L. J. Echols (New Album Alert)
Daddy B. Nice's #38 ranked Southern Soul Artist
"From The Back"
L. J. Echols (New Album Alert)
Composed by L. J. Echols
October 31, 2015: NEW ALBUM ALERT!
Sample/Buy L.J. Echols' new TASTE LIKE CANDY CD at SOUL BLUES MUSIC.
Sample/Buy L.J. Echols' new TASTE LIKE CANDY CD at CD BABY.
Sample/Buy L.J. Echols' new TASTE LIKE CANDY CD at iTunes.
Watch the official (animated) L.J. Echols video of "She's Draggin' That Wagon" (from the new album) on YouTube.
Listen to L.J. Echols and Luster Baker singing "Big Leg Woman" (from the new album) on YouTube.
To automatically link to L.J. Echols' charted radio singles, awards, CD's and other citations and references on the website, go to "Echols, L.J." in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.
Daddy B. Nice's Guide to L.J. Echols
L. J. Echols' "From The Back"
adds another milestone to the storied tradition of "doin' it" sexual odes in Southern Soul music, following such classics as Clarence Carter's "Strokin'," The Love Doctor's "Slow Roll It," Theodis Ealey's "Stand Up In It," Chuck Strong's Rock That Man In The Boat" and Nellie "Tiger" Travis's "If I Back It Up." The tradition stretches as far back into the past as so-called "popular" music itself. The relatively recent term "rock and roll" (only sixty years old, for instance) began as a metaphor for making love.
Still, this tradition in Southern Soul music has its detractors among the prudish and squeamish. Of the hard-core detractors, there is nothing to be said that would appease them. Sex is one of the top subjects of Southern Soul music, and its fans want to hear about it. But what separates sex in soul music from, say, soft-core pornography, is its originality.
Even in Southern Soul music, if it's not unique (witty, catchy, different, memorable) it will disappear. Only the exceptional songs--the tunes with great melodies, hooks and lyrics--succeed and sustain, and L. J. Echols' "From The Back" is such a song.
Listen to L. J. Echols singing "From The Back" on YouTube while you read.
Echols approaches his subject (no pun intended) with a straightforward realism based upon real-life details, sometimes erotic, sometimes matter-of-fact and sometimes whimsical. The song is not so much soft-core porn as it is a life story of one couple's sexual and emotional relationship.
Musically, "From The Back" is a guitar-picker's delight. The simple melody turns on a guitar hook consisting of two long descending notes followed by a twirling swirl of rapid-fire notes.
The arrangement is bare-bones: Echols' blue-collar vocal stylings (sans background) over the lead guitar and rhythm section--the length short and sweet, barely three minutes.
Lyrically, the song is by turns titillating and conversational. At times it seems to be heading "over the top" and yet its friendly, casual tone downplays the carnal subject matter.
"Come over to my place.
We don't need no hotel--not today.
Champagne and caviar.
Girl, let me know
If I'm going too far.
Your wish is my command.
If you let me get it,
I'll see you again.
And this I guarantee.
Let me give you a potion
To what I mean.
Do you want me to get it
From the back?
Girl, do you like it
Do you want me to lay up in it
From the back?
Girl, I like getting it and hitting it
Paradoxically, one of the endearing features of the song is the narrator's unself-conscious egotism. L.J.'s hero is no saint. He's not even upstanding. He's a young guy intent on sex and not a lot else. But the fact he's so open and unapologetic about it makes it okay in an ironic kind of way. That is, you can readily imagine a young gal responding to him just because he's so upfront and enthusiastic. Conversely, you can imagine a more worldly-wise "grown-folks" woman having nothing to do with the young but irresponsible stud.
"And baby," L. J. sings later in the song,
"Please don't forget your Master Card
Because when I get done with you,
You'll treat me like a movie star."
The power of Echols' unconventional vocal tone, simultaneously charismatic and humble, with country-boy accents and inflections, can't be over-estimated.
The rural flavor that flows through all of L.J.'s vocal phrasing would verge on the thuggish and gangsterish in the hands of a rapper or hiphopper, but L.J.'s "aw-shucks" demeanor defuses much of the selfishness and materialism in the words.
L. J. Echols entered the Southern Soul scene in 2005 with the release of his single (and 2006 album of the same title), "Well Runs Dry." A potent precursor of "From The Back," with similar guitar-picking props and a casual, accessible vocal, the song plays with the oft-recorded theme, "You don't miss your water/ Until the well runs dry."
L.J.'s hero is on the flip-side of "From The Back," bereft of loving and wondering why.
"We've got three kids
In this relationship,"
Echols sings in "Well Runs Dry."
"We even have a house on a hill.
What have I done to deserve this?
Your wicked ways just don't make sense."
