James Smith

Daddy B. Nice's #56 ranked Southern Soul Artist



Portrait of James Smith by Daddy B. Nice
 


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"Plumber Man"

James Smith

June 8, 2013:

Interesting new live-in-concert videos from James Smith are newly posted on YouTube. Smith appeared on a "Live And Uncensored" venue with Millie Jackson, Sir Charles Jones and Latimore at the Perani Arena in Flint, Michigan on Saturday, April 20, 2013.

Listen to James Smith singing "Daddy Sweet Back Live Onstage."

Listen to James Smith singing his new single, "Get Off My Track" Live Onstage.

Listen to James Smith singing "Rumble In The Bedroom" Live Onstage.

**********

Mr. Corduroy Soul, James Smith, is the unparalleled master of hardcore Southern Soul grooves. He's recorded three or four songs--"Plumber Man," "Daddy Sweet Back," "Just Ain't Good" and "Work That Body"--that annihilate the majority of the competition.

In fact, the most puzzling thing is why more Southern Soul performers don't dig more deeply into the funkiest, chunkiest layers of soul music for the kind of bass-brawny, hook-heavy, uncompromisingly carnal songs that Smith has made his name doing.

"Plumber Man," James Smith's undisputed signature hit, consists of a simple melody embroidered over a smooth, charismatic guitar line. Smith's version of the tune never gained any exposure, but the better-known, honey-toned, Southern Soul vocalist Charles Wilson had a pretty good run with the song in the mid-aughts of the new century, and its success helped reflect on Smith.

"Plumber Man" works the same, metaphorical territory that Bobby Rush plied in "I'll Be Your Handy Man."

"This job may take all night,"

Smith cautions, and adds:

"Girl, I'm gonna make you sweat."

Then Smith commences to separate the fastidious from the funky:

"We don't need no towel, girl,
Because it's good when it's wet."

Musically, "Plumber Man" is both classic and simple, its tuneful verses rolling over into horn-embellished choruses with the inevitability of the finest Southern Soul.

"Daddy Sweet Back," which never attained hit status, is even more uncompromisingly sexual. A flashy organ/keyboard line slides around the treble-clef scale like a celebrity skater doing pirouettes while James Smith delivers a raw invitation to fornicate with a throaty growl that leaves nothing to the imagination.

"I'm gonna make you
Moan and groan
When I lay this bone.
I'm Daddy Sweet Back.
I just got it like that."

The immediacy--the instant connection--of "Plumber Man" and "Daddy Sweet Back" is hard to over-state. Few Southern Soul stars--including Johnnie Taylor and Tyrone Davis--have made music this blunt and physical. Clarence Carter's "Strokin'," another loping, catchy tune with bare-bones lyrics dedicated to love-making, is the obvious antecedent.

James Smith's Greatest Hits, published by B&J Records in 2005, featured "Plumber Man," and fans could have been forgiven for assuming the album and the song would be Smith's lasting claim to fame. So that when Smith's Everybody Needs Love (B&J) appeared in 2009, including "Daddy Sweet Back" and a handful of other choice cuts--all proffered in Smith's concise and explicit style--most fans were surprised by the CD's collection of rich material.

"Just Ain't Good" and "Rumble In The Jungle" added a new element to Smith's trademark, finger-snapping lasciviousness. For example, in "Just Ain't Good," immediately after Smith sings each line of the chorus:

"It just ain't good
If you can't feel it.
You can't fry chicken
Without greasing the skillet."

--no less a personage than Southern Soul diva Karen Wolfe (of the hit single "Man Enough") lends her unmistakeable voice to the background vocal.

James Smith occasionally slows things down, and when he does the results are likewise admirable. The early ballad "I Won't Tell" (also collected on James Smith's Greatest Hits) is a keeper, and "Knockdown Love" (from Everybody Needs Love) was an unfortunately overlooked slow jam from Smith's most recent set.

James Smith is one of a number of Michigan performers (Detroit, Saginaw, Flint) with connections to Southern Soul, but unlike such singers as Simeo and Al Lindsey, who prefer a slicker, more urban-smooth sound, Smith embraces the early-seventies Stax and Muscle Shoals style with a vengeance. His work embodies the raw, rough, unashamedly physical passion of O. V. Wright and Carl Sims, and it will endure.

--Daddy B. Nice


About James Smith

James D. Smith's music career began in 1967 in Flint, Michigan, where he had moved from Blytheville, Arkansas in 1965. Smith was discovered by Glenora "Ms. G" Roland singing covers of James Brown's hits, and under her guidance he performed regionally throughout the Upper Midwest for over two decades.

Smith recorded his first singles, "Mr. Lover Man" and "Play On It," in 1996. Both songs were covered by Chuck Roberson on his Ecko Records album, LOVE POWER, in 1999.

In 1997, Smith started his own production company and began writing his own material and publishing locally-distributed albums, the best of which were consolidated onto James Smith's Greatest Hits on the B&J Records label headed by the late Bill Coday and subsequently by his widow, Anna Coday.

