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DEEP # 2/2007 (June 2007)

I hope you enjoy my recent interviews with G.C. Cameron, Otis Clay, Fred Bolton, Denise LaSalle and Joe Ligon of the Mighty Clouds of Joy, as well as those from the vaults with Jim Bennett, Freddie Scott, Frank Mendenhall and Jackie Neal.

  Among latest indie releases the column this time includes some CDs that were released earlier in 2006, too, but not dealt with on this forum at the time… and, of course, we must not forget some of the magnificent recent records that we’ve raved about on our website earlier, such as the Philly/Detroit collaboration, A Soulful Tale of Two Cities, and impressive newies by Shirley Slaughter and David Sea. 

Content and quick links:

G.C. Cameron
Denise LaSalle
Mighty Coulds of Joy

Fred Bolton: CD I’m Gonna Git Mine

CD reviews:
Otis Clay: CD Walk a Mile in My Shoes
Lenny Williams: CD It Must Be Love
Piney Brown: CD One of These Days
J.T. Watkins: CD Why Not Tonight Girl
Ric E Bluez: CD Sexy Soul
Jim Bennett and Lady Mary: CD Double or Nothing
Ruby Turner: CD Live at Ronnie Scott’s
Raine: CD Take a Lil’ Risk
Bertha Payne: CD Glamorous
Power: CD Powerized
True Redemption: CD Back Home
Cynthia Smith-Sneed: S.U.G.A. 2 My Soul

Reissue CD reviews:
Barbara Blue: CD By Popular Demand
Johnnie Taylor: CD Live at the Summit Club
Big John Hamilton: CD How Much Can a Man Take
Lee Moses: CD Time and Place
Various Artists: CD Soul Resurrection, vol. 1
Various Artists: CD Macon Soul Soup
Five Blind Boys: CD Something to Shout About

DVD reviews:
Sharrie Williams: Live at Bay-Car Blues Festival

In Short:
Mavis Staples: CD We’ll Never Turn Back
Patti Austin: CD Avant Gershwin
Lou Ragland: CD Until I Met You
Robert Peckman: CD Stirrin’ up Bees
The Friends of Distinction: CD Crazin’ & Highly Distinct
The Original Orlons: Soothe & Groove

Luther Ingram
Freddie Scott
Frank Mendenhall
Jackie Neal


We’ve followed George Curtis’ career, both as a solo act, and during his stints with the Spinners (in profound in our # 3/2002 printed mag) and with the Temptations (# 4/2005), and now he has faced another twist in his career.  G.C.: “I’ve left the Temptations about two weeks ago (the interview took place on June the 6th).  There was a situation, where they refused to pay me my money, and so they let me go.  They sort of terminated me.”

  “They never told me they were going to release me.  They just let me go, refused to pay me and got this other guy, after five years.  They put him in the movie they were shooting last month.  The new guy is already in the show.  I’m out completely.  It was just a strange kind of a situation.  It wasn’t the way I would have done it.”

  “It’s a great group and it was really a great thing being in that group – just like in the Spinners – and to be able to sing songs for the people.  The most important thing is to be able to play soul music for those, who come to hear it – that’s my driving force.”

  “We’re going to re-release Shadows (G.C.’s solo CD) and I’ve finished another album, Enticed Ecstasy.  We’re going to release that in July on DagaJacc Records.  Now I want to do my solo thing for awhile and just kind of take it easy for a minute, and hopefully I can musically serve the people to the best of my ability for the coming years.”


Although a more appropriate place for Otis’ latest CD, Walk a Mile in My Shoes (Echo, ECCD 357; 2007), would be in our gospel section, I let it lead the way, since for me it is the best of the lot this time.

Almost completely produced and arranged by Otis and recorded for the most part in Chicago, many real live players still add to the listening pleasure.  Otis’ roots lie deep in gospel – he was a member of at least seven gospel groups before going secular – so it’s no wonder that time after time he goes back to inspirational music on record, too.

Otis starts with a startling mid-tempo cover of Johnnie Taylor’s God Is Standing By.  “I have sung with Johnnie Taylor, who was a good friend of mine, and with the Soul Stirrers.  I was always close to the Crume brothers – Leroy, Arthur, Dillard (members of the Soul Stirrers at different times) – and we stay in contact with each other.  I recorded that song probably three or four years ago.  These are some of my favourite songs, and I felt it was just time for another gospel album.  The last one I did is still very popular.”

Joe South had a pop hit in early 1970 with his catchy tune called Walk a Mile in My Shoes, which Otis stretches here into an over 6-minute long plea.  “I recorded this version last year.  I recorded another version early on, on a Joe South Tribute Album (in 2005).  Normally we wouldn’t call that a gospel song, but it was working in a church.  The song had been a hit on the college circuit, and they were afraid that if we’re going to put it on my gospel album we’re going to miss two audiences, the gospel audience and a high percentage of the black audience.  That’s why they didn’t want to put the song on a gospel album, so I went back and re-recorded the song.  I brought in Tom Tom Washington (co-producer and arranger, as “Tom Tom 84” again).  We kind of grew up in this music thing together.  We got together and slowed the song down a bit.”

On drums there’s one Vern Allison, Jr., the son of a member of the Dells, but first and foremost your attention is drawn to the powerful horn section.  “Those are my regular horns.  We have Darryl Thompson on trumpet, and he’s in my band, the Platinum Band, who was a band that was with Tyrone Davis for 26 years.  We have Fred Johnson on trombone, and Gene Barge is doing solo on tenor saxophone.  We’ve got Willie Henderson, who did all those early great records on Tyrone Davis, the Chi-Lites and everybody like that.  He’s on baritone.  Darryl, Fred and Willie travel with me all the time.”

I Adore You Lord is a slow prayer type of a song.  “It was recently recorded.  A friend of mine named Joe Roberson, who wrote the song, lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He came to my studio, did a great version of it, but never finished the song.  I said ‘hey, let me do it’, and that’s how we came about doing that song.”

A mid-tempo swayer called His Love was recorded in Tokyo, Japan, and produced by Hiroshi Asada.  “That was in ’83.  We recorded that with the Hi rhythm section” (Teenie Hodges, Leroy Hodges, Charles Hodges and Howard Grimes).  Under the name of His Precious Love the song has appeared later on other Otis’ compilations, too; e.g. When the Gates Swing Open on Echo 2001 in 1990).

