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  Ms. Jody: “Ecko Records is good to me, and I enjoy working with them. When John Ward and I go into the studio, it’s like magic happens, and I call it The Magic Room. We create a lot of our music right there on the spot.” Ms. Jody, aka Vertie Delapaz, has just released her 18th album on the Ecko Records out of Memphis, Tennessee. I first talked to her in 2006 right after the release of her debut CD, You’re My Angel, and in that article Ms. Jody also reminisces about her first steps in music:

  Similarly to her preceding albums, it took Ms. Jody about one week to record this new CD titled A Night to Remember (ECD1191; “I will go in and I will put down so many songs, and I leave them to come back home in Mississippi. Then I will go back again and finish it up. It was approximately number of six to eight days.”  She’s also a prolific songwriter, because she co-wrote seven out of the eleven songs on display. “When John and I are in the studio recording, he can go to the keyboard and start playing some tracks that he has recorded, and I say ‘stop!’ He asks ‘do you hear something?’ I say ‘yes.’ He says ‘okay, tell me what you hear’, and I start freestyling - and that’s how it comes about.”

  Customarily, John Ward has produced the set and, besides playing guitar, he also co-engineered it and co-created rhythm tracks together with James Jackson, who also did the mixing. Till Palmer mastered the whole thing, and Brenda Williams is on background vocals.

  John Ward: “James Jackson has done things on and off for us for years. He was Denise LaSalle’s keyboard player for several years and has played with countless other performers on the road and in the studio. He did the track, production, mixing, etc. on Terry Wright’s hit song You Done Lost Your Good Thang as well as many of Terry’s other releases, a lot of Karen Wolfe’s releases, songs on JR Blu, and many other artists. James started full time with us about three years ago now. He does production, writing, tracking and mixing as needed with our artists and also still does some outside work for other artists.”


  On A Night to Remember there’s one outside production, though, a dynamic and snappy mid-tempo bouncer called Good Man. Ms. Jody : “Rod Brimstone wrote the song, recorded in his studio in Laurel, Mississippi, and sent to John.” Rod Brimstone is the CEO of L-Town Records. The jolly and perky Good Man is the opening song and one of the candidates for a single release off the CD.

  One song that actually has been released as a single in September last year is a smoothly sliding and melodic uptempo toe-tapper titled I’m Gonna Ride That Black Horse. “When the pandemic first started, I didn’t go into the studio for maybe one or two years, and I didn’t do any recording. I stayed home. When I did go back, I said ‘John, I got to get something out there, because it’s been a while since I released anything.’ So we went in, I did I’m Gonna Ride That Black Horse and he released it as a single.”

  On this new set there are two songs that Ms. Jody has released earlier. One of them is Get It! Get It! Part 2, and the first part of this joyous and sparkling zydeco type of a song was released on the similarly titled album in 2019. The other one is Southern Soul Bounce, which originally appeared on the 2018 album, I’m Doin’ My Thang, but is now remixed. “I talked with the gentleman that created the line dance for it, and he said ‘a lot of DJs speed that song up just a little bit, when they’re playing it, so that might be a good thing if I speak to my producer about speeding it up a little bit and doing a remix on it.’”


  If He Don’t Wanna Love You is a laid-back, mid-tempo and half-spoken number, where Ms. Jody gives some good advice to the ladies. “I enjoy talking to my fans. I really do.” On the downtempo The Best Cat Won, Ms. Jody celebrates her cat fight victory, but after that ballad we are treated to a potpourri of party songs: first the routine Let’s Party Right (A Night to Remember), then the sharp and hard-hitting Mr. Beast Master – one of Ms. Jody’s personal favourites on this set – and finally a mid-tempo dancer named Burger King. In a way the track order on the CD reflects Ms. Jody’s playlist on stage. “I mix up party songs and ballads. A lot of time the crowd wants something that they really can move to, dance to, but they enjoy the ballads like they enjoyed the party songs.”


