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DEEP # 4/2003 (August)

  The rest of my columns this year are all devoted to the wonderful and unique Porretta Soul Festival, held in a beautiful and friendly, small Northern Italian town for the 26th time this year on July 18-22.  This column is the first in my 5-part series on this subject.

  I start by interviewing the founder, the main organizer and “the soul” of the festival, Mr. Graziano Uliani.  After a short Porretta concert review, I follow with a career-long feature on one of the head-liners this year and one of my musical heroes, Mr. Latimore.  As a distant reflection of the standard content of this column, a couple of compilation CDs and a new southern soul-blues book are still reviewed at the end.

Content and quick links:

Porretta Soul Festival 2013

Interview with Graziano Uliani
Interview with Latimore

CD reissue & compilation reviews:
James Govan: Wanted/The Fame Recordings
Various Artists: A Road Leading Home – Songs by Dan Penn

Book review:
David Whiteis: Southern Soul-Blues


  The good news is that Mr. Uliani will still carry on at least till next year, because deep and southern soul – especially Memphis music – means so much to him.  His main job in advertising business for the last thirty years has been with an Italian yellow pages company, but now he’s close to retirement.  Porretta still goes under the banner of “a tribute to Otis Redding”, and concerts are held in an outdoor Rufus Thomas Park, in the very centre of the city.

  Graziano: “I’m 65 years old.  When Otis died, I was 19 years old.  This kind of music has always attracted me.  Even in the 70s, when disco music arrived, I continued to buy the older stuff – Stax, Atlantic, Goldwax...  This passion continued for many years.”

  “On December 21 in 1986 we went to Zurich to see Solomon Burke.  For the tickets I went to the back of the Congress Palace.  I saw this big man, 240 kilos, arriving in a limousine.  My English was very bad, because I studied French in school, but I told him ‘Mr. Solomon, I’m your Italian fan and I’ve founded this Solomon Burke fan club’.  I had invented that colossal lie to catch his attention and be able to have a picture with him.  Solomon was very nice to me.  During the concert he saw me in the crowd and he called me on stage.”

  “When I came back home, I really wanted to do something, because at the Congress Palace I received the address of Solomon’s manager.  I called her and she asked me to do something in Italy to promote Solomon.  I had also just read Peter Guralnick’s book Sweet Soul Music. Peter has been twice in Porretta, and I’ve invited Rob Bowman, too.  I started to work and I founded The Sweet Soul Music cultural association to promote soul and rhythm & blues.  I convinced an Italian singer, Zucchero, to use the Memphis Horns.  We called them to do a session in Bologna in 1987.”

  “In November 1987 they started a TV format in Italy with a lot of rock, soul and blues artists in it, and I convinced their anchor man, Renzo Arbore (a true soul fan), to call Solomon... and Solomon came.  I organized a concert with Solomon and a band the 7th of November in 1987 - just after the TV gig - in the Castanea Hotel in my town Porretta Terme.  The concert lasted three hours and people went crazy!”

  “One month after that I was fulfilling my dream.  I was a guest at Wayne Jackson’s home in Nashville and made a trip to Muscle Shoals, Macon and Memphis.  I visited Macon, Georgia, for the 20th anniversary of Otis Redding’s death (Otis passed on December 10 in 1967), and I promised his widow to do something to keep Otis’ memory alive.  Wayne Jackson then went with me to Memphis and introduced me to Rufus Thomas, Willie Mitchell and the Stax people.”

  “For the final TV broadcast (of the show above) in Italy in 1988, I invited Rufus Thomas and the Memphis Horns to visit, and - since the Italian TV had paid for their airplane tickets - after the show I organized in Porretta the first edition of Sweet Soul Music Festival; with Rufus, the Memphis Horns and many Italian bands.  I thought at the time that it was going to be only that one time, but since it was very successful I continued, and during these 26 years we’ve had James Carr, Spencer Wiggins, Dan Penn, Eddie Hinton and legendary Stax/Goldwax/Hi session men like Ben Cauley, Floyd Newman, Teenie Hodges, James Mitchell, Michael Toles, Jack Hale, Marvell Thomas and, of course, the Memphis Horns.  For many of these artists, like Dan and Eddie, it was the first time in Europe.  We had Joe Simon too, for the first time in Europe after many, many years.”  You can see a list of all the artists throughout the years at -> Old Editions.

