Daddy B. Nice's SouthernSoulRnB.com - Guide to Today's Top Chitlin' Circuit Rhythm and Blues Artists


 

Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews

December 1, 2018:

CRYSTAL THOMAS: Drank Of My Love (Crystal Thomas) Three Stars *** Solid. The Artist's Fans Will Enjoy.

Drank Of My Love, the second collection from Crystal Thomas, the uber-talented singer out of Shreveport, Louisiana, is disarmingly soft-focused and laid-back. It also suffers from the same malady that marred Ms. Thomas' debut album: a lack of significant new material. Ms. Thomas stubbornly insists on doing all her own composing and the bulk of her producing, revealing once again a wide discrepancy between her writing/producing skills and her breathtaking vocal expertise.

So just as her debut, Lyrical Gumbo: The Essence of Blues, had little to recommend it beyond the song "Country Girl," the new album has no obvious, radio-worthy singles beyond the title track, "Drank Of My Love". And even "Drank Of My Love," a simple blues phrase culminating in a minor-key-sounding note and repeated over and over, is more dispiriting than "bluesy," salvaged primarily by the marvelous background chorus (again Thomas).

The opening track and an already-released single, "Party" is no doubt meant to furnish an upbeat contrast to the taciturn "Drank Of My Love," but there's not a fresh note in the song-- one of those "in-one-ear, out-the-other" party songs. "Mr. Do Right" is a shameless recycling of Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness"--why not just cover the original?-- and "Hey Baby" is a blues that has been done maybe fifty-thousand times. You have to be a blues fanatic to appreciate these brazenly generic exercises. And "Show Me How To Zydeco" fails to capture any of the fizz that cajun music usually gives a southern soul album. Once again the onus is on the songwriting: melodically and lyrically, Ms. Thomas' compositions fall short--that is, they fail to stand out, they have no novelty.

"I'll Be Right Here" is the closest Ms. Thomas comes to succeeding at putting it all--writing, singing, producing--into a vehicle with bonafide charisma. The relaxed, mid-tempo melody brings out the best in Thomas, and her vocal is a marvel. Similarly, the gospel of "Every Hour"--and the energy it infuses--provides an uplifting and refreshing contrast to the languor of the rest of the set. The remake of "Country Girl" in a re-booted tempo is also a pleasure.

Listen to Crystal Thomas singing "Country Girl (2018 Remix)" on YouTube.

Crystal's vocals deliver throughout, through good and bad, thick and thin. However, the fact that the new album doesn't include Crystal's 2018 single, "I Got That Good Stuff," is inexplicable. "Good Stuff" is better than "Drank Of My Love" or anything else on the set, and would have instantly raised the album's profile.

Listen to Crystal Thomas singing "I Got That Good Stuff" on YouTube.

Nor does this album include the song that garnered Crystal BEST FEMALE VOCALIST of 2018 honors: "All I Need Is You," the duet with Big Pokey Bear from his 2017 chart-topping album, BEAR SEASON.

A quick aside on "All I Need Is You." It came out in December a year ago. Dominating throughout was Beat Flippa's keyboard/organ in vibrato mode. Pokey Bear wailed a little on the intro, but Crystal took the first verse. I was so blown away by the sound she achieved with her vocal--and so blown away each time the intermittently-absent bass re-entered the rhythm track--so blown away by both the music and Crystal's vocal, in other words--that I never listened to the words, and never realized that she and Pokey were talking about getting each other Christmas presents--that, in short, it was a Christmas song. So a belated merry Christmas to all!

Listen to Big Pokey Bear and Crystal Thomas singing "All I Need Is You (For Christmas)" on YouTube.

Crystal Thomas' claim to fame remains the work she's done with Jeter Jones: "Something Something,". "Looking For Lovin'," "Them Country Girls," and "Trailride Certified". And with Pokey Bear: "All I Want Is You," "Zydeco, Blues & Trail Ride (ZBT Anthem)" (also with Jeter Jones). And, of course, with Baton Rouge producer Beat Flippa (Ross Music Group).

When she sings with these artists, Crystal rocks and rolls and swings on a level she has yet to achieve in her solo career. Released from the responsibility of writing and producing, she lets her vocals soar in a way her own material has yet to allow: raw and naked sensuality personified. It's hard to believe Beat Flippa, Jeter Jones and Pokey Bear wouldn't have given permission to Crystal to publish these songs. The money, after all, is in the songwriting, and the more the song is published, the more the royalties accrue. Which is to say... At this point in time, Crystal Thomas is less a legitimate solo recording artist than she is a distinguished and eminently-gifted background singer and collaborator: a present-day Queen Ann Hines, a contemporary Thomisene Anderson.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Crystal Thomas' new DRANK OF MY LOVE album at CD Baby.

Buy Crystal Thomas' new DRANK OF MY LOVE CD at iTunes.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Crystal Thomas.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

November 19, 2018:

CAROLYN STATEN: Ladies Night (Michael Darden/Firefyre Records) Five Stars ***** A Can't Miss Debut. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

An abundance of great singles by new female artists have populated the southern soul charts the last two or three years, but great albums by women have been another story--a rung too wide, as it were, a hurdle too high. Vets Lacee and Sweet Angel and recent arrivals Adrena, Rosalyn Candy and Ms. Portia, among others, have published albums to scant reception, while labels like CDS and Coday have avoided any new females and ever-dependable Ecko Records has struggled to find fresh material for its headliner, Ms. Jody. So the emergence of an aspiring independent producer like Mike Darden, coming on the heels of Keith Taylor's emergence as producer/performer P2K (elsewhere this page) is especially welcome.

Carolyn Staten's album Ladies Night is the best debut by a female vocalist since last year's southern soul coming-out of Sharnette Hyter (strangely absent and sorely missed on both the recording and touring scenes in 2018), and Mike Darden's songs and arrangements for Staten's Ladies Night comprise the finest, album-length work by a female in the southern soul genre since Floyd Hamberlin's 2017 collaboration with Nellie "Tiger" Travis on the one indisputably successful, female collection of the last couple of years, Mr. Sexy Man: The Album. It's no coincidence that both albums, Travis' and Statens', benefit from top-notch writer/producers at the top of their game, Hamberlin the aging master and Darden the young gun.

Darden, who has been bubbling up the southern soul charts with sporadic hits for artists such as Adrena ("Better Thangs") and Miss Mini ("That Act Right"), makes good on the promise hinted at in those singles with an outstanding collection of compositions for Ms. Staten, whose husky, no-nonsense phrasings perfectly suit the steady pounding of Darden's dominant themes of female empowerment and the bawdy celebration of love.