"Well Runs Dry" introduced the folkish, guitar-accented Southern Soul of L. J. Echols to the Southern Soul audience, and if there were any doubt of Echols' emotional depth and spiritual centeredness, its companion piece from the debut album, "Thank You Mamma," dispelled them and underlined Echols' star potential.
"Mel Waiters got a song about Big Mama," Echols sings, "But L.J. wrote about a song about 'Thank You Mama'."
Over his trademark guitar riffing, L.J. sings a straightforward love song to his mother, in the process casting his distinctive voice in a decidedly sentimental vehicle.
"Without your love,
Where would I be?
I'd be on drugs or in jail,
Or on the corner or dead asleep."
And. . .
Macaroni and cheese,
Neckbones and black-eyed peas.
I miss your
In 2009 Echols followed up the Well Runs Dry album with a masterful sophomore effort. Another Level brought together what would become L.J.'s signature tune ("From The Back") with an assortment of above-average tunes: "(Like) Taking Candy From A Baby" (a mid-tempo outing about letting a best friend steal his girlfriend), "Everybody Needs Somebody" (a ballad about saving a relationship), "Love Boat" (an uptempo song about a cruise-ship experience) and "Love" (a ballad about love's durability), in addition to solid but unspectacular offerings like "14-16" and "Let's Get Married."
The most spectacular track (outside of "From The Back"), however, was a Sir Charles Jones-arranged and produced song titled "I'm Gone Party." Complete with one of Jones' trademark riffs, the song ventured far into synthesized arranging (a wash of string-section and brass-section features) that any Las Vegas oddsmaker would have made an extreme long shot to succeed on even an elementary level.
And yet, with L.J.'s typically humble and rooted vocal skipping briskly over the swirling wash of sound, the song not only worked but triumphed. Jones' voice was never heard. His presence was only heralded by the same riff that had graced two or three of his own songs over the years.
Another Level raised eyebrows across the chitlin' circuit. L. J. Echols had produced the kind of album every artist dreams about: a collection with radio-worthy singles in practically every niche.
Echols supported the CD by touring tirelessly over the next two years, hitting every venue from big halls to fast food jukes and laundromats. All the hard work paid off, and L.J. quickly and surely became a recognized Southern Soul brand, attracting fans and influencing peers. He had arrived as a bonafide Southern Soul star.
--Daddy B. Nice
About L. J. Echols (New Album Alert)
Herman (L. J.) Echols was born in Bassfield, Mississippi, near Hattiesburg in the southern section of the state. L. J. was the oldest sibling in a gospel group called the The Echols Family, which consisted of Herman Echols Sr. (his father and the lead guitar player), Mary Echols (his mother and the lead singer), L. J. (bassist and background singer), Demetric Echols (background singer), Sedrick Echols (drummer and background singer, and cousin Carlson McLoud (backgound singer). They published two gospel albums in the mid-nineties.
Song's Transcendent Moment
"I got rose petals on the floor.
August 30, 2009: L. J. ECHOLS: Another Level (Neckbone) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.With his simple-living sound and his heart-felt authenticity, L. J. Echols is the most charismatic artist to come out of the folk/blues side of Southern Soul since the rise of Theodis Ealey and his from-out-of-nowhere classic, "Stand Up In It."
In the years since "Stand Up In It" pushed its way to the center stage of Southern Soul, the similarities between it and Echols' "From The Back," the near-year-long Southern Soul hit single and centerpiece of Echols' new album, Another Level, are difficult to avoid.
Try and think of another newcomer who, like Echols, has arrived on the scene so full of musical ideas, with the singing voice and producing polish to execute those ideas at the highest level and--hardest of all--the talent to pass them off as real-life impressions, humble, spur-of-the-moment slices of life.
There is a reason no one has ever written (or, shall we say, succeeded at performing) a Southern Soul song quite like "From The Back". Consider the pitfalls. Even now, reading the title, the concept sounds at the least vaguely X-rated and unfit for public consumption.
And yet L. J. not only rushes blissfully into this minefield of possible career-sabotaging material but succeeds in delivering an absolutely winning version of a male mating dance: a staunchly horny but optimistic, somehow wholesome and natural-sounding tour de force.
Ask your ladies about the "natural, wholesome" part if you think your Daddy B. Nice is steering you wrong on this. Sure, L. J. indulges in exhorting his woman to "bring her Master Card" and other egotistical male foolishness, but this is just the kind of tomfoolery women expect from men coming onto them.
And of course, it could only happen in Southern Soul music. Rejoice, y'all.
Still, the unspoken magic of "From The Back," (Daddy B. Nice's #4-ranked Southern Soul Single of 2008), is not really the lyrics but the guitar lick that whips it along. Like Theodis Ealey, Echols has a primary relationship with his guitar. You can feel it in his songs, which sound like they were composed with getting the guitar riff down as the first priority.