Another song by Leroy Crume, a slow and touching hymn named Love of God, has a 5-piece choir on the background.  “That’s the band.  Not only do they play, but they are great singers.  We put that track down here in my studio.”

An emotional beat ballad titled Heaven Is My Home is Leroy’s third melody on the set.  “This album really started out being a Soul Stirrers album, and that’s why we did the medley (Nearer to Thee, Touch The Hem of His Garment, Jesus Build A Fence Around Me and Last Mile of The Way – all by Sam Cooke), because we were doing that on tour, and everybody was asking for the medley.  So that’s why we came back and recorded it.”

O.V. Wright’s On Jesus Program is performed in a more traditional gospel setting.  “A friend of mine, who had a group that he was managing, wanted to bring the group to my studio to record them.  That is not really the key that I would sing the song in, because it’s kind of low.  I brought the group in, but the lead singer never could sing the song, so I had to try it.  When I was finishing up this album, I just went in and put the background and the lead vocal on that.  This was done recently.”

Stevie Wonder’s Love’s In Need of Love Today is an over 11-minute live recording, again from Japan.  “That was 1979.”  The concluding song, If I Could Reach out and Help, derives from Otis’ early 70s Hi recording period, but here it gets a terrific, almost overwhelming live treatment with Carla Thomas (and Barbara Acklin still on background vocals).  “That was recorded here at Chicago Gospel Festival.  In fact, we’re doing the gospel festival this year, too.”

Otis’ inspiring and stunning set was released on his own Echo label.  “I’ve always had the label.  The label is 32 years old.  I formed this label in 1975, after I left Hi Records.  Mainly I was using it for production.  I would produce an album and maybe lease it to someone else.  The original version, 12” of When the Gates Swing Open, was on Echo Records.  Early on in 1975 I released Turn Back the Hands of Time on Echo Records, and then I leased it to another label, Elka.”

“The new CD is doing very well, because it sells on the gospel audience and secular audience.  There are three songs on there that can play on a secular format – Walk A Mile In My Shoes, Love’s In Need of Love Today and If I Could Reach Out.”  

“We do have a secular album that we’re going to release probably later this year.  It is very strong.  I have Darryl Carter, who wrote Woman’s Got to Have It and More Than I Can Stand for Bobby Womack, who works for me.  We started working at Hi Records together.”


It Must Be Love (LenTom Entertainment) is produced by Lenny together with some of his friends, mainly Charles Leonard and Lionell Holiman.  They also did most of the writing.  The fact that the music for the most part is synthesized – although not in an irritating way – is not my main complaint, but the inclusion of as many as four songs from Lenny’s previous album, My Way (on Thump in 2004).  Mind you, all four are nice, downtempo numbers, so, if you don’t have that CD and you like Lenny’s high-pitched voice, I see no reason not to purchase this new one.

The first single, Tuesday, is a pretty slow-to-mid-tempo ditty and it’s followed by the title tune, a slightly repetitious beat ballad.  Lenny almost becomes breathless with his busy vocal delivery on I Be Missing You, although tempo-wise we’re talking about a slowie here.  It gets even more experimental on Somebody Else, which, besides an original rhythm, introduces some light jazzy elements.  You’re My Everything takes the fusion still one step further by weaving and rotating instrumental sounds around and taking human voices along in this spin.  Also I’m in Love Again may remind you of the days of early psychedelia.

Amen could have been a decent inspirational sing-along mid-pacer, if not for the rap passage in the middle.  Piano leads into a beautiful serenade called I Will Never Leave You, which for me is the highlight of the CD.  Both intimate and experimental, it’ll be interesting to see which direction Lenny will be heading in on his next record (


Piney’s professional career began in the 1940s, and his recording history spans amazing sixty years (  One of These Days is his second CD for Bonedog Records (BDRCD-20;, and, of the twelve tracks on display here, eleven are remakes of his own compositions.  A blues romp titled Strange Things Are Happening was penned by Percy Mayfield.  Piney accepts only real live players, including a horn section, to back him up.  His voice sounds a bit tired, but it’s only natural considering he’s 85 years old.  Arrangement-wise in most cases he offers a new and different angle to his old songs.

The title tune is my all-time Piney favourite, an intense soul deepie that was released on SS7 in 1969.  Here his rework is more intimate, with a more plain backing.  Besides other blues songs deriving from the 50s (In the Evening, My Love), Piney specializes in hooky and driving 50s r&b numbers, such as Just a Little Bit (a ’60 hit for Rosco Gordon, which allegedly came from Piney’s pen), Talkin’ ‘Bout You, Walk a Block and fall and Cream in My Coffee. 

As you can judge from the title, She’s Super Bad is a fairly new song from the late 80s, and a mid-tempo boogie-woogie called Ain’t It a Shame comes from the same decade.  Kokomo and Rosalee (cut for Duke in the late 50s as half of the duo, Brooks & Brown) are slow r&b sawyers.


Why Not Tonight Girl (Arrow Heart Records 855; out of Jackson, MS) is J.T.’s fourth CD in ten years (his first single came out already in 1991).  The tracks are arranged by Harrison Calloway, who also takes care of most of the “instruments” and sings background with Thomasine Anderson.

The title song, a soul slowie, inevitably draws a comparison with Jimmy Hughes’ 67 hit, Why Not Tonight, especially on the melody side.  It is one of those old school soul songs, alongside two toe-tappers, I Need to See You (by McKinley Mitchell) and Find Yourself another Girl (by Jerry Butler & Curtis Mayfield).  Your Love Is like a Brick Wall sounds like Higher & Higher composed all over again.

Half of the repertoire is dedicated to blues, and one of those five songs is I Won’t Be Back for More, another McKinley Mitchell composition.  Actually J.T.’s seasoned and ripe voice bears a slight resemblance to the late McKinley.


On Sexy Soul (Betty Lowe Records; out of Houston, Texas) all songs were produced and written (except two) by Ric, who opted to have live rhythm and horn sections playing with him.  Unfortunately, it also includes Gerald Jackson’s rock guitar.  As a vocalist, Ric possesses a boyish tenor, not a very strong one, which has a tinge of Robert Tillman or Wilson Meadows to it.