Via Otis Redding at Porretta, Italy. (photo courtesy of Graziano UIiani)

  “In 1990 the Mayor of Porretta – under pressure from me – named the street where I lived Otis Redding Street, Via Otis Redding.”  Graziano points out that the fans and he himself want to stay true to the original concept, to idealism, so artists like the Blues Brothers Band and Chaka Khan are too commercial for this particular festival.  “Besides Solomon, my own favourites throughout the years have been James Carr and Sam Moore.  Sam is a very good entertainer... Shirley Brown, she’s crazy but she’s fantastic.  James Govan has performed here from 1993 till ’97.  In 1998 I dedicated him the poster – the other headliners were Solomon Burke, the Bar-Kays, Swamp Dogg, J. Blackfoot etc. – but for some unaccountable reason he did not come!  In Porretta he was the king.  In Memphis he worked only at the Rum Boogie Club on Beale Street.  Maybe he was afraid of losing his job.”

  To keep his dream alive, Graziano has to put his hand in his own pocket, too.  The tickets themselves are quite cheap, 25 € per evening.  “This is a small city, and this is a big effort for me to do.  If it rains, it’ll be a disaster. However, this Friday (July 19th) we had around 1 800 people and on Saturday there was about 2 000.  With Wilson Pickett we had some 3 000 people.  The regional government supports me, but every year I turn to sponsors too, because I pay all the flights and during the summertime one ticket costs around 1 400 dollars per person.  I lose money, but it’s my passion.”  Such idealistic, persevering and hard-working promoters like Graziano are indeed a rare breed these days, and it’s no wonder that each artist thanked him on stage this year.

Vaneesa, Carla and Marvell Thomas at Rufus Thomas Park. (photo courtesy of Graziano UIiani)

PORRETTA in 2013

  The first concert took place already on Thursday, July 18, and the last one was on Monday, July 22, when Pastor Mitty Collier sang in a local church, and she was very satisfied with that event, “it went great”.  The main concert nights, however, were Friday, Saturday and Sunday – altogether about fifteen hours of impressive and entertaining music.  You can actually watch all those concerts at


  In my upcoming features I’ll briefly survey Porretta performances of each artist in question, so this review is more or less only a general overview and tribute to those, who were not headliners but anyway an essential part of the music.  Paul Brown and his All-star Band “Heart and Soul” was the “house band”, backbone to the music and on fire each night and with each artist.  Paul was the musical director of the whole festival.  This Memphian maestro himself was on keys, Sofia Goodman on drums, Walter Hamilton on bass and Lou Rodriguez on guitar.  The horn section consisted of Sax Gordon (tenor sax), Kenny Anderson (baritone sax) and Steve Herrman (trumpet).  Add to that still background vocals by Miss Jackie Wilson (yes, that is her real name), Lo Carter and Sabrina Kabua, and you’re rewarded with strong, soulful and penetrating sound.

  Paul’s band opened the evening, and during the set among instrumentals we could enjoy also vocalizing from Walter (Cigarettes and Coffee), Jackie (The Memphis Train) and Lo & Jackie (I Can’t Stand the Train), after which we were treated to Sax Gordon’s powerful playing.  First Toni Green and then Mitty Collier came on next, and Latimore closed the evening, but, as stated above, I have a closer look at their performances in conjunction with their interviews.

Falisa JaNayé


  A Japanese band called Osaka Monaurail (, which has existed over twenty years by now, opened the Saturday night with a funky blast.  Although the first song was Get Ready, with Ryo Nakata on vocals the players mainly concentrated on impersonating James Brown and his sound - with occasional offshoots to Shaft and Funky Chicken.  After one hour of Osaka Monaurail, Paul Brown and Sax Gordon took over.

