Daddy B. Nice's #68 ranked Southern Soul Artist
"I Won't Let My Baby Down (My Man)"
December 15, 2012: NEW ALBUM ALERT:
The Love Chronicles of a Lady Songbird
Scroll down to Tidbits #3 to read Daddy B. Nice's new CD Review of Lina's The Love Chronicles of a Lady Songbird.
Daddy B. Nice's Profile of Lina:
Listen to Lina singing "I Won't Let My Baby Down (My Man)" on YouTube.
Lina's "I Won't Let My Baby Down (My Man)" was the kind of song that justifies the qualifier "da bomb." It lay waste to the landscape of southern soul music for miles in every creative direction. It showed up the usual female southern soul radio fare as wanting, the way a sleek international model might walk off a fifty-million dollar yacht and show up the local divas singing doo wop on the street corner. And it snagged, fascinated, and duly obsessed the deejays who heard it.
It was a song that comes along only once in a very great while, a song which, musically speaking, stood heads and shoulders above its competition, a song that on its merits alone, without other tunes or albums to bolster its artist's heft, catapulted a young, hitherto unknown artist into the top echelons of chitlin'-circuit southern soul.
The journey of "I Won't Let My Baby Down" makes for one of the best stories in contemporary Southern Soul.
Listen to Lina singing "I Won't Let My Baby Down (My Man)" on YouTube.
"I Won't Let My Baby Down" made its appearance on Jackson, Mississippi's WMPR afternoon DJ Handyman's radio show in 2010. How it was leaked there is still anyone's guess. But almost immediately, two of Southern Soul music's tastemakers--WMPR jock and longtime website maven Jerry "DJ Boogie" Mason and Southern Soul RnB's Daddy B. Nice--jumped on the song like two middle-of-the-pack lions devouring a carcass left by the dominant feline of the pride. We couldn't wait to champion the record.
In the beginning there was confusion not only about the name of the artist but the name of the tune. At first it was believed the name of the artist was "Nita," a mistake put down to trying to pick up the name from a verbal (DJ Handyman) reference only.
Then there was a mystery about the title. The dominant refrain throughout the song is the phrase, "I won't let my baby down." However, the tune turned out to have a much more obscure title, one barely referenced in the lyrics, namely: "My Man."
But as the song began to pick up more air play and momentum, all of it (by the way) unsolicited, un-promoted and un-hyped, simply word of mouth, none of the particulars really mattered. The only factors of any consequence were the sheer originality and impeccable execution of the song, both from the standpoint of the vocal track and the perspective of the arrangement.
The vocal track combined all of what's best in a female-driven foreground. The singer was young, which is always disarming, particularly when combined with a professional execution.
The singer was direct and accessible. There were no questions of whether or not the singer was "trying to be" a soul singer, as opposed to "being a soul singer"--the rap against so many other neo-soul and retro-soul aggregations outside Dixie.
There was talk of whether neo-soul artist Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings would be able to break that barrier between sounding like the real thing and being the real thing. With one single, "I Won't Let My Baby Down (My Man)," Lina broke that barrier. A complete outsider, she delivered the real thing and more.
The true test of this factor, as Southern Soul music fans know only too well, is whether a performance flies in the pungent air of the chitlin' circuit. Put another way, does it sound real when you hear the song amidst the other blues and R&B in Mississippi?
"I Won't Let My Baby Down" sounded great in the 21st Century South. "I Won't Let My Baby Down" would have sounded great in the sixties in rotation with Martha & The Vandella's "Dancing In The Streets" and Aretha Franklin's "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman." Not only did the singer negotiate the melody and gorgeous choruses with a sincerity and power uncommon in any era, she also ignited certain passages with a passion as vulnerable--albeit more youthful--as Etta James in "I'd Rather Go Blind."
So strong was the vocal, that if the song had been done only in acapella, it would have been just as stunning--although not as magnificent--as the finished version, which boasted one of the most unique arrangements of an R&B tune heard in many years.
Like many of the greatest soul songs, "I Won't Let My Baby Down" features an arrangement dominated by a strong bass line, a bass line--moreover--that doubles as a lead guitar/keyboard hook.
In awarding "I Won't Let My Baby Down" the Best Female Vocalist performance of 2010 ("Daddies" Annual Southern Soul RnB awards) and the #3 Southern Soul Single of 2010, your Daddy B. Nice wrote about the arrangement:
3. "My Man (I Won't Let My Baby Down)"------------Lina
Lina's vocal knocks you over with its technical talent and emotional authority, all the more potent for being so obviously young and innocent. The song's arrangement is equally stunning, importing an unusual chord structure and a unique, "Little Drummer Boy"-"rumpa-pum-pum" kinda sound that will insure this song is played long after the dust settles on 2010.
That "rumpa-pum-pum" echo effect, which gave the instrumental hook a top-forty-like shimmer as bright as a first-class diamond, was the crowning piece to the song's puzzle. The horse-and-carriage marriage of the unique-sounding hook and the vintage chorus ("Oooh-Oooooh, Oooh-Oooooh") set off Lina's vocal to maximum effect.
Listen to Lina "I Won't Let My Baby Down (My Man)" on YouTube while you read.
That you're calling
When things start
Getting better for me.
Just to put the pressure
You say you want to go back
To the way things
Used to be.
You ask me how I'm doing.
I say fine.
I've got somebody special
In my life.
See, I never thought
Because you hurt me
But now he's showing me
How love's supposed to be.
And. . .
I won't let my baby down.
I won't let my baby down."
When Lina hits that chorus, she flies like an angel. There is no other earthly description that suffices. "I Won't Let My Baby Down" is one of the most exhilarating rhythm and blues phrases ever recorded.