On the set there are three blues numbers, three standard dancers and as many as six ballads, of which the poignant If I Were You is the most traditional one, in a For Your Precious Love vein.  That’s Why I Still Love You and Angel are both nice slow sawyers, and the latter one could actually come from Johnnie Taylor’s song book.  There is one thing I especially like in this young man: he was born on November 28, in 1969.  We share the same birthday.  Only he comes nineteen years behind.


I’m Gonna Git Mine (Wilbe, Wil 2011-2; was produced by Fred Bolton and Kennedy Atkinson, and also arranged by the twosome together with Reginald “Wizard” Jones.  Fred: “Kennedy Atkinson is my guitar player and my long-time friend.”  Fred wrote or co-wrote nine out of the twelve songs on the set, and he has a live rhythm section behind him.

  The title tune, a thumping beater, is also the first single.  “I come from the time, when I was struggling about ten years ago, going through a couple of changes in jobs.  I was trying to figure out, which direction I was trying to go in – would it be music, would it be working in the industry… I had to make a decision, so I just made up my mind ‘hey, I have to get mine’, and the song just matured from there.”

Two mid-tempo songs follow: a light and easy bouncer titled I Can’t Lose (With the Stuff You Use) and another pleasant mover called Baby It’s you.  Must Be Jelly is an effortless dancer.

A Change Is Gonna Come is always a tough one to cover, and here the song has an especially slow arrangement.  Actually it’s a medley with What the World Needs Now and What’s Going On, and in the end it turns into gospel with a contemporary touch.  “Me and Kennedy Atkinson were sitting down and talking.  We were doing just the regular A Change Is Gonna Come song, and then all of a sudden he said ‘why don’t you mix Marvin Gaye in it’We did, and then I came up with the idea of trying to mix the song What the World Needs Now.  So that’s how that one came about.”

The title of Junk in da Trunk says it all, and it is followed by two more dancers, I’ll Never Let Go of Your Hand and Ooh Wee Kind of Lover.  “Actually that (uptempo songs) was William Bell’s idea.  We had many songs that we had written, but those were basically the songs William chose.”  (You can read my last-year interview with William at

For old school students the absolute highlight is a deep and magnificent, over 7-minute long cover of William’s ’67 song, Everyday Will Be like a Holiday, with William himself joining in.  “It was my idea.  William allowed me to change it the way that I wanted it to fit my format.  He gave me his support, and everything worked out real good.”

I’ll Never Forget the Love is a tender, smooth ballad.  “For that one I give credit to Kennedy Atkinson.  We were on the road travelling and playing around one day.  We were sitting in a room with a guitar.  He’s a guitar player, and I’m a guitar player also.  He was playing that music, and I asked him ‘can I have that music’?”

After one beater, The Shadow Knows, another mellow ballad, You Are My Desire, follows.  “I wrote that song for my wife.  All these songs that I wrote I wrote years ago, actually back in 1994.  I had recorded them, and they were recorded in a different version.  They were recorded more to a pop sound.  We changed it up, got Kennedy into it and he rewrote the music to these songs.”

Frederick Henry Bolton was born on September 20, in 1968, in Talladega, Alabama, east of Birmingham ( and “I came from a musical family on both sides, on my father and my mother side.  My mother, Vera Mae Woods Bolton, played the piano and the organ.  My father, Rev. A.C. Bolton, played the guitar, and both sing.”  Fred started out singing in his father’s church and also in the family gospel group called the Boltonettes.  When asked about influences, Fred came up with an impressive list of artists: Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, the O’Jays, the Temptations, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding.

“My very first recording was way back in 1992.  It was a group of my own.  It was called Brother to Brother.  The name of the song was I’m giving you All My Love.  It was on the Highland Records out of Ashland, Alabama.”

“Next I recorded with the Gospel Angelics an album, I Must Tell Jesus, for Victron Records in 1994.  I was a keyboard player for the group and I led a couple of songs on the album.” 

“The gospel album that I did independently was by Fred Bolton and the Anointed Ones, and the title was Looks Can Be Deceiving.  That was the single, too.  It was distributed by Highland Records, and the label was going under the name of New Day Presentation.  This was in 1999, I think.  I had three other guys.  They were all my first cousins out of Jacksonville, Florida.  There were Kenneth Woods, Sr., Tyrone and Jerome Woods.

“I did a song, Anticipating, with the Chocolate Buttermilk Band for CBM Records out of North Carolina in 2003 or 2004.  I was in quite a bit secular groups before going solo.  I would say at least in ten.  I had formed several groups of my own, but then I started playing around with few bands, and actually one of those bands – the Chocolate Buttermilk Band – was backing up William Bell one night and there William had a chance to hear me sing.  That was in 2005.  We sat down with him and we discussed everything and he told me I was the kind of artist they were looking for.  I look up to William like a father, because he’s a pioneer in the music industry.”

Vocally Fred moves in a territory between old school and more contemporary singing.  “My direct aim is to please everybody.  I do have a wide depth of range, when it comes to different styles of music.  I guess I’m just an artist with so many different styles, and I can make any style of music flow.”


My first contact with Jim took place after the release of his Still LovinCD in 1999, and you can read that interview with information on his past activities here.  Since then he and Lady Mary have released at least four albums before this latest one, Double or Nothing(Ja Ben and LM Productions, JB-LM-1133).

Jim and Mary still have Unique Creation Band with them, and their sound still remains soft and laid-back, sort of “after hours music” in a simple and stripped-down music setting.  Jim himself wrote four songs, two mid-tempo ditties (It’s so Real, What’s good for the Goose) and two relaxed ballads (Just One Chance, Going once Going twice).  Of the rest four familiar songs, two awaken pleasant associations: Facts of Life recorded an impressive soul version of a country song called Sometimes and one of Willie Clayton’s finest moments is his recording of Lee Fields’ deepie, Meet Me Tonight. Here the singing, of course, isn’t that intense; actually quite the opposite.


Live at Ronnie Scott’s (RTR CD002; 19 tracks, 132 min.) is a two-CD set, offering a cavalcade of Ruby’s hits and earlier recordings from two concerts.  She’s backed by a five-piece rhythm section, and the first show at Ronnie Scott’s was recorded in October of 2006.

