to do it.  Everybody got together to think of a song we could cover.  With my voice being a strong voice – of course, Aretha’s voice is strong, too – they came up with that song.  I said ‘ok, I’ll do it.  I love Aretha anyway.  I’m not Aretha, but I can do the best I can.’”

  However, for this listener the cream cut is the deep Every Day Is a Heartache.  “I like that song myself.  It does come about as a gospel tune.  I’ve had a lot of calls from people about that song, because it takes them back to traditional gospel.”

LACEE’S GROOVE

  A soft and easy dancer called Lacee’s Groove was written by Bruce Billups and Rasheeda Poindexter and it has evolved into a signature song for Lacee.  It has an irresistible groove and you could describe it as almost like a revamped Rock Your Baby.  The song peaked at # 34 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs charts at the end of August in 2009.

  The album by the same name was released in July 2009 on the Advantage label.  “Jerry Flood started that label and I got with it in 2008.  Once we did Groove with Bruce Billups, I was introduced to Jerry Flood and he added me onto the label.”  Jerry is a musician, songwriter and producer and resides these days in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Some of the other artists he has worked with include Tre Williams and J-Wonn.

  Jerry, Lacee, Bruce and Lamanuel Boykins did most of the writing, and along with the title track there are many other melodic and light mid-tempo dancers, such as Because of You and the nostalgic Good Ole Days.  The most intense ballads are I’ve been a Fool, It Takes More Than That and the distantly churchy Any Woman’s ManColor Me Badd’s song Sex U Up credits Betty Wright as one of the writers, because the bass line is sampled from her Tonight’s the Night.  Incidentally, one of the guitar players on this CD is Theodis Ealey.

  “I like Lacee’s Groove, but there’s one I particularly care for the most and that’s Reap What You Sow.  That was like personal, going through domestic violence, when I was actually married.”  The song is a mid-tempo stepper with thought-provoking lyrics.  “The CD did well.  It didn’t get a gold record behind it, but it did pretty good.  When we’re dealing with that type of music, sometimes it’s hard to shop the music around, because it’s new to people’s ears.  It did okay, and it’s still selling now.  We never had a real big hit off of that CD.  I never really had a big hit as of yet.  We just have music that keeps me working.”

SOULFUL

  The follow-up CD called simply Soulful appeared on Advantage two years later.  Again produced by Jerry and arranged by Anthony Roberts, who also plays drums, with the exception of two outside songs all the material was penned by Lacee and Jerry.

  “I like Can’t Say No, because I like Natalie Cole, and I wanted to do something a little different.”  This Chuck Jackson’s and Marvin Yancy’s song first appeared on Natalie’s Inseparable album in 1975, and on this ballad Lacee’s strong interpretation just oozes soul.  In March 2011 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs it peaked at # 27. 

  “That CD had a mixture of all types of genres to me – a little bit of r&b, jazz, southern soul... but it didn’t do good.  We tried to keep it up, because in southern soul you dance a lot and people like that type of music.”  The most captivating dancers are Quick Man, Move something and Give it to me, which in terms of style and rhythm could easily have been cut in Miami.

  On some tracks they have experimented with a more contemporary urban style like on the autobiographical Walk in My Shoes, which became the second small hit off the album (# 37 on Billboard’s Adult R&B Songs in August 2011).  The other outside song is an emotional soul slowie named Find Somebody, co-written by Omar Cunningham.  “I like it... and it didn’t do anything.  Omar wrote that and presented that particular song to us.  Now people are starting to listen to it, now that I’m kind of getting out there more.”

CHRISTMAS WITH LACEE

  In November 2012 they released an 8-song seasonal CD, Christmas with Lacee, put together mostly by the same Advantage personnel, and on this set especially the programmed “horns” tend to get on your ears the wrong way.  “I wrote Is There Really a Santa Clause.  That is one of my favourites.  And I wrote They Call Me Mrs. Clause, which is bluesy.”  The first one is a really soulful ballad, while the latter is a slow and slightly jazzy number.  In fact, jazzy arrangements were used also on the very slow This Christmas and the uptempo Merry Christmas Baby.  The idea for a dancer called Juicy Lip Santa derives from the track Juicy Lips on the Lacee’s Groove album, and the closing song, I’m Missing You, is a smooth and tender soul ballad and for this scribe the cream cut on the set.