--Daddy B. Nice
Tracking down the young woman behind "My Man (I Won't Let My Baby Down)" was yet another journey of discovery. It turns out that Lina didn't just appear out of nowhere, a full-blown, Southern Soul star-in-the-making.
Song's Transcendent Moment
"What used to be so vivid
LINA: The Love Chronicles of a Lady Songbird (Malindy/Moodstar) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.Energized by strong percussion, a stunning acoustic bass line, vintage horns and a celestially-inspired background chorus, Lina's "I Won't Let My Baby Down" was the kind of song that justifies the qualifier "da bomb."
In Daddy B. Nice's 4th Annual Southern Soul Music Awards (2010), the song came in at number three for the year:
"The most mind-blowing recording by a new artist since LaMorris Williams' "Impala," Daddy B. Nice wrote. "Recorded in California in 2008, Lina's from-out-of-nowhere classic seeped into the chitlin' circuit this fall via Jackson, Mississippi's WMPR DJ Handyman."
Listen to Lina singing "I Won't Let My Baby Down" on YouTube while you read.
Laying waste to the landscape of Southern Soul music for miles in every creative direction, "I Won't Let My Baby Down" showed up the usual female southern soul radio fare as wanting, in just the way a sleek international model might walk off a fifty-million dollar yacht and show up the local divas singing acapella on the street corner.
Lina had that on-the-cusp-of-innocence, youthful, girl-group sound, but with grit. There was no question of whether or not the singer was "trying to be" a soul singer, as opposed to "being a soul singer"--the rap against so many other neo-soul and retro-soul aggregations outside Dixie.
And in 2012 the Southern Soul audience was treated to an even grittier, gospel-tinged cover of Lina's instant classic by a singer named Lewis (Raw Shaw) Shaw, who simply sang over the sampled Lina original intact.
Listen to Lewis (Raw Shaw) Shaw singing "I Won't Let My Baby Down" on YouTube.
There had been a debate in these pages about whether neo-soul artist Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings would be able to break that barrier between sounding like the real thing and being the real thing.
With one single, "I Won't Let My Baby Down," Lina broke that barrier. A complete outsider, she delivered the real thing and more.
So if you haven't heard of Lina, rejoice, you have now, and the good news is that "I Won't Let My Baby Down" anchors (while by no means dominates) Lina's successful if ineptly-titled new CD, The Love Chronicles of a Lady Songbird.
Making its first appearance on a CD, "I Won't Let My Baby Down," written by Jean-Yves Ducornet and Shelina Wade, occupies the number-two slot on the set, making a spectacular one-two punch with the opening track, a cover of Jackie Moore's little-known, 1971 soul hit, "Precious, Precious." If you can imagine young Southern Soul artist Lacee singing a cover of Denise LaSalle's "Trapped By A Thing Called Love," you'll have an approximation of the style and sound.
When Lina broke into the Southern Soul music scene, no one had any idea of who she was or where she had come from. Shelina Wade (aka Lina) grew up in Texas and lives in California, where she has pursued a neo-soul-slash-World Music career spanning three previous LP's.
Lina debuted on Atlantic Records, where she released her first album, Stranger on Earth, in August 2001. The CD was named one of 2001's Top 10 albums of the year by "Billboard" and spawned the hiphop single, "Playa No Mo," but in today's one-and-done market the young performer still lost her big-label contract.
Lina released her sophomore album titled The Inner Beauty Movement on Hidden Beach Records in 2006 and her third album, Morning Star in 2008 on the Moodstar label. Meanwhile, she assiduously wrote songs, most prominently for Tyrese.
Is the Southern Soul audience ready for this new Lina CD with its battle-tested, beloved single and little else for Southern Soul fans otherwise expecting the usual grown-folks emotion and below-the-belt sex and humor?
The ballad "I Won't Go Down," with its southern-style voice-over, has a memorable if saccharine melody.
Listen to Lina singing "I Won't Go Down" on YouTube.
The vocals, harmonies and arrangements on "Your Love" and "Better Together" sound like neo-soul artist Res ("They Say Vision," "700 Mile Situation"), not to mention Lina's own previous neo-soul outings.
But after "I Won't Let My Baby Down," the finest song on The Love Chronicles of a Lady Songbird--done twice by Lina--is the uptempo "Love." Lifted by a get-up-and-dance hook, "Love" harks back to the operatic, doowop-influenced R&B of late-fifties, early-sixties groups like Deon & the Belmonts and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.
Urban-smooth R&B stations who ladle a small percentage of regional-sounding, Southern Soul-based acts into their mix on a regular basis--radio outlets like WZZA-1570, The Shoals, Alabama---would seem to be the best bet for Lina's new CD to "break out," although from a commercial standpoint "breaking-out" in the chitlin' circuit may not even be a consideration for Lina.
Then again, Lina did record the funky, rock-and-rolling Southern Soul of "I Won't Let My Baby Down," and Lina did show up at Couples Entertainment Center in Jackson, Mississippi in 2011 for WMPR DJ Outlaw's birthday party and--alongside longtime local diva Pat Brown--rocked the house. The hand-held camera shows everything there is to know about the pleasures of getting down at a Southern Soul-style "hole in the wall" and everything there is to know about the authenticity of Lina.
Listen to Lina singing "I Won't Let My Baby Down" at DJ Outlaw's Birthday Party on YouTube.
--Daddy B. Nice
Sample or Buy The Love Chronicles of a Lady Songbird MP3's or CD.
Read more in Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Lina.
If You Liked. . . You'll Love
If you liked The Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," you'll love Lina's "I Won't Let My Baby Down (My Man)."
Honorary "B" Side
"I'm Not The Enemy"
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