Personal favourites include a haunting slowie titled Ain’t Cried in a Long Time (if you’re lucky, you’ll also get a 4-minute DVD of this song), a beat ballad called So Amazing and an ultimate deepie, Stay With Me Baby.  I Will Hold On is another haunting ballad, I’d Rather Go Blind is the show-stopper in Ruby’s concerts (here almost eleven minutes long) and finally If you’re Ready (Come Go With Me) is a hooky dancer, which became her first U.S. charted single in 1986.

As a singer I rate Ruby very high and enjoy her music, but there’s one grumble.  Call me old-fashioned, but for me wild rock guitar is and has always been an alien element in basic soul music, and here the devil attacks you on many songs.

The second CD, so called “bonus album”, offers a 2003 concert, Live at the M.A.C., which is Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham, Ruby’s hometown in the U.K.  Three songs (Restless Moods, I Will Hold On and Breath I Need) were performed on both venues, but on this second disc we still get to hear five “new” songs, including a dramatic version of the oft-recorded Mann & Weil song, Nobody but You.  There’s one side still that we tend to forget in Ruby’s music: she’s a prolific song-writer.  She co-wrote nine out of the sixteen songs on this set (


I think Take a Lil’ Risk (Nlightn Rec.; 32 min.) is Loraine Estell’s fourth CD.  Released already last summer, it was produced by Raine and Christopher Estell, and the latter one also wrote all the music.  Among the 5-piece live band there are still to more Estells.

The opening title track is a strong and energetic uptempo beater and features highly inspired singing from Raine.  Find out What She Likes is a punchy mid-pacer, again hefty, but a ballad titled I Ain’t Miss U is ruined by a gurgling machine sound.  Stop Listen is an effortless and easy-on-the-ear dancer, while What Grown Folks Do is a slow swayer but, alas, with poorly mixed background vocals (by Raine).

Those first fifteen minutes are quite ok, but then comes the Step’n section, and I step off.  I’m not a fan of aggressive, contemporary beat and the two funky items among all those Step’n mixes (of them Brick House immediately reminds you of the Commodores) don’t make the last fifteen minutes any more listenable for me.  Raine has a good voice, though, which bears a slight resemblance to Stephanie Mills.


Also Glamorous (Bedroom Offer) (Fi-Rea Records, FRCD 7900) has been around for almost a year now.  Produced, arranged and mainly written by Melvin Kimmons, Bertha has a girl duo called SweetBabi and a live Darnell Smith Combo backing her up, but on some tracks the horn programming is sloppily done.  Bertha ( is a lady out of Memphis, and her cousin is one KoKo Taylor, and, although they share the same music territory, Bertha’s vocal skill is a far cry from her famous relative.

Besides inevitable blues, we are offered four mediocre dancers, one gentle mid-tempo mover (Whatever It Takes) and finally Sweet Talk, on which – as the title suggests – Bertha softly and seductively talks over a mid-tempo toe-tapping track.


Pay Before You Pump (ECD 1091) is Denise’s third CD for Ecko Records ( and again Denise and John Ward split the production duties (Denise six and John four songs) and again Denise goes for real instruments. 

The CD, which has become a hit and the biggest success for Denise in years, kicks off with the title song, an easy and catchy dancer, which has Mr. Ward written all over it.  Hell Sent Me You belongs to the same category, whereas I Tried is a poignant ballad with a full backing.  The fourth song John produced is Mississippi Woman, a hammering beater written by Floyd Hamberlin and cut by Charles Wilson earlier (as Mississippi Boy).  Denise: “It’s the single.  I heard the record, I liked it and John Ward asked me to redo that Mississippi Woman, and I said ‘right down my alley, because I’m from Mississippi and I love it’.”

First of Denise’s songs is a blues romp called It’s Goin’ Down.  “It’s a song that I had written a long time ago, but had written the words about two years ago.  All of a sudden I kind of ran across the words and did some fine tuning on them.  There was a rap group called Yung Doc and one of their songs is saying ‘it’s going down’, so I kind of borrowed from Yung Doc.  Rap groups are always using the blues stuff, so I decided to borrow a couple of lines from them.”

I Need a Working Man is another uptempo song.  “It’s one of those songs that I thought that women would really appreciate.  I started writing that song about five-six years ago, so I decided to go ahead and finish it for this album.  I usually go back to my notes that have been laying around for years… sometimes it’s just a title that I’ve written down to remember it.”

Song # 5, Hold on Tight, is the first slow one on the set.  “When I first wrote that, I thought that this sounds like something Teddy Pendergrass would sing.”

Walking on Beale Street and Crying is a blues song performed – yes! – at a walking pace, and the first thing to come to your mind is Little Milton and his version of Walking the Back Streets and Crying (cut also by Albert King, Otis Rush and others).  “I don’t know where I came up with that idea.  I frequent Memphis’ Beale Street all the time.  When I started writing the song, all of a sudden I thought that I have to include all those places and clubs in there… and it worked.”

I’m Hangin’ On is a mid-to-uptempo toe-tapper.  “It’s a very new song.  I remember Johnnie Taylor had a record out years ago called Toe Hold (in 1967), and that song always stayed in my head, and it just came out when I was writing the song.”

A beat ballad called You Don’t Live Here No More closes Denise’s share on this CD.  “Actually, my brother-in-law, Gary Wolfe, wrote the lyrics.  He also did a lot of the keyboard work on the album, the background arrangements and so on… He’s a very talented young man, but he hasn’t been recognized as yet.  He’s been in gospel music for all of his life, and he just started an r&b band now.”  Karen Wolfe and Gary have divorced awhile ago.


Denise ( performed in Belgium at a jazz festival in May, and the next time she’s coming over to Europe is in September, to Italy.  But do you still remember what NAPOB is?  “The new southern soul music may be around for awhile, but I think personally the old rhythm & blues, as we did it years ago, is the most stable music.  I think it will always be here.  Southern soul is a take-off from there, and the sound is much thinner.  I don’t think southern soul is going to be as durable as the original r&b music – Tyrone Davis, Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle...”