  This critic loves Ms. Jody on heartfelt and emotional soul ballads, so for me the cream cut is the 5 min 30 sec long and again half-spoken I Still Love You. “I cried a little, when I recorded that. When John went to the keyboard and played, I began to look back over my life. There was this guy here at home that I’ve been involved with, and I realised just listening to the music and allowing my mind just to wander that I still love him.”

  “There have been several times, when I’ve been at Ecko recording and doing especially ballads and we would have to stop, because I get so caught up in it that I break down crying. I feel it so strongly. This one particular song, If He Knew What I Was Thinking (on the 2015 CD, Talkin’ Bout My Good Thang), made me think about women going through abusive relationships, and actually it sometimes happened to men. They’re even losing their lives, because they won’t get out of it. Some people feel that they love that person so much, they can’t let go. That’s not worth it.”

  Written by Henderson Thigpen and John Ward, the concluding song on the CD, I’d Rather Wait Till He’s Hittin’ It, is a fast-paced and dynamic mover – a good way to end an album on a high note. “A woman would rather wait for her man to come home that to go out and get it from someone else. She’s gonna be faithful to him.”


  After the pandemic the concert scene has recovered and become lively again. Recently Ms. Jody has had gigs in Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina, and “after that I’ll be in Greenfield, Mississippi, in the delta, and then I got a few award ceremonies to attend – so, we’ve been busy.”

  “A lot of the promoters, especially the younger ones, want to do track shows. I LOVE having my band with me. There’s nothing else like the power of having that band behind me, because I like to interact with my fans. When I say ‘break it down, fellows’, I get a chance to talk to my fans. And I like to hit that crowd out there. A lot of time somebody just wants to hug, somebody wants a handshake, or just a smile, or a pat on the shoulder. I love and enjoy showing love and kindness for everybody. That comes from my heart.”

  “All my guys background for me except for the drummer. The one at the mike out front is Warren Miller, keyboard player #1 is Jessie Datson, keyboard player #2 is Jeremy Newson, lead guitar player is Michael Alexander and bass player is Brian Patton.  My original manager, Leo Johnson, Sr., is no longer with me. He was killed the 10th of December in West Memphis, Arkansas. The police were in high pursuit behind someone, and one of them hit him in his car and killed him there on the scene.”

  “My drummer was his assistant, so he stepped into the spot and became the manager. He’s doing a super-great job and he makes sure that Ms. Jody’s thing is on top. His name is Trell Kimmons, and, as a matter of fact, he ran track for the United States.” Trell won a gold medal in a 4x100 m relay team at the 2004 World Junior Championships, and after that he became a 3-time national champion sprinter.


  According to Mr. John Ward, Ecko Records have currently 7 Southern Soul artists and 10 gospel groups in its roster John: “I don’t think we plan on doing anything drastically different as far as the music goes. There’s no doubt that Southern Soul has changed and continues to change at a faster rate than it ever has before. We try to stay up on the changes as best as we can but at the end of the day we are mostly interested in making good music no matter what for the Southern Soul market and the traditional gospel market.”

  Also Ms. Jody says that there are changes – or expansions and interactivity – on the southern soul scene these days. Ms. Jody: “There are so many new people that’s come out on the scene now. A lot of it seems to be changing. Some are doing r&b, but they’ve also got rap now on the scene. Whatever you want to find, you’re just about to find in southern soul. R&b artists are trying to get into southern soul to perform, and southern soul is trying to do their best to get over into the r&b circuit to perform.”

  Luckily, the records are still selling. “A lot of people stream, but there are a lot of people that still buy records, and a lot of people want them autographed – just to have something to hold on to. It means a lot to the fans.”

  “I just hope and pray that people enjoy A Night to Remember. Always before I record, I have a few minutes to pray and I always ask ‘Lord, let my music help somebody along the way.’ A lot of time people can be going through tough times, and music can really help them out, and what that singer is saying can sometimes be quite meaningful. I have fans that come to me and say ‘Ms. Jody, that song really helped me out during a difficult time that I was going through’, and that really means a lot to me.”

(Interview conducted on July the 6th in 2023; Acknowledgements to Ms. Jody, John Ward and Larry Chambers).

© Heikki Suosalo

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