Another Level is L. J. Echol's sophomore effort. His first, Well Runs Dry, pulled off the pretty amazing feat of making a lot of people forget the melody to the William Bell classic, "You Don't Miss Your Water." The end of that phrase, of course, is "until the well runs dry," which L. J. took as the inspiration for his own song, "Well Runs Dry."
Echols grew up in Bassfield, Mississippi (the Hattiesburg area). L. J.'s father played guitar with a gospel group, the Gospel Sensations, and the young L.J., his mom, his dad and two brothers had their own gospel group called the Echols Family, with CD's published in 93 and 95.
The Echols' brothers moved to Dallas in 2000, where along with a cousin they struggled with their musical identity. Finally, L.J. (the first-born, as we know from the lyrics of "Thank You Mamma," Daddy B. Nice's #13-ranked Southern Soul Single of 2007,) decided to strike out on his own as a Southern Soul-styled R&B act, writing and producing his own grown-folks material.
Well Runs Dry (which included "Thank You Mamma") was a solid debut, but Another Level, the new CD, is a major leap forward, transporting L. J. Echols into the "front lines" of the young guns of Southern Soul, performers such as Omar Cunningham, T. K. Soul, Sir Charles Jones, Floyd Taylor, Reggie P. and O. B. Buchana.
There's not a bad cut on the album. You keep asking yourself, "Can he keep this up without getting repetitious? Without getting sentimental?", and L. J. keeps producing one fine track after another.
"Taking Candy From A Baby" (Daddy B. Nice's #7 Single, February 2009) could easily be the follow-up single to "From The Back," with a great hook and a great concept. L. J.'s best friend steals L. J.'s woman "right before (his) eyes."
"I did nobody wrong.
Why did it happen to me?"
. . . sings the trusting and innocent L. J. over a beautifully conceived melody.
"Everybody Needs Somebody" is the new album's equivalent to the first album's "Thank You Mamma." In this slow, stately ballad L. J. turns to his grandma for advice, which is memorialized in the title.
"Swangers Only" is another potential single, although a little lighter and less memorable than "From The Back" or "Taking Candy From A Baby."
The ballad "Love" and the quasi-novelty hit "14-16" ("Tell your mamma I love her for feeding you this way. . . ") transition into two tracks that close out the disc in a powerhouse fashion.
"Love Boat" is a frenetic and catchy-sounding chronicle of L.J.'s excitement at being invited on a cruise ship gig with other Southern Soul acts.
And "Let's Get Married" ushers the listener into the unexpectedly lush "I'm Gone Party" (Daddy B. Nice's #1 Single, December 2008), in which Sir Charles Jones (who produced) grafts the horn hook from his own classic "Is There Anybody Lonely" onto Echol's terrific melody and lyrics.
(See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Sir Charles Jones for an exegesis of this collaboration.)
Another Level's one song produced by someone else--Sir Charles Jones--takes away the guitar prominence of the usual Echols arrangement, replacing it with a languorous wash of sound that nevertheless showcases Echols' vocal in a way that is just as appealing.
You wouldn't think it would work, but it does.
Sound is important to L. J. Echols, and that doesn't mean imitating the latest Southern Soul sound. In fact, L. J. told your Daddy B. Nice that his favorite artist is James Taylor of "Fire And Rain" fame.
And an Echols song like "Everybody Needs Somebody," in which the singer addresses the audience in a monologue about personal experiences, could be a tune by Billy Joel or, at the other extreme, any busker or coffee-shop folksinger in your home town.
"There are no blues artists that I would walk up to and say, 'Can I have your autograph?'" L. J. told your Daddy B. Nice after a recent CD Release party in the Dallas area.
"I don't mean that in a disrespectful way," L.J. said. "I just mean that I love and respect all music. I have a good attitude for anybody. I write about my life and the things I've been through."
What he's trying to say (without sounding self-congratulatory), and what I can say for him, is that his likeable and expressive vocal and his twangy, country-boy inflections on "From The Back" carry the indelible birthmark of Southern Soul music. Without imitating any one artist or any one style, a trait he shares not with Ealey but the late great Frank Mendenhall, L. J. Echols has carved out his own little niche in Southern Soul's gallery of young stars.
--Daddy B. Nice
October 8, 2012: NEW ALBUM ALERT
Sample or Buy L. J. Echols A New Beginning CD.
5.January 1, 2014:
CHART CLIMBERS 2014:
L. J. Echols and his hit Southern Soul single "From The Back" climbs from #47 to #38 on Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 21st Century Southern Soul Artist Countdown.
Go to the complete library for Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 Countdown: 21st Century Southern Soul Artists
January 1, 2014:
2013 was a break-out year for L.J.'s little sister, Krishaunda. Daddy B. Nice wrote many pieces on Krishaunda Echols and L.J.'s contributions to her success--particularly with her summer single "Mad Dog 20-20." The story is summarized in The Year In Review: 2013 on Daddy B. Nice's Corner.
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