BEAUTIFUL

  The first of July in 2014 on Advantage they released one of Lacee’s most exciting albums called Beautiful.  It’s also one of Lacee’s favourite albums.  In terms of songwriting, the prolific Lacee and Jerry Flood were in charge of the entire material, with the exception of the opening blues romp titled Juke Joint Jump, which first appeared on Vasti Jackson’s 2010 CD, Stimulus Man.  You can read my review of the CD right after its release at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep3_2015.htm#lacee.

  In the category of easy mid-tempo floaters the most attractive tracks are the positive title song (Beautiful) and the strongly Philly-influenced Don’t Know Where You At, and add to that still an optimistic closing song named I Got Your Back, co-written by Advantage’s long-standing arranger, Anthony Roberts. 

   Oh Well and Messy are the power ballads this time, and the longing and almost hypnotic Call Me was pulled off as a single.


MIND GONE

  It took almost three years before we were able to listen to new music from Lacee, but finally in April 2017 on Advantage they released a CD titled Mind Gone.  “We were constantly working and never had the time just to stop and do more music.  And we still had songs that we never had released.”  As you can read in my review at the time of the release (at http://www.soulexpress.net/deep3_2017.htm#lacee), I was quite upset with the lack of any information in the sleeve of the physical CD (and it still puzzles me), but luckily the music is good.  “With Omar Cunningham we did a bit of writing on there, Willie Clayton contributed and Jerry and I did the rest.  Mind Gone is my favourite out of all of them.”

  Personal favourites among smooth mid-tempo songs are – indeed - Mind Gone, also No Broke Man and Three Way Love Affair, which is an outstanding duet with Willie Clayton.  On Marry Me Lacee’s singing partner is Calvin Richardson.  The most captivating dancers are the Caribbean-flavoured Who’s Is It, Get It Together and Don’t Let the Clean Up Woman, while a joyous party song called Ladies Night features Gina Brown, Cheeky Blakk & Pinettes Brass Band.  The most impassioned ballad is Away From Him

GUEST VOCALIST

  Reciprocally, Lacee has made guest appearances on other artists’ records as well.  In 2006 on Best Damn Southern Soul Album – Period! by Team Airplay All-Stars (http://www.soulexpress.net/deep206.htm#teamairplay) she’s the leading lady on two tracks, which derive from her debut album - You Gone Make Me and Dr. Feelgood.  “That’s when Archie Love and the Bar-Kays participated on that CD.  Dr. Feelgood was actually the song that got me more work during that time.”

  On Theodis Ealey’s CD titled You and I, Together (on Ifgam in 2013) Lacee performs on two duets - on the downtempo title song and on a toe-tapper called Think It Over.  “He just wanted me on that.  He wrote the songs and everything.”

  The Next 1 (Smoothway Music in 2016; http://www.soulexpress.net/deep1_2017.htm#wendellb) is a smooth CD by Wendell B, and here Lacee shares her vocals on the romantic Do You Think About Me.  “He just asked, if I could do a duet on his CD.  I had to hear the music first, to make sure.  It must sound good.”  There’s also one ballad called We Belong Together that Lacee cut together with Pokey Bear in 2016.  “Pokey is a real big name in America.”

  In 2006 Lacee won the “International Female Vocalist of the Year” Award at Jackson Music Awards (JMAA).  “I won again in 2015 and last year, in 2017.”