“Somebody got a brilliant idea to bring jazz singers back into the business and call them r&b singers, like Anita Baker, and they pushed these r&b singers out into the field called ‘blues’.  Then the blues people like KoKo Taylor and Muddy Waters said ‘you’re not one of us.  We don’t like you.  You’re not doing our music.  You’re doing more soul music’!  So we ended up with no name, no nothing.  I started an organization called ‘The National Association for Preservation of Blues’ (NAPOB, in 1986) that put up a big campaign asking ‘who are we, give us a title, give us a name and stop discriminating against our music’, and we ended up with the title ‘soul blues’.”

This is reminder that you can purchase most of the Southern soul indies reviewed above at


Records such as Powerized (Powerized Records) make this music hobby worthwhile.  A group that had a fleeting impact twenty-five years ago, when they released an album on Malaco, still exists and, furthermore, it seems they’re stronger than ever.  This male quartet, Power (, comes from Minneapolis, but the CD was for the most part recorded in Detroit.  Let’s still see, what the sleeve-notes say: “Power is a Vocal Group with an Old & New School feel… Power’s distinguished vocals range from top to bottom with each member sharing the Lead Vocals on this CD.  R&B, FUNK, JAZZ & POP selections, take your choice of what you’ll find on this CD, it has it all.”

Indeed, first we are hit with Power, an EW&F – or even Tower of Power – kind of a jazzy groover, a dance sound that is revisited later on It’s TymeLet Me Be Your Man is a hotchpotch of reggae, rock and rap, but Started All Over Again, on the other hand, is a mellow slow-to-mid-tempo, jazzy number.  Get Your Love invites you to dance.

Of the six slow songs, Listen to Your Heart is a sweet Main Ingredient type of a ballad, while the sophisticated I Want to Know Your Name brings Blue Magic to your mind.  Playroom is atmospheric and I want you simply pretty.  These talented boys write a lot of their own material, but based purely on their vocal skills they really deserve a fuller recognition.



By Popular Demand (Shout 33;; 18 tracks, 66 min.) is compiled from Barbara’s four CDs, released earlier this decade on Big Blue Records.  Produced by Tony Braunagel together with Barbara (, they were cut in California with a 4-piece Phantom Blues Band strengthened by a horn section and background singers.  (Two last tracks derive from Pittsburgh, PA).

  Barbara has been residing and performing in Memphis for the last ten year, and she was voted Contemporary Female Artist of the Year at the 2007 Blues Music Awards.  And blues this is!  Barbara belongs to the league of modern-day shoutresses, and - as in this case, too - I find their music too pushy… nuance-free and mostly clichéd.  Ironically Barbara is compared to Janis Joplin and Etta James, and I’m not a big fan of either of those artists.  This certainly works in clubs, but it doesn’t move me on record.

Among numerous blues romps and even four downtempo moans, the best tracks for me are two slowies penned by Nancy Apple – a Memphis writer and recording artists in her own right – called Don’t Lead Me On (actually a soul ballad) and Moonlight Over MemphisDrunken Angel by a country & folk artist called Lucinda Williams and If I Had You by a blues man named Bobby Boyd also let you calm down for a minute.


Live at the Summit Club (Stax, STXCD-8628-2; 10 tracks, 64 min., was recorded in September 1972 in L.A.  Produced by Al Bell, the CD offers six previously unreleased tracks.  Lee Hildebrand tells in the liners about the circumstances around this and the simultaneous Wattstax concerts and the problems Johnnie had with his band that night.

After an introduction by Rufus Thomas, Johnnie hits it off with Take Care of Your Homework, and later on other funky hits follow (Who’s Making Love and, as a closing number, Jody’s Got Your Girl and Gone).  He stretches two blues numbers, Little Bluebird and Hello Sundown, over 7- and 9-minute marks respectively, and Steal Away is performed in two versions.  Soul gems include I Don’t Wanna Lose You and Stop Doggin’ Me

In spite of the band problems, this is a worthwhile live recording.  For more info on Johnnie Taylor and some other artists, please visit


How Much Can a Man Take (Sundazed, SC 11121;; 18 tracks, 48 min.) presents sides from John Lee Hamilton’s seven Minaret singles (1967-’70) – excluding his two duets singles with Doris Allen – one SSS International single (1971) plus two unreleased tracks from the Minaret era.  Recorded under the guidance of Finley Duncan out of Florida, these were Big John’s first solo recordings in spite of the fact that his career - first as a guitarist - was launched already ten years earlier.  Liners with comments from Big John himself were written by Jeff Jarema.

Among the few mediocre stompers typical to those days, If You’re Looking for a Fool is the catchiest one, and I Finally Caught up with Jody – an answer song to Johnnie Taylor – comes closest to the Stax sound, which was prevailing on almost all of Big John’s records.  Ironically, about one of the unreleased tracks called Go Ahead On (’69) Big John says “that was just the Four Tops”, but I’d say vocally it’s closer to Otis Redding (and otherwise close to Rescue Me).

Among the highlights is Big John’s signature song, an “Otis” ballad called How Much Can a Man Take.  I Have No One is a similarly pleading soul ballad, while Before the Next Teardrop Falls trespasses on the country territory.  Big John’s biggest idol was Ray Charles, which is evident on a country swayer titled Breaking up Is Hard to Do and on two slow songs that could derive from Ray’s 50s Atlantic period, Love Comes and Goes and Take a Chance with Me.  Vocally the other unreleased track, I’m getting it from her (68), could be described as “Otis meets Ray.”  Take This Hurt off Me is a Chicago style beat ballad, and Big John’s debut, The Train, offers straight blues.  There are more Big John tracks on the compilation right below.


Time and Place (Castle Music, CMQCD 1350; 23 tracks, 71 min.; incorporates all of Lee’s recorded output between 1965 and ’72, including his ’71 album and seven singles on five different labels.  Liners were written by Simon White and also our friend, Colin Dilnot (, was heavily involved.  For one thing, in lack of original masters he lent his vinyl singles for the project.

Lee Moses - a singer, writer and guitarist - was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1941 (passed away in 1997), and he’s one the more enigmatic figures in the history of soul.  His raw and throaty singing style suited many deep sides, and although he was capable of cutting some inferior, messy beaters, too, the good outnumbers the bad.  His version of My Adorable One is deeper and rougher than Joe Simon’s well-known interpretation.  California Dreaming comes out far from being pretty (in a positive meaning), and Hey Joe passes for an example of Lee’s connection with Jimi Hendrix at one point of his careerOn The Dark End of the Street Lee uses Clarence Carter’s monologue and song structure as such, but I like his growling style a lot on this song.