  David Hudson (a feature artist later on) was followed by a blue-eyed jazz man named Charlie Wood (, who accompanied himself on keys on three songs from his 1997 Southbound CD (One Kind Word, Back Where It Was Before and Lucky Charm).  He was followed by a delightful young lady out of Mississippi, Falisa JaNayé, who certainly knows how to work her way through also the more rootsy end of our music.  She avoided the mistake of going urban, and frankly, in front of the Porretta audience, it would have been a catastrophe.  Instead she delivered in her strong voice and with energetic stage performance - besides cuts from her 2010 Sweet Love CD (Tonight Is the Nite, U Won’t Miss Yo Water) - familiar songs from the past (Rock Steady, Mr. Big Stuff, What a Man, A Natural Woman and Fool in Love).  It was heart-warming to observe that there may be a future for our music, after all.

On the pic above: Mizz Lowe.

  The final act of the evening was the premier showman himself, Mr. Bobby Rush.  Naturally, in his revue he had his two well-built dancers – Mizz Lowe and Keena – with him on stage, and their joint show was quite vibrating – both from the front, and behind - but not as risqué as in the States.  In eighty minutes Bobby went through ten songs – including one medley of Chicken Heads, Niki Hoeky and Polk Salad Annie – and almost in every number his harmonica playing was an integral part of the song.  His act included even an impression of Elvis.  He funked the place up (She’s so Fine, Tight Money, That Thang, Night Fishin’) and in-between brought it down (She’s Nineteen Years Old, Blues with a Feeling, Don’t You Cry).  The encore was the old chestnut, Shake, Rattle and Roll, which closed the evening.

Charles Walker & the Dynamites


  Charles Walker & the Dynamites ( opened “dynamically” the Sunday night with a 50-minute, 9-song set, which again introduced both funk (Do the Right Thing, Love Is Only Everything, If You Don’t Mean It, So Much More to Do) and downtempo numbers.  Personal highlights included his tribute to Donny Hathaway, I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know, a light and catchy dancer called Still Can’t Get You out of My Mind and an intense, slow delivery of Summertime.  Charles was backed by the tight 6-piece Dynamites, including two horns.  Unfortunately, Charles arrived so late that I didn’t get a chance to interview him, but now that all the research work is done and records are purchased, I’ll do it at some later point.  After all, this veteran, who released his first single in 1959, has as many as ten albums under his belt so far.

  The festival continued with Sax Gordon’s International Soul Caravan (, featuring Raphael Wressning on keys (Hammond), Igor Prado on guitar and Yuri Prado on drums.  Their 55-minute slot offered many familiar melodies leaning both to blues, and funk and a bit of jazz, too.  Osaka Monaurail, Paul Brown’s Band and Charlie Wood filled the next hour and a half, before Falisa entered the stage (Fool in Love, U Won’t Miss Yo Water), followed by David Hudson, Mitty Collier, Latimore, Toni Green and Bobby Rush.  This section went under the name of “Memphis Rhythm & Blues Show and Revue.”  The 15-minute finale with all the artists on stage consisted of the Porretta song, Rufus Thomas Is Back in Town, and Sweet Soul Music and the Mitty Collier initiated Praise Him, which concluded the exciting 6-hour show… and props to the inspiring emcee, Mr. Rick Hutton, “One More Time!”


  Latimore’s one-hour performance in Porretta on July 19 was one of the highlights of this Italian soul festival this year.  His long and intense, strongly improvised interpretations of his own songs – Let Me Live the Life I Love (released on Glades in ’77), Somethin’ ‘Bout Cha, Take Me to the Mountain Top, Bow Wow, I’m an Ol’ Dog and inevitably Let’s Straighten It Out – just grab you and keep on tightening their grip as the music keeps flowing and growing towards the end.  Of the seven songs, the two outside tunes this time were from his latest “Ray Charles” CD, the hilarious Hit the Road, Jack and the hard-hitting Unchain My Heart.  Still on Sunday night, when Latimore again excelled on Let’s Straighten It Out, David Hudson and Bobby Rush joined him in an amazing vocal interplay, and Bobby’s harmonica had a separate interplay with Latimore’s Yamaha Motif.