The greatest-hits album featured the single, "Plumber Man," which had been recorded by previously by both Smith and Charles Wilson. The album also contained Smith's early singles, "Play On It," "I Won't Tell" and "Work That Body."

Everybody Needs Love, Smith's follow-up CD, appeared on B&J Records in 2009 to favorable reviews and chitlin' circuit airplay, featuring the singles "Daddy Sweet Back," "Rumble In The Jungle," "Knock Down Love," and "Just Ain't Good." B&J recording artist Karen Wolfe sang background vocals on many of the CD's tracks.


Song's Transcendent Moment

"Gonna take my plunger
And unclog your drain.
With these hands
I can do most anything."



Tidbits

1.

January 31, 2012:

Listen to James Smith singing "Just Ain't Good" (w/ Karen Wolfe on background vocals) on YouTube.

Listen to James Smith singing "Rumble In The Bedroom (w/ Karen Wolfe on background vocals) on YouTube.

Listen to James Smith singing "Daddy Sweet Back" Live onstage on YouTube.

Listen to James Smith singing "Rumble In The Bedroom" Live Onstage in Flint, Michigan, May 11, 2012.

Listen to James Smith singing "I Miss You" Live Onstagae in Flint, Michigan, May 11, 2012.

2.

February 1, 2011: CD Review

December 29, 2009:

JAMES SMITH: Everybody Needs Love (B&J Records) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

People who listen to Southern Soul radio probably know the mid-tempo song with the groovy hook called "Plumber Man." Loosely based on Bobby Rush's "I'm Your Handy Man," "Plumber Man" is actually much more musical and satisfyingly structured.

People today probably associate "Plumber Man" with Charles Wilson, who recorded a faithful version on his The After Party album (CDS, 2008), where--unfortunately--the writing was credited to Simeo Overall, who was actually only the producer.

The writer and original performer of "Plumber Man" is James Smith, a long under-rated Southern Soul creative mind who is just beginning to come into his own. James "Plumber Man" Smith has been primarily known as a songwriter, but--as everyone knows--behind nine out of ten writers lurks a nascent performer either frustrated to all hell or secretly biding his time.

Smith's version of "Plumber Man," recorded on his CD, James Smith's Greatest Hits (B&J, 2005), is better than Wilson's cover for the same reasons Will T.'s original of "Mississippi Boy" was a little better than Wilson's cover of "Mississippi Boy." Although Charles Wilson's versions are effective and even exemplary, in both cases the originals are rawer, looser, and a tad closer to the source of inspiration.

James Smith's new CD, EVERYBODY NEEDS LOVE, is a super-solid album and should mollify anyone who might have thought it presumptuous to call an essentially first album a collection of "greatest hits." Not only does Smith present a soulful, gritty outing that is miles ahead of 90 per cent of what's out there; he offers two or three songs of the highest order.

"Daddy Sweet Back" is a great song, and a single that's been floating around for a couple of years now. It's a mystery the song hasn't caught on with an influential deejay, one who's ready to play it until the cows come home.

"I'm gonna make you moan and groan
When I lay this bone.
I'm Daddy Sweet Back.
I just got it like that."

"Daddy Sweet Back" is really funky--funky not in the dull-thudding, mechanical way of Parliament-Funkadelic or, more recently, Carl Marshall--but funky in the swinging, street-wise style of Rick James, mid-period Stevie Wonder, or, more recently, Stan Mosley at his most soulful. Maybe "Daddy Sweet Back's" time is still to come.

The new single from the album, designated for radio airplay, "Just Ain't Good," is also a keeper and potential classic. It boasts a great composition anchored by a lifetime-guaranteed hook and a funky-as-a-salted-nut vocal by Smith.

One of the joys of this song and many others on the CD is the background vocals of (among others, and most prominently) the incomparable Karen Wolfe, fresh off her much talked about blockbuster single "Man Enough" and triumphant CD A WOMAN NEEDS A STRONG MAN.

As if the track wasn't already steeped in authenticity, Ms. Wolfe's blue-denim contralto ratchets up the "real-life-feel" of "Just Ain't Good." Smith has a voice that is serviceable but not outstanding, except at times--in glimpses--like the sun peeking out from the clouds on an overcast day. "Just Ain't Good" features one of those celestial partings. As in "Sweet Back," and as foreshadowed in "Plumber Man," James Smith really finds his Stella-like groove.

Then there's the terrific ballad, "Knock Down Love." This is a song that could easily go overlooked, even for an artist whose music routinely disappears faster than an August snow cone.

"She's got that knock down kind of loving,
She keeps it hot, just like an oven."

James Smith has, as Sheba Potts-Wright would say, "big hands"--that is, a man-sized grasp of Southern Soul atmosphere--and his arrangement of "Knock Down Love's" beautiful melody is a primer for young artists who just don't understand the rough beauty of Southern Soul ballads and what makes them so special in this slick and smooth urban age.

In fact, "Knock Down Love" is reminiscent of Stan Mosley's "Rock Me," one of the classics of the genre.