Of the self-penned songs the ones that impressed the most were a screamer called Bad Girl, a simple ballad titled Every Boy and Girl and I’m Sad About It, a deepie in Johnny Copeland’s 60s style.  This compilation was a lot better than I expected.



Soul Resurrection, vol. 1 (SouthernAmericana Records, SAR-1004; 20 tracks, 63 min.) digs deeper in Finley Duncan’s operations.  It introduces tracks that were cut at Finley’s and Shelby Singleton’s Playground studios ( out of Valparaiso, Florida, during its twenty-year existence starting from 1969.  Most of these tracks are released here for the first time.  John Ridley tells about the eight artists on display, and the present owner of the studios, Mr. Jim Lancaster – “the Chief” and an artist himself – sheds some light on the history of the location.

Not all the tracks – say, by Jimmie Nelson, Count Willie and Johnny Soul - have stood the test of time, but some dancers are still irresistible, such as Bad Habit Baby by Johnny Adams, No Way to Stop It by Jimmy Gresham and I’ll Keep on Loving You by Big John Hamilton, a more pleasant, more country and more restrained version than Doris Allen’s funk & rock strutter that is also included on this compilation.

Among slowies there are two bluesy instrumentals by Leroy Lloyd and the Dukes, two poignant ballads (Everybody’s Clown and the raycharlesian Love Comes & Goes, which Big John also cut) by Len Wade, the beautiful Just Call Me Darling by the blue-eyed Reuben Howell and a deepie called How Can I Prove by Johnny Adams.  I find this Playground Series fascinating and anxiously wait for further volumes.


Music-wise Macon, Georgia, is first and foremost associated with Little Richard, who was born there, and perhaps with Phil Walden’s Capricorn Records, which first operated from that city.  And, as John Ridley tells in the liner notes, also James Brown’s and Otis Redding’s careers had links to the city.

Now Macon Soul Soup (Grapevine, GVCD 3034;; 22 tracks, 66 min.) presents two local labels, Jar-Val and Story, which worked in the late 60s and early 70s as an outlet for Southern soul singers.

The sixteen tracks from Jar-Val cover almost all of their output, except a couple of gospel singles.  Of the five singers, Nancy Butts had most releases, and she excels at both in gospelly deepies (I Can’t Love But One Man at a Time, Only One Love), and mid-tempo, big-voice joggers (I’ve been Blind Too Long, Letter Full of Tears).  Matt Brown specializes either in storming, irresistible movers (Sweet Thing, Every Day), or in poppy, melodic mid-tempo songs (Baby I’m a Want You, Thank You Baby).

Jimmy Braswell’s only single offers a nice toe-tapper on one side (This Time it’s got to be for Real) and a saddish slowie on the other (Time Waits for No Man).  Also the high-voiced Ronnie Miller’s sole single has a soft ballad (I Owe You Love) and a mid-tempo floater (Listen to the Music) back-to-back.  Jimmy Lee Bryant is in a category of his own.  I don’t remember when was the last time I’ve listened to a singer as lousy as he is.  He’s downright flat, and his “dance song” called My Little Girl is so poor that it must be “a classic” or “a collector’s item” in freaky circles.

The Stone label is actually a group called the Flintstones, who released one shoddy dance single under their own name but who, on the other hand, were backing up two good vocalists on such basic and simple deepies as I’m Gonna Hold on to You (by Alice Rozier & Little Joe) and I Need You (by Thomas Bailey).  I was surprised at the amount of basic, thrilling soul music this compilation included.



Sanchez Harley in collaboration with Ay’ Ron Lewis produced Movin’ (EMI Gospel, EGD 67322), and this is already the third time Sanchez produced the Mighty Clouds of Joy.  Joe Ligon: “We decided to let him produce Movin’, and Movin’ is a little different than the last, In the House of the Lord.  Songs are a little different, except for the song Movin’.  The CD’s doing real good already, although it hasn’t been out for a long time.  I’ve been doing interviews all over America on the radio, and every DJ I’ve talked to like it.”

Actually Movin’ is the eighth live album in Clouds’ recording career and it features eleven songs.  “All of them are new songs.  We didn’t do any remakes this time; like on the last CD we re-recorded Mighty High.”  The concert took place in Dallas, Texas.  “It was good reaction.  It wasn’t quite as good as on The House of the Lord, but they went for certain songs.  They liked Rain on Me real good, and Jesus Will Turn It Around and Movin’.  On about four of the songs they acted differently than on the other ones.”

The rhythm section is on the stage with the group, but horns were added later on in Nashville, Tennessee.  “Sanchez took the tape, went in and added stuff to it.  He added some background parts and he added some horns.”

The Clouds sing in the basic line-up of Joe Ligon, Richard Wallace, Ron Staples and Mike Cook, but Johnny Valentine and Ervin Williams are also listed.  “Ervin is actually the guitar player.  His nickname is ‘big man’, because he’s 6”5’ and he weighs about 350 pounds.  He also sings tenor sometimes.  Richard sings lead, Ron sings lead, Mike sings lead and I’m the lead singer.  Sanchez wanted to try something new, and there’s one song, At the Foot of the Cross, where all four of us sing.  I think it’s the first time we did it that way.  Usually it’s two guys singing on a song.  Johnny Valentine is the drummer, and sometimes he sings a part.  At the recording he didn’t sing any parts.”  For an in-depth history of the Mighty Clouds of Joy, please pick up our # 3/2005 printed magazine.  For the latest activities please visit and

The Clouds take the stage by storm with two fierce opening numbers, Jesus Will Turn It Around and Movin’.  “We wanted to come out, where they would kinda get into it, and that’s why we chose the kind of songs that had an uptempo beat.  Some people like to clap their hands, to stand up and get into it.  We didn’t want to come out reserved and sing something real slow.”

Rain on Me is the torch song the CD, a powerful and highly emotional, 6-minute ballad, written by Marvin Jefferys.  “He’s one of the songwriters that Sanchez uses.  I think he lives in Nashville.”