MODELING

  Besides singing, Lacee has done some acting too.  “One play I did in Memphis was called A Soulful Christmas.  We did that with Young Actors Guild, maybe in 2001, at McLemore College.  Christy Chandler was the director.  A lot of the plays that we did came from Christy.  Whenever she needed me to come in and sing or do a little acting, I went.  As a matter of fact, Toni Green was in one of those plays with me.”

  “I also did a movie called My SidepieceKarlie Redd, who does hip-hop in Atlanta, is in that movie as well as Mystical, and Pokey Bear.”  Directed by Dewey Allen, the DVD was released in 2016.

  In December 2016 Lacee signed a contract with JC Modeling Agency.  “That’s John Casablancas Centers.  I also modelled back in Memphis with an agency called Colors.  I was much bigger then.  I did a lot of clothing modelling there.  Once I moved from Memphis, I went to John Casablanca.  It’s more of a school – how to walk, how to speak...  I wanted to do something totally different, and that’s why I went to JC.”

  Lacee, who has three children, left Memphis in 2007.  “I moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina.  When it comes to music, I think that the southern soul is pretty much taking over,  A lot of the blues artists have passed on, so you got a newer generation that has come out, and there’s a big change.”

  “I’m definitely going to do another CD, because we got to keep the music going constantly.  I want to do an all-blues CD.  I just want to try it, because a lot of people don’t listen to it very much anymore.  I want to see how it comes out.”  Actually Lacee is currently in the studio working on new music for 2019. 

  “I also want to do a bit more modelling, which I haven’t done as much as I used to.  I just want to be in a situation, where I’m comfortable.  I don’t have to have this big, gigantic fame, but I do want to be known.  This is my first time ever coming to Italy doing my own thing or singing by myself.  I want to do more places outside U.S.  I’m very honoured, because this is a huge event and a lot of the southern soul artists are not making it over here.  I just have to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I’m blessed and I’m grateful.”

(www.artistecard.com/Laceesgroove; interview conducted on July 21 in 2018).


Lacee and Heikki Suosalo at Porretta Soul Festival (photo by Pertti Nurmi)

ALBUM DISCOGRAPHY

THE SONGSTRESS (Right Now Records, JEA 0013) 2006

You-Gon-Make Me (Clown About My Man) / Sweetest Hangover / Every Day Is A Heartache / I’m In Over My Head / A Woman Knows / Straight Up And Fly Right / Two Wrongs Don’t Make It Right / Ooh Wee / Dr. Feelgood / I’m Tired / You-Gon-Make Me (remix)

 

LACEE’S GROOVE (Advantage Media 10020) 2009

Nothing But The Blues / I Ran A Good Man Away / Juicy Lips / Why You Want To Make Me Clown / Because Of You / Sex U Up / Lacee’s Groove / I’ve Been A Fool / It Takes More Than That / Light My Fire/ Good Ole Days / Reap What You Sow / Any Woman’s Man / Lacee’s Groove (remix)

SOULFUL (Advantage Recordings) 2011

Hate On Me / Walk In My Shoes / Can’t Say No / Quick Man / Don’t You Hate It / Give It To Me / Find Somebody / Rewind / Move Something / We’re Like Total Strangers

CHRISTMAS WITH LACEE (Advantage Recordings) 2012

Is There Really A Santa Clause / This Christmas / Merry Christmas Baby / They Call Me Mrs. Clause / The Christmas Song / Christmas Cheer / Juicy Lip Santa / I’m Missing You

BEAUTIFUL (Advantage Recordings) 2014

Let The Juke Joint Jump / Hoe Digger / The Three T’s / Call Me / Oh Well / Last Drink / The Diva’s Ball / Mr. Wrong / Messy / Beautiful / Don’t Know Where You At / I Got Your Back

MIND GONE (Advantage Recordings) 2017

Mind Gone / Cheating On Your Woman / Don’t Come For Me / Three Way Love Affair / No Broke Man / Marry Me / Who’s Is It / Don’t Let The Clean Up Woman / Get It Together / Away From Him / Gotta Leave Gotta Go / Ladies Night

© Heikki Suosalo





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