  I did my first feature on Latimore exactly 20 years ago, in 1993, when he visited The Pori Jazz Festival in Finland, so it was time to update that article.  First, however, we went back to the early days.  Latimore: “Like a lot of artists I started in a Baptist church in a small town called Charleston in Tennessee, and I sang in a young people’s choir.  They had a special Youth Day at the church, and very reluctantly I agreed to do a solo.  When the day came and I did it, it seemed that everybody had liked it, and for me that was the beginning of that feeling of wanting to be up there and sing.  I was 13-14 then.”

  “Next I went to Nashville to go to school to Tennessee State, and I started singing on the campus (in a group called the Neptunes in 1957).  I dropped out of school after one year and dedicated myself to a singing career.  I ended up with a group called Louis Brooks & the Hi-Toppers.  I sang with them for awhile, and then I went on the road with a guy called Joe Henderson (in ’62), who had a big record called Snap Your Fingers.  I travelled all over the United States with him.  After him I went to Miami with Freddy Scott’s Orchestra, and that’s when I hooked up with Henry Stone” (in 1965).  At this point I invite you to read my earlier feature at the Soul Express interview with Latimore in 1993.

On the pic above: Latimore and Heikki (photo by Juhani Laikkoja)


  After his Catchin Up album on Malaco in 1993, Latimore next turns up as the first artist on Malaco’s subsidiary, J-Town Records, with Turnin’ up the Mood (JTD 55001) in 1996.  “They were just trying something different and try another label.  Malaco was really into blues and gospel, and I sort of bridged the gap between blues and soul.  My style was a little different from some of the things they were doing.  They said ‘let’s try this’, and that’s what we did.  That was the first album I did with the computers.”

  The album actually is Charles Richard Cason’s showcase, as he’s the producer, “plays” all the instruments and wrote eight songs out of twelve.  Benny himself wrote a mid-pacer with a country touch called People Lie.  There’s also a cover of Dan Seal’s # 1 hit ten years earlier, You Still Move Me.  “When I went out to California and did the tracks, Rich Cason and the engineer, Jerry Masters, played the song for me, I liked it and decided to do it.”  Synths aside, the album as a whole is not bad at all, mainly due to good songs and Latimore’s singing, naturally.

  Latimore’s next album appeared again on the mother label, because those days J-Town became more and more involved in contemporary r&b and hip-hop.  “I didn’t have any motivation to do that thing.”  You’re Welcome to Ride (Malaco 7497) in 2000 had four Frederick Knight’s and Rich Cason’s tracks, thoroughly programmed but the songs were attractive downtempo numbers.  The rest eight tracks were produced by the heads of the label, Tommy Couch and Wolf Stephenson, with real instruments and horns.  “Wolf and I worked together pretty good, and Tommy was like the president of the company.”  Tommy came up with the idea to cover Take Me, Just As I am, but the cream cut was Larry Addison’s country-tinged song, You’ve Still Got the Touch.


  You’re Welcome to Ride was Latimore 8th and last Malaco album (9th, if we include Turnin’ up the Mood).  “But I left Malaco only several years later.  We just didn’t seem to be able to find a comfort zone to work.  They just didn’t know what to do with me.  We did some good things, but I wasn’t writing much there.  I was going through a period in my life, when I was not completely dried up creatively, but I was not inspired to write that much.  I don’t write all the time.  Something has to inspire me, and I’ll start writing.  Sometimes it just flows.  I stayed with Malaco for a while, and then I decided I want to do my own thing, where I had nobody to look over my shoulder.”

  His next CD in 2003 appeared on Mel Waiters’ Brittney label and it was called Latt Is Back (Brittney 5799).  “My real name is with two T’s, but when I started to do things earlier, I used only one T to separate the show business from personal life.  For the project with Mel we decided to use two T’s.  That’s my born name, but my business name is Latimore.”

  “Mel Waiters was also recording for Malaco.  When I left Malaco, that’s when we did our project.  We mostly did it ourselves, but commercially it didn’t do well.  It was more Mel Waiters than Latimore.  He was the producer.  I enjoyed what we did, but we didn’t strike that thing.  It was a little bit different from what I usually do.  We only did that one project.  We didn’t have distribution.  Malaco wanted to take over, but we had a disagreement with them.  But everything was on friendly basis.  We’re still friends with Mel.  We talked maybe having another project later on, but then I decided to do my own thing.”