Staten's "Thump Mr. DJ" (the only track from the album not written by Darden--Carolyn wrote it) crashed the charts exactly a year ago, November 2017, powered by Darden's seductive rhythm track and Ms. Staten's unique, low-register vocal. Lending the song even more allure was the curious title, "Thump Mr. DJ".

Does a deejay "thump"? Not really, but a "house" beat booming from gigantic speakers does. The "thump" of the title gave the tune a bit of mystery, an identity, in the way Floyd Hamberlin gave "Mr. Sexy Man" a twist--a singularity--by transforming the commonplace phrase, "What's your name?" to "What yo name is?"

Darden serves up an even more high-profile classic with "Mr. Ain't Gone Do Right," a guitar-friendly instrumental track that dollops up generous helpings of the slinky melody along with some of the most deliciously-detailed lyrics of this or any era.

"He won't keep no job.
That ship's done sailed.
And every time he goes to jail
You got to pay his bail."

Or...

"He won't feed the damned dog,
Unless you remind him,
And when you need a man around
You can never find him."

Staten's vocal (beginning with a great voice-over) is unflaggingly powerful, yet full of personality, shifting from honeyed to scathing with thrilling variance, giving you the same comfortable buzz you used to get listening to Marvin Season sing "Hoochie Momma".

Listen to Carolyn Staten singing "Mr. Ain't Gone Do Right" on YouTube.

A new single from the album, "Just The Way You Want It," has been out for a couple of months, and an even newer single, the title tune "Ladies' Night," is coming out soon. "Just The Way You Want It" has a thematic connection with another tune, "This Luvin".

"This loving don't come free,
And you ain't gone rush it,"

Staten says in "This Luvin," adding--

"You wanna get this loving,
But I ain't no fool.
You got to go to work,
And pay your dues."

"This Luvin" comes early in the album. "Just The Way You Want It" comes later, and now Carolyn is singing a different tune.

"I know I made you wait.
I had to get to know you.
You done paid your dues.
I've got some things I want to show you."

Listen to Carolyn Staten singing "Just The Way You Want It" on YouTube.

Together, the two tunes form a satisfying arc of emotional involvement that gives the album a story-like quality. Both songs are lovingly produced, "Just The Way You Want It" with an acoustic interlude. There's a timelessness to the arrangements. They sound modest yet pack a punch, and Darden has so thoroughly absorbed southern soul techniques these songs could have been recorded twenty years ago. Still, they're absolutely up to date and cutting-edge.

"Wall To Wall" and "Ladies Night" also share a duality. They're party songs, but party songs with a distinct romantic bent. "Wall To Wall" cruises along on a "stepping" tempo. The attention to detail is amazing, with string backgrounds, keyboard fills, background singing (including male) all contributing to the flow.

One of the charms of this album is its grit, and grit is the very essence of a pair of bluesier vehicles, "Jody Ain't Got No Job" and "Used To Stay". The uptempo "Jody Ain't Got No Job" features an amusing, deep-voiced "Jody," while "Used To Stay" ("This is not your home/It's where you used to stay.") is a blues lament in the style of David Brinston's "Somebody's Cuttin' My Cake". Once again, the hook is a keeper, and Carolyn's vocal meshes with Darden's textured instrumental track like Crystal Thomas on a Beat Flippa track. The comparison is apt, because Staten resembles no other current singer as much as Thomas in her God-given talent and larger-than-life ability to project.

There really isn't a tune on Carolyn Staten's debut you wouldn't want to hear coming over your radio or streaming device. Thanks to producer Michael Darden, Ms. Staten has delighted us with one of those rare albums you can listen to over and over again with renewed pleasure and surprise.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Carolyn Staten's new Ladies Night album at Amazon.

Buy Carolyn Staten's new LADIES NIGHT album at CD Baby.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Carolyn Staten.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Send CD's to Daddy B. Nice, P. O. Box 19574, Boulder, Colorado, 80308 to be eligible for review on this page.

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October 30, 2018:

P2K DADIDDY: Welcome To The Boom Boom Room (P2K Dadiddy/CD Baby) Five Stars ***** A Can't Miss Debut. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

He's from Shreveport, Louisiana, the last place in America you'd want to live, but the first place in America you'd want to go into a dive, punch a jukebox and listen to popular music. Shreveport was the station we Northerners tuned into in the middle of the night to listen to the wild stuff the northern stations wouldn't play during the day before going off-air. Shreveport was the birthplace of radio-aired R&B and rock & roll in the fifties and, along with Jackson, Mississippi's Malaco Records, Shreveport jump-started contemporary southern soul with Suzie Q Record producers Stan and Lenny Lewis in the late nineties.

Nor is Shreveport's P2K cut from the same cloth as the typical southern soul singer. He lacks the range and power befitting the gospel-singing backgrounds of many, if not all, of the genre's top vocalists. And yet, something about P2K's first southern soul record, "The Boom Boom Room," which dropped in October 2017, made it stand out. Comedian Eddie Murphy had memorialized "boom boom room" in his movie "Life," the idiom meaning not only a club devoted to the prurient pursuits of grown folks but the names of actual venues in the USA (a burlesque joint in St. Louis, for instance).

While P2K's "Boom Boom Room" wasn't the debut of a super-charged vocalist in the vein of a Wendell B., Pokey Bear or Tucka, the vocal did have personality, and that distinctiveness was augmented by the unique production, a carnival ambience that hinted at aspirations of becoming a novelty hit on the order of the Louisiana Blues Brothas' "My Sidepiece"

Then...three months...six months...and another couple of months passed without anything being heard from the young man from Shreveport. Fans could be forgiven for writing off P2K as a one-hit wonder. Until, that is, "Caught Up In The Middle" dropped in June of 2018.

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Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------JUNE 2018-------

3. "Caught Up In The Middle"-----P2K featuring Vick Allen

Who would have thought someone in southern soul music could ever come up with something fresh to say about being "caught between two" in a love triangle? But P2K, heretofore a one-shot recording artist ("Boom Boom Room") and a host/impresario on the chitlin' circuit, does, and with a companion single, "Child Support," also out, he's obviously a promising southern soul songwriter. Naturally, Vick Allen comes to the plate and hits this song out of the park. This track WAS going to be #1 before being knocked off by "Johnny James".

Listen to P2K featuring Vick Allen singing "Caught Up In The Middle" on YouTube.