You could file B.Y.O.P. (Bring Your Own Praise) under Funk-gospel.  “We started doing contemporary, before it was cool, and B.Y.O.P. just sounds like in the 70s, when we did Mighty High and stuff like that.”

Something to Thank God For is a melodic mid-tempo mover, while on Amazing Love the beat gets still heavier, but they are followed by two intense deepies, It’s Already Done and God Hears.  “It’s Already Done is one of my favourites on the CD.”

After one sparkling number called Fire, the music comes down for two soft and beautiful closing ballads, At the Foot of the Cross and That’s What I’ll Be Needing God For.  “That’s the way Sanchez lined it up.  I don’t know his reasons, but it went well.  They’re such beautiful, sacred kind of songs.  I think he wanted to come on with a bang and then go off with something real smooth and easy.  Usually we go off with a fast song.”

“Next we’re trying to line up a big, major tour across America, and we want to try to make a DVD, too, in the near future.”


Something to Shout About (Shout 34; 23 tracks, 66 min.; liners by Clive Richardson; contains two Peacock albums by the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, Precious Memories (PLP-102) from 1960 and Father I Stretch My Hands to Thee (PLP-113) from 1964.  The compilation kicks off with the latter one, when Henry Johnson became the lead singer (after Roscoe Robinson).  Henry is a powerful, magnificent leader, who in some ways reminds me of the great, late Bob Washington of the Gospelaires, and if there ever was a recommendation, that is one!

Something to Shout About is a frantic gospel mover in the best tradition, and Just a Little While is another spiritual stormer.  On that album there are many intense and deep slowies – Time Is Winding Up, the preaching Father I Stretch My Hands to Thee, Where There’s a will (There’s a Way), Waiting at the River, a rolling testimony called Jesus Rose and even one in waltz time, Leaning on Jesus.  Oh Why is a Sam Cooke type of a poppy slow song.

The first album incorporates singles from the fifties (1950 – 59), when Archie Brownlee (1925 – 60), a major influence to many later soul singers, was the lead voice.  Among the more restrained hymns (Coming Home, Somebody’s Knocking) there are rougher slowies, too – Save a Seat for Me, There’s No Need to Cry (country gospel) – and a couple of ecstatic uptempo numbers (Walk Together Children, Leaning on the Everlasting Arm).  This is a powerful gospel release, and in spite of Archie’s reputation on this set my preference goes to Henry.


True Redemption is a 7-piece, self-contained group, so – yes! – real instruments are featured.  Back Home(2005) was produced and written by Eddie Fray, one of the members of this Florida-based septet, and the main vocalist is Kennis Reaves.

Music is similar to the smoother sound that these modern-day tenor-led “r&b” groups produce so alongside a couple of decent mid-pacers and not-so-frantic uptempo cuts there are mainly ballads on display.  It’s Going to be Alright, Back Home, Have Faith and Show Me the Way are the most memorable ones.  Rev. Charles Thomas adds some gruff to the singing on two tracks.


Cynthia’s third CD for Lavacyka Records ( is titled S.U.G.A. 2 My Soul (LR 6537), and in this case “suga” means “Saved under God’s Anointing.”  Cynthia ( resides in Houston, Texas, and the CD, which features real instruments, was produced by Bishop Paul Grant.

Music is restrained – one of the key players is Lester Sneed Jr. - and the arrangements are structured around Cynthia’s impressive voice.  The first half of the program consists mainly of tender inspirational ballads (Sugar to My Soul, When I Am Alone, I Will Rejoice, You Are My Strength), whereas the on the latter half the sound gets a bit more peppy.  Don’t Judge My Praise is actually a quite catchy mid-pacer.  But as a whole, Cynthia has created beautiful, clear and soothing music for us to enjoy.



Sharrie’s DVD, Live at Bay-Car Blues Festival (CrossCut Records, CVD 5002; 67 min.; was shot last year in April in France, and on eight songs Sharrie is backed by a 4-man strong Wiseguys.

Sharrie has always admired Etta James, so it’s only natural that the show kicks off with Tell Mama.  The other cover is the Staples Singers ’72 hit, I’ll Take You There.  Tagged as “The Princess of Rockin’ Gospel Blues” (, gospel seems to be fading, since - besides I’ll Take You There - the only other song with an inspirational message is a ballad called I’ll Give You Mine.  It’s also one of the two slow songs in the repertoire.  The other one is a long blues moan named How Much Can a Woman Take.

If you specialize in “rockin’ blues”, the wild rock guitar is inevitable… unfortunately.  The CD of the same show (CCD 11093) gives you as a bonus track a driving rocker titled Just You and Me.


You can read praises and detailed reviews of Mavis Staples’ latest CD, We’ll Never Turn Back (Anti-, 6830-2), almost on any black music forum on the Internet, so there’s no use of me analysing it anymore.  If you like folk-soul interpretations of freedom songs set to Ry Cooder’s music, the CD is definitely for you.

  Patti Austin gave us For Ella a while ago, and now she delivers Avant Gershwin (Rendezvous Entertainment, REN 51232), eight songs (64 min.) by George & Ira Gershwin.  Produced by Michael Abene and Patti and recorded in Germany in 2006 on two venues, the music has “classy” written all over it.  But you have to be into jazz to enjoy this.  For me the most exciting moment was the 17-minute Porgy and Bess Medley. Patti herself looks slim and beautiful these days (

An esteemed artist in indie circles, Lou Ragland, had his latest album released last year, but Until I Met You (Great Lakes Rec., CR 20196) is a recent re-release of his 1996 album; produced, arranged, recorded and mixed by Lou, plus Gene Dozier and Ronnie McNeir play on a couple of tracks.  You can read a good feature on Lou on Hitoshi Takasawa’s website at

Some of Lou’s covers (Since I Fell for You, Never Let Me Go, What A Wonderful World) may suit supper-club surroundings better than soul arenas, but, on the other hand, he has been an entertainer in Las Vegas since 1980.  The high-voiced Lou wrote or co-wrote seven of the twelve songs on the set, and among them you can detect a hypnotic, fast floater called Until I Met You, a melodic mover titled Whenever and a pretty slowie named I Wrote A Picture Of You; with poor drum programming, though.