These cuts are the stand-outs, but the CD as a whole is replete with worthy tracks. Among the ballads, "I'm Still In Love With You" is notable. "Everybody Needs Love is a better-than-average love song and a kind or artistic bookend to Karen Wolfe's affecting love ballad, "A Woman Needs A Strong Man." "Caught" is a creeping song featuring one of Smith's seemingly inexhaustible supply of slinky hooks and "Rumble In The Bedroom" is a mid-tempo tune with a nice melody.

This album is highly recommended, and I'll post a link to buy and/or sample the songs and the CD as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, your Daddy B. Nice is sending out the formal announcement: Please RSVP the coming-out party for James Smith's Southern Soul "corduroy soul."

--Daddy B. Nice


If You Liked. . . You'll Love

If you liked William Bell's "New Lease On Life," you'll love James Smith's "Plumber Man."





EDITOR'S NOTE

Over the last year I've been dropping hints to the younger musicians.

"Be watching because there's going to be something coming on the site that'll be a real blessing for the younger people."

And I've also been telling a lot of deserving new artists to bide their time, that their day to be featured in a Daddy B. Nice Artist Guide was coming, and long overdue.

Now, at last, the day has come.

The great Southern Soul stars are mostly gone. There's a new generation clamoring to be heard.

Rather than waiting years to go online as I did with the original Top 100, this chart will be a work-in-progress.

Each month five new and never-before-featured artists will be showcased, starting at #100 and counting down to #1.

I estimate 50-75 new Artist Guides will be created by the time I finish. The other 25-50 Guides will feature artists from the old chart who are holding their own or scaling the peaks in the 21st Century.

Absent will be the masters who have wandered off to Soul Heaven. And missing will be the older artists who for one reason or another have slowed down, become inactive or left the scene.

The older generation's contributions to Southern Soul music, however, will not be forgotten.

That is why it was so important to your Daddy B. Nice to maintain the integrity of the original Top 100 and not continue updating it indefinitely.

(Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul covered the period from 1990-2010. Daddy B. Nice's new 21st Century Southern Soul will cover the period from 2000-2020.)

When I constructed the first chart, I wanted to preserve a piece of musical history. I heard a cultural phenomenon I was afraid might be lost forever unless I wrote about it.

There will be no more changes to the original chart. Those performers' place in Southern Soul music will stand.

But I see a new scene today, a scene just as starved for publicity and definition, a scene missing only a mirror to reflect back its reality.

The prospect of a grueling schedule of five new artist pages a month will be daunting, and I hope readers will bear with me as I gradually fill out what may seem at first inadequate Artist Guides.

Information from readers will always be welcome. That's how I learn. That's how I add to the data.

I'm excited to get started. I have been thinking about this for a long time. I've already done the bulk of the drawings.

In a funny way, the most rewarding thing has been getting back to doing the drawings, and imagining what recording artists are going to feel like when they see their mugs in a black and white cartoon. Hopefully----high! An artist hasn't really "made it" until he or she's been caricatured by Daddy B. Nice.

In the beginning months, the suspense will be in what new stars make the chart. In the final months, the suspense will be in who amongst the big dogs and the new stars is in the top twenty, the top ten, and finally. . . the top spot.

I'm not tellin'.

Not yet.

--Daddy B. Nice

Go to Top 100 Countdown: 21st Century Southern Soul


Honorary "B" Side

"Daddy Sweet Back"



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Plumber Man by James Smith
Plumber Man


CD: James Smith's Greatest Hits
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
James Smith's Greatest Hits


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Daddy Sweet Back by James Smith
Daddy Sweet Back


CD: Everybody Needs Love
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
Everybody Needs Love


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Knock Down Love by James Smith
Knock Down Love


CD: Everybody Needs Love
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
Everybody Needs Love


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy I Won't Tell by James Smith
I Won't Tell


CD: James Smith's Greatest Hits
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
James Smith's Greatest Hits


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Just Ain't Good by James Smith
Just Ain't Good


CD: Everybody Needs Love
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
Everybody Needs Love


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Rumble In The Bedroom by James Smith
Rumble In The Bedroom


CD: Everybody Needs Love
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
Everybody Needs Love


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Work That Body by James Smith
Work That Body


CD: James Smith's Greatest Hits
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
James Smith's Greatest Hits


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy After The Thrill Is Gone by James Smith
After The Thrill Is Gone


CD: James Smith's Greatest Hits
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
Everybody Needs Love


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Can You Do It Again by James Smith
Can You Do It Again


CD: Everybody Needs Love
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
Everybody Needs Love


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Everybody Needs Love by James Smith
Everybody Needs Love


CD: Everybody Needs Love
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
Everybody Needs Love


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Play On It by James Smith
Play On It


CD: James Smith's Greatest Hits
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
James Smith's Greatest Hits


2 Stars 2 Stars 
Sample or Buy Caught by James Smith
Caught


CD: Everybody Needs Love
Label: B&J

Sample or Buy
Everybody Needs Love


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