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If "Boom Boom Room" hinted at the arrival of a promising new songwriter/producer, "Caught Up In The Middle" made the point with the authority of a fist slammed on the desk. Melody, tempo, lyrics and production all clicked. P2K's vocal displayed more variety and maturation. And soon it became obvious what P2K had been doing between "Boom Boom Room" and "Caught Up In The Middle". He'd been in the studio crafting a new fifteen-song, debut album.

Now it's here--Welcome To The Boom Boom Room--and it's a revelation. The album isn't just an interesting debut by an intriguing new singer/songwriter. It's nothing less than a survey of contemporary southern soul music, its themes, sounds and stars. The previously unknown P2K, aka Keith Taylor, exudes the authority of a dude who's been on the scene for years.

Most southern soul debuts contain a popular single or two. Quite a few feature guest appearances by current southern soul headliners, but no debut in recent memory comes close to the extraordinary V.I.P. list of major guest artists or the bounty of new and potential hit singles on the scale of Boom Boom Room.

Sir Charles Jones appears. Jeter Jones contributes on no less than three of the tracks. The aforementioned Vick Allen is featured, as are southern soul veterans Nathaniel Kimble, L.J. Echols, Avail Hollywood, Crystal Thomas and Cupid. There hasn't been such a cavalcade of original southern soul tunes since the first Beat Flippa compilation. And yet--and this is the telling point--these heavyweight collaborations don't sink into hype like capsized dinghys out to sea as so often happens with collaborations. What attracted these guest artists to P2K Dadiddy is the across-the-board excellence of his songwriting, which raises all boats.

Proof? Look no further than "Soul Brothers, Moonshine". The scene in the bar in the YouTube video with Vick Allen, Avail Hollywood, Jeter Jones and P2K proclaims via their knowing smiles and camaraderie that these guys are feeling "it," "it" being their success in carving out viable careers doing what they love.

Actually, "Soul Brothers" is a little different from all the other songs on the set in that it's done in pure Sir Charles Jones style. Even Charles' ubiquitous horn fillip from "Is Anybody Lonely?" is used throughout. "Soul Brothers" is so steeped in Sir Charles' style that I can only assume it's Taylor's homage to the King of Southern Soul. All the other songs have a distinctively new sound which can only be defined as pure P2K.

These are not window-dressing collaborations, with the artists showing up for drop-a-dime verses. Each artist is integrated into the tapestry of the song from beginning to end, and each vehicle is especially suited to the artist, almost as if Taylor wrote the song with that artist specifically in mind.

For example, Avail Hollywood is featured on "Drinking & Thinking," a tune that allows Hollywood to shine in a format aptly suited to his themes and preoccupations. Similarly, L.J. Echols is featured on "Dime From Behind," an easy-going, rocking-the-cradle-tempo-ed vehicle that perfectly meshes with L.J.'s mojo.

Many of these songs are not on YouTube. When an artist publishes through CD Baby, he or she can specify whether or not they want CD Baby to publicize all the tracks via YouTube videos. P2K has chosen not to do that, and I'm not going to analyze the pros and cons of that decision here. It's the artist's decision, and I note it in passing only to explain the absence of links in this review.

Among the songs that have posted on YouTube are P2K's collaboration with Jeter Jones on the matter-of-fact, refreshingly un-whiney "Child Support," his collaboration with DJ Trucker on the beguiling, steel-drum-accented "Trucker Hustle," and his duet with Cupid on the toe-tapping "Zydeco Love."

But currently unposted songs such as "Email" with Crystal Thomas, "Body Rock" with Nathaniel Kimble, "Grown Folk Music" with Lai and "Juke Joint" with Jeter Jones are equally deserving singles. Excepting "Boom Boom Room," P2k goes solo on only "That's What I Like," "Good Thang" and "My Time Now".

"That's What I Like" and "My Time Now" are close to being personal testaments, and the latter, the exit track, is a celebratory summing-up from an artist who knows he's got the goods and he's put in the work. I don't want to jinx him, but P2K will be hard-pressed to ever duplicate this magnificent first effort.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy P2K Dadiddy's WELCOME TO THE BOOM BOOM ROOM at CD Baby.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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October 14, 2018:

MS. JODY: I'm Doin' My Thang (Ecko Records) Three Stars *** Solid. The Artist's Fans Will Enjoy.

I'M DOIN' MY THANG, the new Ms. Jody album, reveals the singer in fine form, totally in the moment and of the flesh, as self-contained and guilt-free as a Rubens nude. Driving across the rural areas of the country and listening to country-western stations, I often imagine the effect a new song like Ms. Jody's "We Got The Real Thing" would have on country fans. Ms. Jody's sound, voice and timber would more than qualify and entice country fans, although I suppose at some point either a vocal inflection or a risque passage would "blow up" the air waves (both positively and negatively) and signal the tune as "black".

As refreshing and sustaining as I'm Doin' My Thang is, however, it's handicapped by lack of a truly memorable hit single. There is nothing with the heft and moral authority of "When Your Give A Damn Just Don't Give A Damn Any More" from Ms. Jody's In The House. There is no cut with the bacchanalian joy of "Just Let Me Ride" from Still Strokin'. Nor is there any track with the piercing modesty and sincerity of "I Never Take A Day Off (From Loving My Baby)" from You're My Angel.

Judging from the letters I get from fans, however, Ms. Jody is as popular as ever with a new generation of fans for whom those earlier hits may not be much of a factor. Listening to these songs, new fans may have the same simultaneous bewilderment and fascination many of us did in our inceptive years, listening to southern soul sounds unlike anything on the national air waves. What was a revelation to us then may well be a revelation to the new fans now.

Which makes for a weird dynamic. On the one hand, you have to be an insider to really appreciate Ms. Jody’s new album. Consider the powerfully-sung first track, “I’m Miss Jody, I’m Doin’ My Thang,” in which Ms. Jody is collecting “big head hundreds” and in the process authenticating herself as one tough bitch. (You need to know Johnnie Taylor in both cases, the “Jody” and the “big head hundreds,” to get the full meaning.)

On the other hand, “insiders” in particular may yawn at this album as “more of the same” precisely because it doesn’t contain anything really new or dramatic, lyrically or musically. In this Ms. Jody faces the same "familiarity breeds contempt" factor that Ecko's other major artist, O.B. Buchana, inevitably accrues with his annual Ecko release.