Robert Peckman’s Stirrin’ up Bees (Bonedog Records, BDRCD-22) is peppy and poppy music from a long-standing r&b blue-eyed singer, musician and songwriter.  All the songs were written by Robert and he’s backed by a 4-piece rhythm section plus one on sax.  The music draws from different sources, as diverse as ragtime, honky-tonk, goodtime swing and a touch of contemporary, too.

  Mostly on the fast side, personal favourites, however, include two melodic mid-tempo ditties, A Man Must Stand for Something and Please Come Home, and one soul ballad with Johnny Daye on vocals, Let’s Talk It Over.

  The Friends of Distinction had six albums released altogether, before the original group broke up in 1975, and Crazin’ & Highly Distinct (Rev-Ola, CR REV 205;; 21 tracks, 68 min.) are the two first ones from 1969 on RCA.  Floyd Butler, Harry Elston, Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Jean Love formed the group a year earlier, modelled to an extent to another west coast outfit, the 5th Dimension.

  The key elements are skilful harmony, original arrangements and rich orchestration.  Music is mainly pop and m-o-r, with a dose of jazz thrown in.  The hits were Crazing In The Grass, Going In Circles and Let Yourself Go, but a cover of I’ve Never Found A Girl and a slow movie song, It’s Just A Game Love, are worth listening to, too. 

The Original Orlons today are Stephen Caldwell Sr. with three ladies, and you can read their history at  Stephen’s tenure with the group goes back to the hit days in the early 60s.  Soothe & Groove (Meatball Fifty One Music) is a single-CD, consisting of two songs and five tracks (plus one interview footage).  Backed by real instruments, I Been Counted Out is a nostalgic and hooky dance song with a sax solo in the middle, while I Found You is a pretty and tender love ballad.



Luther Thomas Ingram passed away on Monday, March 19 this year, after a long battle with diabetes and kidney disease.  He was born November 30 in 1937 in Jackson, Tennessee, and started performing at the age of five in local churches (we ran an 11-page Luther Ingram story in our # 2/2004 printed magazine).

Luther’s number one influence was Sam Cooke, but he admired also Clyde McPhatter, Jackie Wilson and, from the spiritual side, Archie Brownlee and the Five Blind Boys, Pilgrim Travelers, the Soul Stirrers and the Swan Silverstones.

He moved with his family to Alton, Illinois, in 1947, and became a member of a gospel group called the Midwest Crusaders two years later with his two brothers and three family friends.  In the line-up of Archie, Richard and Luther Ingram, Connie Perry and Lawrence Witherspoon the group – now under the secular name of the Gardenias – landed a recording contract and released their first single (My Baby’s Tops/Flaming Love) in 1956 on Federal Records.  For the recording session they hooked up with Ike Turner and his Kings of Rhythm.  Luther is the lead singer on these sides.

Besides leading the Crusaders and the Gardenias those days, Luther also started working as a solo act.  In 1961 he married Jacqueline Langford, and they’ve been married ever since and have two sons, Kenneth and Eric Luther.  Besides music Luther was also employed at McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company in St. Louis, Missouri in the late 50s/early 60s.

Luther left for New York in 1965.  Although he spent a lot of time in the city, he never officially lived there.  Through Robert Bateman Luther had his first solo single (You Never Miss Your Water) released on Decca in 1965.

His follow-up singles in 1966 included the original cut of I Spy (for the F.B.I.) on Smash, If It’s All the Same to You on HIB and Run for Your Life (released on Hurdy-Gurdy five years later, in 1971).

In New York Luther met an ex-boxing man, Johnny “KoKo” Baylor, for whose KoKo label he first wrote and then recorded for the next ten plus years.  Between 1967 and 1978 they released four magnificent albums and 22 singles, including such gems as My Honey and Me, Ain’t That Loving You (for More Reasons than One), To The Other Man, (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right, I’ll Be Your Shelter, Always and Do You Love Somebody.

During this period Luther wrote much of his own material and he also co-wrote Respect Yourself, a sizable hit for the Staple Singers.  Luther was one of the performers at Wattstax on August 20 in 1972 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

After KoKo, Luther still recorded for Platinum Plus (in 1984), Profile (in 1986), Urgent/Ichiban (in 1991) and for High Stacks (in 1998).  He also produced singles for other artists.

In 1998 Luther suffered failure of both kidneys as a result from diabetes.  Due to circulation problems he later lost the vision of his left eye and had his left leg amputated.  All these years Luther was a fighter, had come-back plans but he finally had to give it up due to a heart attack.

Among the soul music lovers all over the world he is remembered, not only because of the classic (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right, but also as one of the most soulful vocalists the world knows. 

Luther’s son Eric is raising money to finance the movie about his father, and practically the script and the soundtrack are ready.  You can follow the process at

Finally I wish to reprint what Luther said still in 2006: “Music has always kept me feeling good and it still does… I have still got a song in my heart.  I still love to sing.  I sing every day, and the concern of my fans and interest in me gives me a lot of encouragement to keep on keeping on.  Thanks to everybody and love to all!”  R.I.P. Luther.


  Another of my big favourites, Freddie Scott, passed away on June 4 after a massive heart attack.  He, too, had cut his first record in 1956, and was active till his last days.  Please read my interview about his career for our 2/98 printed issue here.  There’s also a discography to go with it.  After the feature he still recorded a CD called Brand New Man in 2001 (the interview based on that record was issued in our # 1/2001 magazine).  R.I.P. Freddie.


I don’t usually do obituaries, but for me Luther Ingram and Freddie Scott were special.  I really loved their music.  But now that I’m at it, I might just as well bring up two other deceased artists.  Frank Mendenhall passed on February 22 this year.  He succumbed to cancer.  I had quite a long and nice chat with him about his career for our # 4/1998 printed issue, and you can read it here in its entirety.  (Acknowledgements to


Jackie Neal passed away already on March 10 in 2005, when her ex-boyfriend shot her fatally in Baton Rouge.  Jackie is still fondly reminisced in Southern soul circles, but unfortunately my only interview with her was way too short.  It was conducted after the release of her CD, Lookin’ for a Sweet Thang (for the # 2/2000 issue), and it is repeated here.  In my next Deep column, look for an interview with Ronnie Lovejoy.
Heikki Suosalo

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