  Latimore wrote or co-wrote 9 out of the 11 songs on Latt Is Back and he’s doing all the background vocals as well, but of the real instruments only guitar and sax are featured.  There are four nice beat-ballads, but the only song with a lasting value is Benny’s own, beautiful and melodic Everyday.


  “Henry Stone was doing a project and I was doing a project at the same studio, and he had asked me to help him out on a thing he was doing with Gwen McCrae.  It was Gwen McCrae Sings TK (HSM 6001-2, released in 2006).  She was singing the hits that a lot of artists had with the T.K. label years ago.  She was doing my song, Let’s Straighten It Out, and Henry said would I help him with that and play keyboards on a couple of other things we were doing (Rockin’ Chair, for one).  I said ‘okay, I do that’, and he said ‘by the way, what you’re going to do with your project you’re doing now’.  I was about done with it.  I said that I was looking to get with a company, and he said ‘why don’t we get together, have lunch and talk about it’.  If you want to hook up, we can partner up and go 50/50.  You can do the creative part, and I’ll do the distribution’.  He had the money” (laughing).

  The new label was called LatStone and their first joint CD, Back ‘Atcha (LTS-1001) was released in 2007.  You can read my full review right after the release at  Latimore produced the set and wrote all ten songs, four of them with his fellow players, Roach Thompson and Georg Perry.  Personally I think that the four opening tracks – Edna Mae, Ghetto Girl, ‘Nanna Puddin’ and I See Love – are excellent, but on the rest of the tracks artificial machine sounds are pushing through too strongly.  I still quite liked the slow hit single, My Give a Damn Gave out (a Long Time Ago). 

  “I did Motif on all of those things.  I did a few things the way people are recording nowadays, mostly all computerized.  We almost have to do it.  It’s three of us that do our thing – I, Chocolate Perry and Roach Thompson - and we know what the instruments are supposed to sound like, since we’ve all played together before.  We decided we’d do this thing, where Chocolate does the drums, but he doesn’t do it like a drum track, where he just turns it on and lets it play.  He actually has the computerized drums, but he plays with them.”

Latimore with Bobby Rush


  The follow-up CD, All about the Rhythm and the Blues (LTS 1002-2), came out two years later, with the same personnel.  A hypnotic slowie titled Around the World was the top draw on the set, but there were also nice covers of Every Day I Have the Blues and Everyday.  I especially liked the four tracks that bear a remote resemblance to Let’s Straighten It OutCity Life, Don’t give up on Our Love, Singing and Playing the Blues and Mr. Right NowDrown in My Own Tears is vocally masterful, but fake horns ruin it.  My fresh review at the time can be found at

 There’s also one “novelty” song, Obama and the Fat Man. “That’s when Obama was having trouble with Rush Limbaugh, and it was like a political thing I was doing.  It was kind of amusing.”


  It took forty-five years for Latimore to record his first live album, Live in Vienna (LTS 1003-2 in 2010;  “I just never did.  This one I did, because I was doing a show – just me and the piano… and I did Motif, too.  It was a wonderful experience.  We had a lot of people there.  They were very receptive.  We did a lot more that’s on the record.  They had to edit a lot of it out.  A lot of it was long and drawn-out.  Interestingly enough, they didn’t capture the reaction of the audience.  They had it mixed, where the microphones would pick up my singing and playing, but the audience was fantastic.”

  Latimore has never produced a concert DVD, either, but now he’s thinking about it.  He was a part of The Memphis Tri-State Blues Festival in August 2004 – the DVD was released a couple of years later – along with Tyrone Davis, Willie Clayton, Bobby Rush and Theodis Ealey, singing Mountain Top and Let’s Straighten It Out.

  Ladies Choice (LTS 1004-2) was the title of Henry’s and Latimore’s next CD in 2012 (, and again there are a few strong songs in the “Let’s Straighten It Out” vein, such as A Woman’s Love (the first single), Dance With Me, All Said and Done and What You Won’t Do for Love.  Personal favourite, however, is a saddish ballad called Sleeping with the Enemy.  “That was inspired by Henry’s son.  He was going through some marital problems.  We talked about this and I said ‘you know, it sounds like a song, when you’re together but you can’t communicate, and it’s like there’s somebody else there with you.  This could be the negative spirit that’s there.  That’s the enemy’.”