"Let's Play Hide And Seek" hearkens back to "I Never Take A Day Off." (At least to a longtime Ms. Jody fan. It might be different for the new fans.) And the same can be said for many of the songs on I'M DOIN' MY THANG CD. Their derivations are both familiar and comforting (if you like them), or cliched and hackneyed (if you don't).

"Curiosity Ain't Gonna Kill This Cat" is shamelessly linked by umbilical cord to Ms. Jody's original "kitty" song, "Your Dog's About To Kill My Cat," which (of course) is the far better music, and a revelation when it first appeared. "I'm Never Going Back" is a wonderful ballad, easy to listen to, easy to get lost within, and yet at certain points--to a longtime listener--the nearly-identical bass line and tempo inevitably recalls "When Your Give A Damn Don't Give A Damn."

The same goes for the tunes that charted on Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles in the first two months following the album’s release:

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Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------AUGUST 2018-------

…2. "Let's Play Hide And Seek"-------Ms. Jody

In the hallowed tradition of her first hit single, "I Never Take A Day Off," Ms. Jody's "Let's Play Hide And Seek" showcases her intoxicating alto to superb effect, with lyrics ("Anywhere you hide it/ I don't care") that take you as far as your imagination dares to wander.

Listen to Ms. Jody singing "Let's Play Hide And Seek" on YouTube.

Buy Ms. Jody's "Hide And Seek" at iTunes.

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…5. "That's Where The Party's At"----- Ms. Jody

When a southern soul artist through-and-through like Ms. Jody takes on influences--the zydeco instrumental track, the country-western "tippy-toe" refrain--it's like spice added to a gumbo. It works to perfection. The instrumental background that sounds half like a button accordion and half like a bumblebee belly-heavy with nectar wandering between flowers is John Ward on the keyboards.

Listen to Ms. Jody singing "That's Where The Party's At" on YouTube.

See Daddy B. Nice's "Ms. Jody: New Album Alert!"

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Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------SEPTEMBER 2018-------

8. "Southern Soul Bounce"----------Ms. Jody

I didn't get this song at first. Then the little light bulb went on inside my brain. This is the equivalent of David Brinston's "I Drinks My Whiskey". This is Ms. Jody throwing down the gauntlet and saying, "I'll sing ya some blues, and I'll take my damned time about it. Now get out on the damned dance floor, grandpa!" And five minutes later, Grandpa's still dancing in funky oblivion.

Listen to Ms. Jody singing "Southern Soul Bounce" on YouTube.

Buy Ms. Jody's "Southern Soul Bounce" at Amazon.


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As a matter of fact, there's not another female singer on the scene whom you can count on to so faithfully and reliably channel "grown-folks'" naughtiness. Take “Cowgirl In The Bedroom” ... You know what those southern soul cowgirls like--“a big strong horse they can ride”. Ditto for Ms. Jody's record label, because the great majority of these themes and catch words have been promulgated by Ecko Records over twenty-plus years.

Like all eleven tunes from Ms. Jody's new album, what these three singles have in common is they're immersed in the themes and lexicography of southern rhythm and blues. They come from the heart of southern soul, and a quick survey of Ms. Jody's peers--Nellie "Tiger" Travis, Karen Wolfe and Sweet Angel (not to mention older, semi-retired artists like Peggy Scott-Adams, Shirley Brown, Sheba Potts-Wright, Millie Jackson, Uvee Hayes and Barbara Carr)--makes the case that if it weren't for Ms. Jody's annual album release, there would be no yearly summation of southern soul music from the female perspective. The other divas publish new albums every half-decade or so, if at all, making Ms. Jody by default the reigning, workaholic queen of southern soul.

Here's what that means. If I had to choose between Nellie Travis's "Mr. Sexy Man" album and Ms. Jody's new album, I'd choose Mr. Sexy Man. But if I had to choose between the one album Nellie published in the last five years (Mr. Sexy Man) or the five albums Ms. Jody published in the last five years, I'd choose Ms. Jody's combined work. Knowing Ms. Jody is always there for us is a comfort easily under-estimated.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Ms. Jody's I'M DOIN' MY THANG CD at Amazon.

Check out the voluminous appearances of Ms. Jody on the website (with automatic links).

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Send CD's to Daddy B. Nice, P. O. Box 19574, Boulder, Colorado, 80308 to be eligible for review on this page.

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September 16, 2018:

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Blues Mix 25: Slammin' Southern Soul (Ecko Records) Three Stars *** Solid. The Artists' Fans Will Enjoy.

The new sampler from Ecko Records in Memphis, BLUES MIX VOL. 25: SLAMMIN' SOUTHERN SOUL, features Rick Lawson's "I Done Found Your Good Thang," an "answer" song to Terry Wright's popular "I Done Lost My Good Thang" (Coday Records).

Listen to Terry Wright singing "I Done Lost My Good Thang" on YouTube.

The Lawson single debuted to a mixed reception this past summer. Currently (September 2018) a Daddy B. Nice Featured Artist of the Month, the formerly gospel-based Lawson recorded a series of albums for Ecko Records in the first five years of the new century, establishing himself as a respected journeyman artist in the southern soul genre but never achieving a breakthrough hit single. The new single is his first newly-minted record in over a decade.

The late Denise LaSalle's "I'm Still The Queen (Blues Mix)" with a nice bass line and stepping tempo, was first recorded at Ecko Records for her 2002 Still The Queen album. This updated version features a little more guitar, courtesy of John Ward.

Mr. Sam and O.B. Buchana team up on the well-received "Did You Put Your Foot In It?" The baffling lyrics (to the uninitiated) are a take-off on Theodis Ealey's southern soul classic, "Stand Up In It". The liner notes say the song was previously unreleased, but O.B. recorded it on his Ecko-label album of 2009, It's My Time, and Mr. Sam recorded a slightly different version for his Make Time For Her album in 2017. This one's a classic, if you consider yourself a southern soul fan, and the back-and-forth between Sam and O.B., with Sam obligingly taking on the "younger" role, is a high moment in contemporary chitlin' circuit annals.

"Party Time," listed in the album liner notes as performed by the Pyramid City Band ("pyramid city" a reference to Memphis), is also listed in YouTube as the Paul Child Band. (Lee Gibbs is given credit for the songwriting.) The deep bass lead vocal of "Party Time" will have longtime music fans scratching their heads trying to figure out the song's antecedent, and after some scratching of my bald pate I finally hit on it. It's Laid Back's (a white Euro dance band's) huge club hit from the 80's, "The White Horse," and "Party Time" swipes not only the original's cavernous-bass vocal but hook and tempo as well, with predictably catchy results.

The rest of the collection features seamlessly-transitioned, professionally-produced--yet derivative and on the whole forgettable--outings by Ecko-affiliated artists spanning the last twenty years, with sexual hijinks the unapologetic order of the day. Val McKnight checks in with "Watch That Booty Do". Rick Lawson appears a second time with "Cheatin' Ain't Easy To Do". David Brinston signs in with "Bounce That Booty," and Luther Lackey makes a rare Ecko-label appearance with "Jody's Got My Problems".

With another nod to Theodis Ealey's "Stand Up In It," O.B. Buchana extols the virtues of "Slow Lick It," while Donnie Ray "answers" Rue Davis's "Honey Poo" with "She's My Honey Bee". Jaye Hammer sings "I'm Gonna Hit That Thang," and Ms. Jody sums up the set's tongue-in-cheek cheating and fucking preoccupations with a routine blues called "We Got To Cheat On Schedule".

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Ecko Records' VARIOUS ARTISTS: BLUES MIX VOL. 25: SLAMMIN' SOUTHERN SOUL (explicit) at Amazon.

Listen to full cuts of VARIOUS ARTISTS: BLUES MIX VOL. 25: SLAMMIN' SOUTHERN SOUL on YouTube.

Buy Ecko Records' VARIOUS ARTISTS: BLUES MIX VOL. 25: SLAMMIN' SOUTHERN SOUL at iTunes.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Send CD's to Daddy B. Nice, P. O. Box 19574, Boulder, Colorado, 80308 to be eligible for review on this page.

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September 3, 2018:

JETER JONES: Dhis Him (Ross Music Group)
Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

By eerie coincidence, a singles submission appeared in my e-mail inbox just as I was about to begin this review of the new Jeter Jones album, Dhis Him. The submission was "You Ain't Got No Proof" by Bobby Jones, which contains the same Eric "Smidi" Smith instrumental track that Jeter Jones paid Smidi to use in his first hit single, "Boot Scoot," on his first bonafide southern soul album, Sweet Jones Live @ Leroy's Chicken Shack.

My intention here is not to ask why someone is still recycling this old-ass music as if it were timely. It's to point out how little Jeter Jones knew about southern soul in 2013: specifically, buying instrumental tracks that had previously been used on Bobby Jones and Chuck Roberson singles.

Looking back, it's hard to believe someone as talented as Jeter Jones ever needed, or thought he needed, Smidi's instrumental tracks in the first place. What it signifies is not only how far Jeter Jones has come in half a decade (from the fringes of the genre to being a prime time player recording with the likes of Vick Allen, Big Pokey Bear and Omar Cunningham) but how compulsively driven he was to be a star, an ambition that over four albums--lo and behold--has become a reality.

Each of Jones' subsequent albums--Da GQ Country Boy (with "Cold Pepsi") and Trailride Certified (with "Single Footin'," "My Country Girl" and "She's Ratchet")--have taken quantum leaps forward in showcasing the Jeter Jones brand.

Then why is this new album, DHIS HIM, something of a disappointment? Is it the exceedingly high expectations raised by last year's five-star TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED album in particular, or--more recently--the astonishing single, "Black Horse," a meshing of a subtle Beat Flippa keyboard hook and an incredible Jeter Jones vocal, a song as perfect and natural as a cage-free egg? You'd think a perfect song would result in a perfect album.

Listen to Jeter Jones singing "Black Horse" on YouTube.

In fact, most recently in listening to Big "Ro" Williams on WJLD, I was reminded of another "perfect" single that inflated sky-high expectations--O.B. Buchana's "Why Can't I Be Your Lover". When it was folded into a subsequent album, SWING ON WITH O.B., it garnered only two stars. How can an album highlighted by a "perfect" record result in anything less than a five-star effort?

Here are two albums for reference taken from the pop catalog. If Jeter Jones were The Rolling Stones, this would be his "Exile on Main Street". If Jeter Jones were the Beatles, this would be his "White" album. That's not only because Dhis Him contains a double-album's worth of material, nearly twenty tracks.

It's also because, like EXILE ON MAIN STREET (confession: my least favorite Stones album), Dhis Him throws a little of everything against the wall and monitors what sticks.

It's all about being comfortable, meaning comfortable with a wide range of musical styles, and Jeter is comfortable on this album--a good thing, I admit. And, like The Beatles' "White" album, there are too many stand-outs here to complain. But there's also a fair share of dreck, and the sheer variety of the styles destroys any possibility of a common theme, motif or tempo.

I would rate the four albums...

1. Trailride Certified

2. Dhis Him

3. Da GQ Country Boy

4. Sweet Jones Live@ Leroy's Chicken Shack.

...with the caveat that, given Jeter's current status as a burgeoning headliner on the chitlin' circuit, Dhis Him may well become his most popular album. Here are the highlights and low-lights.

"She's Gone With Jody" (w/ Omar Cunningham)

Strong melody and strong tenors mesh well.

"Juke Joint"

Fellow Louisianan P2K wrote this rocker. His debut CD--also containing the track--is just out: See P2K Dadiddy: New Album Alert!

"Duck Tales"

I guess it's all about the lyrics. Musically, it sounds like a TV commercial.

"Somebody Get This Fool"

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------FEBRUARY 2018-------

....6. "Somebody Get This Fool (Remix)"-----Jeter Jones featuring Vick Allen

Vick Allen sounds like "a million" on this remake of Jeter Jones' "Roommate (Somebody Get This Fool)". The song sounds more "mainstream," and the switch in title helps. For the first time I really understand the lyrics. The song poses the question, "Do we men of principle love "My Sidepiece" because it represents reality or because it's a preposterous fantasy that makes us laugh?"


"What's Happening Now?

Among other artistic and personal inspirations, Jeter's take on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?"

"Dance With You"(w/ Big "Ro" Williams)

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------JULY 2018-------

....8. "Dance With You"--------Jeter Jones featuring Big "Ro" Williams

Jeter Jones stretches his musical wings, leaving his pop and zydeco influences for a jazzier, horn-laden take on southern soul. Unusual, but the rhythm section keeps it rooted. Strong vocals all around.


"She Loves My Boots"

Mis-titled. Should be "She Loves My Blues".

"Phone Bill"

Beat-Flippa-I-Got-The-Blues type of tune, with plenty of deep-quivering Beat Flippa organ to drive home the headache and heartache.