  The most recent CD, Latimore Remembers Ray Charles (LTS 1006-2), is a revelation and certainly one of the best albums this year… especially if you like both Ray Charles, and Latimore.  Please read my review at

  “This was Henry Stone’s idea.  Henry said ‘before I go to my grave, I would like for you to do like Latimore Remembers Ray Charles’.  I said ‘I don’t want to try to do an impression of Ray Charles’.  He said ‘no, I want you to do Latimore, but with some of the Ray Charles songs and have your flavor there.  I’ve always wanted to hear that’.  I put my own touch on some of them.  My favourite is Drown in My Own Tears, for the song itself.  Hit the Road, Jack was fun, and, of course, What’d I Say.  I’m giving Ray respect.  I’ve always admired him and his singing and playing, which has churchy background.  He’s just an outstanding man.  He had an early influence on me.  I just love his music, and he could do so many different things.  He’s very versatile.”

  After the excellent tribute to Ray Charles, what can we expect next?  More (More, More) Latimore?  “I have a lot of songs that are going around in my head, so we’re going to do another project.  I’m going back into the studio soon, but we’re going to ride this one for awhile first.”



  There’s an album’s worth of unreleased material on Wanted/The Fame Recordings (CDKEND 398;; 16 tracks, 50 min.; notes by Martin Goggin with many interviews).  Produced by Rick Hall and his staff and cut in the late 60s/early 70s, out of these sessions only four single sides were released on Fame Records at the time.  One of them is a brisk and fully orchestrated dancer called Wanted: Lover (No Experience Necessary) – originally cut by Laura Lee – and the second plug side is a very slow version of George Harrison’s Something, but here I always hear Ray Charles singing the song.

  If not earlier, at least with the release of the Charly LP, I’m In Need, in 1982, James Govan became a household name among deep soul followers.  After that great album he has released one single on Blue Town in 1985, a live EP cut at the Porretta festival in ’93 and a Night on Beale CD in ’98.

  There are thrilling examples of James’ emotional singing among the unreleased tracks on this set, such as George Jackson’s southern soul ballad, I Bit off More Than I Can Chew, and two more impassioned ballads, I’ve gone too far  and a swaying, slightly jazzy cover of Bye Bye Blackbird.  On those two – as well as on the rework of You Left the Water Running – James comes vocally quite close to Otis Redding, as well as on two uptempo cuts, Oh Baby What You’re Doing To Me and Stuck On Her.

  Although commonplace those days, I, however, wish that they hadn’t cut James on pop and rock songs, such as Bob Dylan’s Just Like a Woman and I Shall Be Released.  There’s nothing wrong with them, but they’re lacking the excellence James can infuse into original SS songs.  On the latter song, of the soul versions my preference goes to Freddie Scott.  Also Jambalaya and That’s Alright Mama don’t inspire.  But still there’s more than enough great unearthed material from James, who’s still performing regularly on Beale Street in Memphis.


  A Road Leading Home – Songs by Dan Penn (Ace, CDCHD 1370; 24 tracks, 70 min.; notes by Bob Dunham and Tony Rounce) presents songs that Dan co-wrote not with Spooner Oldham this time (except Oh! What a Fool I’ve Been and Zero Willpower), but other writers like Marlin Greene, Chips Moman, Donnie Fritts, Rick Hall, Darryl Carter, Jimmy Johnson etc.  The recordings are not always by most obvious artists, and the sessions took place between 1965 and ’73, with the exception of four tracks from the 00s.