"You Deserve Better"

Passionate ballad, but it's one-hook-repeated-over-and-over, the kind of ballad Pokey Bear would sing.

"Watch My Boots, Pt. 2" (w/ Deacon Dukes, Pokey Bear, Miss Portia & Big Lee)

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------DECEMBER 2017-------

...2. "Watch My Boots, Pt. 2"------Deacon Dukes, Jeter Jones, Big Lee, Pokey Bear & Miss Portia

Even better than the slower-tempo-ed "Watch My Boots" original by Jeter Jones. If you like to dance, this is your jam. Deacon Dukes has a magical, musical touch, and I now sit up and take notice whenever I see his name associated with a tune.


"Get My Groove On"

The keyboards put down a jazzy riff, and Jeter puts on a tux.

"I Need's A Drank"

Light-hearted, uptempo, with a bluesy refrain.

"I Ain't Gone Cheat No More"

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------AUGUST 2018-------

...4. "I Ain't Gone Cheat No More"------Jeter Jones

Not about to put this on a pedestal alongside Ronnie Lovejoy's "Sho' Wasn't Me" or anything, but it chugs away in a juke-joint way with a modesty and urgency that wins me over, and with my love and prejudice for dance jams, I almost put it and the next one (Ms. Jody's "That's Where The Party's At") number one and two, over the ballads (sorry, Sir Charles). If you listen closely, you'll hear Sweet Nay contributing to the raucous texture.


Are you getting the idea?

This album is endless. You can listen to Dhis Him a half-dozen times and still overlook a handful of tracks, as I have in passing over "Still In Love," "Get Outa These Streets" and "I Drank Too Much". There may be three or four more tunes lurking in the corners. When you line up the sheer amount of material, it's impressive, but not quite as impressive as serving up the ten--or maybe even eight--best cuts in one, gleaming, "Black Horse"-level, five-star set.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Jeter Jones' new DHIS HIM album at Amazon.

Buy Jeter Jones' new DHIS HIM album at Apple.

Read Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Jeter Jones.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Send CD's to Daddy B. Nice, P. O. Box 19574, Boulder, Colorado, 80308 to be eligible for review on this page.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Send CD's to Daddy B. Nice, P. O. Box 19574, Boulder, Colorado, 80308 to be eligible for review on this page.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Crystal Thomas, Drank Of My Love, 12-1-18

Carolyn Staten, Ladies Night, 11-19-18

P2K Dadiddy, Welcome To The Boom Boom Room, 10-30-18

Ms. Jody, I'm Doin' My Thang, 10-14-18

Various Artists (Ecko), Blues Mix 25: Slammin' Southern Soul, 9-16-18

Jeter Jones, Dhis Him, 9-3-18

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Send CD's to Daddy B. Nice, P. O. Box 19574, Boulder, Colorado, 80308 to be eligible for review on this page.

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RECENTLY REVIEWED:

David Brinston, Kitty Whipped, 8-12-18 (Contained in the David Brinston Artist Guide. Click link.)

Big G, Lonely Tears, 7-15-18 (Contained in the Big G Artist Guide. Click link.)

Various Artists (CDS), Southern Soul Smashes 7, 7-9-18 (Scroll down this column.)

C-Wright, I Bluez Myself, 6-18-18 (Contained in the new C-Wright Artist Guide. Click link.)

Solomon Thompson, Good Damn Music, 6-6-18 (Contained in the new Solomon Thompson Artist Guide. Click link.)

Various Artists (Napoleon Demps), Southern Soul, Vol. 2: Southern Soul with a Twist, 5-20-18 (Contained in the Napoleon Demps Artist Guide. Click link.)

Various Artists (Ecko), Blues Mix 24: Party Soul Blues, 5-12-18 (Scroll down this column.)

King Fred, Soul 2 Soul, 4-22-18 (Contained in the King Fred Artist Guide. Click link.)

O.B. Buchana, Parking Lot Love Affair, 4-8-18 (Scroll down this column.)

Miss Lady Blues, Pieces Of My Heart, 3-25-18 (Contained in the Miss Lady Blues Artist Guide. Click link.)

Black Diamond, Love Journey, 3-5-18 (Scroll down this column.)

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Rating Guide:

Five Stars ***** Can't miss. Pure Southern Soul heaven.

Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here.

One Star * A disappointment. Avoid.


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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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July 9, 2018:
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Southern Soul Smashes 7 (CDS Records) Three Stars *** Solid. The Artists' Fans Will Enjoy.


First, a disclaimer. Southern Soul Smashes 7 contains one of my favorite songs of all time, Carl Marshall's "I've Lived It All". I put it right up there with Peggy Scott-Adams' "I'm Willing To Be Your Friend" as one of the greatest rants-slash-sermons--and songs--ever recorded. In the barnyard of southern soul, Carl Marshall's "I've Lived It All" is the rooster crowing at dawn, and his gutsy, vividly autobiographical vocal is the farmer calling his hogs--"Soooooo-eeiiiee!"--(think of them as his fellow artists) to the morning trough.

Carl Marshall had actually lost this song from his early career. I had to send my copy of "I Lived It All" back to him to remaster and publish, which he has now done two or three times since. "I've Lived It All" is distinguished by a template-forging, gut-bucket-raw rhythm track, an amazingly communicative lead guitar, and--topping it all off--a soaring, swooping, bagpipe-like keyboard/organ flying the melody like a tattered flag.

"I was out on my own
At the age of twelve,
From a kid to a man,
I caught plenty of hell."

Listen to Carl Marshall singing "I've Lived It All" on YouTube.

Marshall's vocal fuses the desperation of the blues with the zealotry of a preacher and the immediacy of a rapper. When I asked Marshall in a 2009 interview about his early life, he actually broke out into the lyrics of "I've Lived It All" without realizing it. I immediately roared with recognition and the success of the interview was assured.

I've always thought "I've Lived It All" was Carl's true signature song, that it's more relevant and accessible, that it would pull in a lot more audience than "Good Loving Will Make You Cry," which--let's face it--came to its fullest fruition with the Bigg Robb/Carl Marshall collaboration on "Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry (Remix)". Bowing to popular opinion and Marshall's own perspective, however, I've kept "Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry" at #1 and "I've Lived It All" at #2.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Carl Marshall.

Southern Soul Smashes, along with companion series Southern Soul and Party Blues, is the brainchild of CDS Records' executive producer Dylann DeAnna (formerly out of California, now Ohio), and his samplers are a version of Ecko Records' longer-lived Blues Mix compilations.

CDS also publishes the Ricky White / Combination series of samplers, and White, like former CDS producer Marshall before him, mans the production on three of this album's generous fourteen tracks.

I'm on record as wishing Ricky White never touched the "programming horns" lever, but even the Ricky White-produced tracks--Donnie Ray's "Grown Folks Spot" (remember, Donnie Ray recently left Ecko for CDS), Gregg A. Smith's "Can You Still Drop It," and Ricky's own "Grown & Sexy"--are professionally done, with strong, bouncing rhythm tracks that are hard to deny. In fact, there really isn't a bad tune on this entire album.

My least favorite is probably everybody else's favorite: Donnie Ray's. "Grown Folks Spot" is too brassy and gleaming in Ricky White's style. My vision of who Donnie Ray is...Dare I say more homespun?

And although Donnie Ray's "Grown Folks Spot" has 5,000 YouTube views (I didn't expect that many), nothing speaks to the disconnect between the southern soul old guard of Donnie Ray's day and the much more vibrant and expansive southern soul scene of 2018 than the fact that even a song by a relatively new and largely unknown performer like Adrian Bagher can routinely draw 100,000 (!) YouTube views.

On his own song, "Grown And Sexy," White tones down the faux-horns, while the solid rhythm track, decent melody and worthy vocal result in a more satisfying record. In fact, in spite of my aversion to the programmed horns, I found myself grooving to "Grown And Sexy" with ease.

Gregg A. Smith is represented by "Can You Still Drop It?" He was one of Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (1990-2010), and yet, so quiescent has the Texas recording artist's career been that his #1-rated tune all these years, "Stacked In The Back," has never found its way to YouTube.

Ironically, the gap between what Smith has "done" and what's "out there" for people to hear is what makes Southern Soul Smashes 7 such a compelling document. One needs to catch up.

Take Mr. Zay, another "blast from the past" and, like Gregg A. Smith, an original and permanent member of Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (1990-2010). Zay did the first version of Luther Lackey's "She Only Wants To See Me On Friday".

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Mr. Zay.

This is a sampler that's easy to overlook because it lacks contemporary "A-list" performers. Nellie "Tiger" Travis is on deck with "Let's Get It Poppin'", from her 2009 I'm In Love With A Man I Can't Stand album.

But while Nellie and the late Big Cynthia appear, most of the artists featured on Southern Soul Smashes 7 are not household names, even in the Deep South.

And DeAnna isn't searching for the new (i.e. the hottest, the latest) talent here. He's ferreting in the niches and crevices, the borders and frontiers, of southern soul, looking for the questionably-authentic or unjustifiably-overlooked. His is a search for "B-list" and even more obscure veterans who, through whatever exigencies, have been unable to bring their creative dreams to full fruition.

And the best tracks on this album? Those by the "unknowns". Blind Ricky McCants, Jim Bennett, Garland Green, Vel Omarr and Lonnie Robinson. Even Clarence Dobbins--an original partner of DeAnna's in forming CDS Records, the "C" in "CDS".

Garland Green's "Happy Street" typifies the rewards of this sampler. An obscure artist, a never-heard song, and yet a surprisingly professional outing, with a hook that makes one want to listen again.

Same goes for Vel Omarr's "My Love Grows". Everything about this ballad pleases: the modest arrangement, the vulnerable vocal. At times you expect Omarr to break into Ben E. King's "Stand By Me"; at others, into Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come".

The most original music in the set belongs to the still largely unknown Blind Ricky McCants. Possessing an idiosyncratic and memorable voice, the Charleston, South Carolina artist is a singer, writer and producer who has worked as a bassist and background singer with the likes of Clarence Carter, Roy C and many others. McCants' "Sugar Daddy" reworks the melodic structure of Nellie "Tiger" Travis's "If I Back It Up," forging something new. McCants also checks in with "Hot Damn! (Jook & Jam)".

Jim Bennett's "Right Man, Wrong Doctor" is another fascinating song by an artist who's never had a break-through hit. If you like "Right Man, Wrong Doctor," check out Bennett's "Body Roll" and his performances with Lady Mary on YouTube. See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Jim Bennett.

Lonnie Robinson closes the set with "Two Women". The title should really be "Two Women For Every Man In This Club". Robinson charted here with "Outside Woman" in 2011. Following Carl Marshall's "I Lived It All" is a hard act to follow; to Robinson's immense credit, he has the depth to do it.

This album is a low-key alternative and respite from the roller-coaster of excitement, profanity and hyperbole (i.e. Big Pokey Bear, Bishop Bullwinkle, O.B. Buchana, Big Yayo, Johnny James, Cold Drank, not to mention numerous female singers) that is currently--and probably always was and always will be--the rage in southern soul.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Southern Soul Smashes 7 at Amazon.

Buy Southern Soul Smashes 7 at iTunes.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

May 12, 2018:

VARIOUS ARTISTS (ECKO): Blues Mix 24: Party Soul Blues. Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here.

Pictured: Val McKnight

The 24th installment in this long-running and respected series of southern soul samplers is one of the most forgettable. Among the highlights, however, are new versions of Val McKnight's "It's Party Time," which debuted on Blues Mix 19, and a John Ward re-mix of Quinn Golden's classic, "Dance Party".

Listen to Val McKnight & Ms. Jody singing "It's Party Time" on SoundCloud.

Listen to Quinn Golden singing "Dance Party (Remix)" on YouTube.

A third track, Donnie Ray's "It's Just A Party Thing," a similar, mid-tempo gem from Aldredge's middle period, might have upgraded this compilation from "dubious" to "solid" if positioned in the track list next to "Dance Party" and "It's Party Time," making a trifecta of listening enjoyment hard to criticize. But it's not, and the rest of the song offerings on Blues Mix 24, Party Soul Blues haven't much to recommend them. That is to say, the song selections are neither strong enough to turn heads among potential new fans nor obscure enough to satisfy die-hard fans who probably already have the music--or are too familiar with it to really appreciate it.

As per the series' long-running formula, the balance of the set is divided between previously-released oddities (I say "oddities" because none classified as "hits" upon their initial releases) and original recordings by new artists.

There is one exception, a "taste" of O.B. Buchana's new work in the form of an O.B. cover of a Sonny Mack tune, "Get On Up," which had been published in a Blues Mix #21 sampler a couple of years earlier. In a twist of fate, the uber-talented Buchana's version of "Get On Up" lacks some of the charm of the original Sonny Mack release, and in any case, Buchana fans would be much better served buying O.B.'s 5-star-rated Parking Lot Love Affair album (see the review elsewhere this page), which contains "Get On Up" and much, much more first-rate, original Buchana material.