  Personal highlights include Ted Taylor’s Without a Woman – although there’s no-one to beat Kip Anderson’s definite reading on this one – Roy Hamilton’s rich version of The Dark End of the Street, The Sweet Inspirations’ truly soulful Oh! What a Fool I’ve Been, Laura Lee’s touching cover of Up Tight Good Man, Irma Thomas’ very slow and almost six-minute long remake of Zero Willpower on Rounder in 2000 and Bobby Purify’s aka Ben Moore’s quire recent (2005) deep country-soul ballad, Better to Have It

  Other noteworthy tracks are Billy Young’s original You Left the Water Running, Linda Carr’s gentle, dianaross-like take on (Almost Persuaded to) Give Him One More Try, the Drifters’ poppy Far From the Maddening Crowd, James & Bobby Purify’s slow and intense So Many Reasons, Esther Phillips’ bluesy belter Cheater Man, Bobby Patterson’s wistful Long Ago, Percy Sledge’s poignant Rainbow Road (in emotion not on a par with Bill Brandon, though) and Albert King’s surprisingly restricted slowie, Like a Road Leading Home.

  There are also eight pop and country tracks by Linda Gail Lewis, Dan Penn himself, Jeanie Fortune, Tommy Roe, Brenda Lee, Ted Roddy & the Tearjoint Troubadors, The Hacienda Brothers and Ronnie Milsap, but I won’t go into them, because this column is dedicated to soul music.



  “Soul-Blues” is now in the U.S.A. the common term for the music we used to call and still call in Europe “southern soul.”  Even though some artists like Willie Clayton don’t like the phrase “southern soul” in terms of describing his music – and Chicago isn’t very south, I agree – I’ll still use it anyhow, because it’s an established, respectable term, going all the way to the 60s.  Among European soul music lovers, it’s a positive term and it conjures up an image of certain kind of music, highly emotional and powerful.  It’s not necessarily tied up with geography, but purely sound.  We also have “northern soul”, and every black music fan and club-goer in Europe understands what we’re talking about.  If today it’s called “soul-blues”, okay, let’s add it permanently to our vocabulary.  Who am I to argue and I’ll be using it as well, although years ago, I think, Rod Dearlove of the Voices from the Shadows fame in the U.K., coined a more clever phrase, “bluesoul”, but unfortunately it didn’t stick.  Similarly, we long-standing European music fans still understand the word “blues” first and foremost in the old-fashioned way, unlike it’s categorized in the States these days.

  In his new book, Southern Soul-Blues (340 pages, 34 with photos; University of Illinois Press; ISBN 978-0-252-03479-4), David Whiteis goes through the history of the genre in general and also the etymology of the terms above.  He goes back all the way to the gospel beginnings, surveys the process of secularization and finishes the first section of the book by having a look at today’s leading southern soul (SS) labels.

  Next he has chosen four established and prestigious senior artists and given each of them about 20 pages to tell about their history – especially the early days – thoughts about the music business and how they’ve been treated throughout all these years.  For the most part David himself analyses their recording output, key records, and how it reflects and reflected the surrounding society at the time.  The chosen few are Latimore, Denise LaSalle, J. Blackfoot and the king of folk funk, the opinionated Bobby Rush, who incidentally states that the correct spelling of his name is Emmett Ellis Jr. and that he really was born in 1933!

  The next section includes the equally long and equally structured profiles of four representatives of younger generation with a strong impact on the soul-blues market today.  They are Willie Clayton, who could qualify in the first category too, Sweet Angel, Sir Charles Jones (my least favourite in terms of music) and Ms. Jody.  You can also include T.K. Jones, who’s featured separately.  Sweet Angel and Ms. Jody explain their sexually shameless performances on stage, with dildos and sex act imitations.

  This leads to the history of raunchy records and risqué performances in African American music, the historical context of sexuality.  Later on we can read about SS songwriting in interviews with George Jackson, Bob Jones and Frederick Knight, the role of airplay – or the lack of it – distribution problems, downloading and bootlegging, which for many SS artists seems to be the number one problem today; at least based on my recent interviews.

  At the end there are still short profiles of 20 significant S-B/SS artists and 22 upcoming ones and the ones David recommends.  Incidentally, I counted that of the 51 featured artists in this book the majority has been featured and interviewed for Soul Express.  The inevitable index is included, thank heavens!

  Although for die-hard SS/S-B aficionados the basics are familiar, the book contains a lot of new and interesting information on many of the artists.  It is very well written, and it comes highly recommended especially for all those uninitiated, who, however, have a leaning, secret or open, to this irresistible music, which – according to the book – may not be dying after all.

© Heikki Suosalo

Read also the 1993 interview with Latimore

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