The "previously released oddities" are represented by esteemed, turn-of-the-century artists Bill Coday ("Hoochie Dance") and Barbara Carr ("Y'All Know How To Party") and more recent crowd-pleasers Jaye Hammer ("Mississippi Slide") and Sweet Angel ("Back It Up and Slow Roll It").

As for the "new," the debut of the PCB Band left this reviewer unfazed, although it reminded me to warn Northerners that what is called "blues" in the North is not what is called "blues" in the South. And other than her relationship with Mr. Sam, I have no idea why talented newcomer Ms. Genii plies a southern soul career path. Her music is "funk", not "southern soul," and at this point in time, funk is still a more lucrative (easier to get gigs, etc.) professional path. In the context of the sampler, Genii's two contributions ("Like A Cowboy," "Be Careful What You Ask For") set a hard-edged, urban-sounding note of discordance that sinks any hope Blues Mix 24 has of achieving a cohesive atmosphere.

If you're wondering what a compilation with "cohesive atmosphere" might sound like, pick up the great Ecko sampler, Blues Mix Vol. 17: Dirty Soul Blues. And in addition to buying three or four mp3's of the songs under review, your Daddy B. Nice recommends sampling the Ecko Records website, which contains an entire page devoted to the totality of their compilations.

Go to Ecko Records' website, click "Featured Artists," scroll down to bottom of page and click "Ecko Records Compilations".

--Daddy B. Nice

Pictured: Sweet Angel

Buy Blues Mix 24, Party Soul Blues at Amazon.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

April 8, 2018:

O.B. BUCHANA: Parking Lot Love Affair (Ecko Records) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.
Fourteen albums and counting, all on Ecko Records (not counting his early Paula/Suzie Q releases). Is it any wonder that O.B. Buchana, popping out CD's at the rate of one a year over two decades, experiences inevitable swings--ups and downs, hills and valleys? Oh, and by the way, that's more than double the album releases of superstar competitors T.K. Soul and Sir Charles Jones. O.B. Buchana is the most prolific southern soul artist of his generation.

Last year's SWING ON WITH O.B. was one of the lows, despite the catchiest, rocking-est single of Buchana's last decade, "Why Can't I Be Your Lover?" with its highly addictive, zydeco-buzzing accordion accompaniment. (See Best Mid-Tempo Song of 2016.) But there wasn't much else on Swing On, and what there was drew attention to some of O.B.'s faults, not his strengths.

That dynamic is flipped in this year's offering, PARKING LOT LOVE AFFAIR. His new album on Ecko accentuates all of O.B.'s artistic robustness: the breathtaking power he's able to turn on and off with a gunslinger's speed, the piquancy of his country-western leanings, the graceful balance of just-another-guy humility and larger-than-life, Ronnie-Lovejoy-scaled, Sho-Wasn't-Me grandeur. Buchana could be a big bully but he's not. He's a gentle giant, brimming with empathy, and all this and more is distilled into every note and syllable.

Songs from the new album began leaking out in December of 2017, when "Get On Up" appeared. Sonny Mack, another Memphis-based Ecko artist, originally wrote and recorded "Get On Up," which first charted in April 2016. O.B.'s cover version charted in December 2017, with the Daddy B. Nice comment: "It's like you think you're getting on the usual O.B. Buchana stagecoach and you find yourself on one of those 200-mile-an-hour Japanese tubes, spine pressed against the back of your seat."

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "Get On Up" on YouTube.

Another Sonny Mack tune, one with a pleasant, rocking-chair-like melody and mid-tempo rhythm, "Goody Good Good Stuff," is also reworked by O.B. on this album.

But the real sign of the new CD was the arrival of the title tune:

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------FEBRUARY 2018-------

1. "Parking Lot Love Affair"-----O.B. Buchana

Who hasn't run into a stranger in a mall, been too bashful to approach, and later regretted it, sometimes remembering the stranger for years afterward? "Parking Lot Love Affair" is a universal fantasy and a giant step into a new frontier for southern soul's master stylist. O.B. puts everything into it: immediacy, a staggeringly-forceful vocal, a fan-friendly concept, great songwriting and, most prominently, all of himself, nothing held back.

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "Parking Lot Love Affair" on YouTube.


"Nothing held back..." I found that a recurring thought as I listened to this CD. Even on its most innocuous numbers--for example, the Ecko-generic, opening cut, "I Wanna Get With You"--you're struck by one/ the freshness of O.B.'s vocal, two/ the "white-boy"-sounding background singing that the Ecko group has been honing on various records lately and taken to dizzying heights of charm, and three/ the wild and prolonged and amazingly textured falsetto notes Buchana lets loose with in the closing chorus.

O.B. followed up his #1 showing in February with another charting in March:

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------MARCH 2018-------

1. "The Mule"------O.B. Buchana

I prefer O.B. as the stud of "The Mule," brimming with swagger and sexuality, to the tentative, would-be dancer of "Teach Me How To Swing," another song featured twice on Buchana's new Parking Lot Love Affair album. "The Mule's" rhythm section slinks along like a giant king snake while the Bootsy Collins-style guitar distortion blends with the falsetto background-singing of Latoya Malone to make a new and fiery sound. O.B. hits #1 for the second month in a row.

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "The Mule" on YouTube.


And O.B.'s "Jam On With Me," with a little West-Indian flavor and a classic deep-soul organ highlighting the instrumental track, was a near-#1 chart-contender in April--and may be so again in May. (This is being written in April.)

See Daddy B. Nice's Corner: News & Notes April 7, 2018: Top Ten Singles "Spillover"

O.B. sings the lilting melody of "Jam On With Me," with an enduring sweetness. It's a feel-good song. It's even got a bridge--and a decent one at that. Incidentally, Both "Jam On" and "Parking Lot Love Affair" were written by Aubles (pronouced "O.B." in French, get it?) Buchana.

O.B. also wrote "Teach Me How To Swing," done twice on the album, and my least favorite of the selections. A little too like a Broadway tune. But in a set of songs as strong as this (think only of the devastating John Ward guitar lick that kicks off "Parking Lot Love Affair"), even "Teach Me How To Swing" holds interest. Some of the lyrics are telling:

"All my life, I watch people
Swaying on the dance floor.
I want to do it so bad,
But all the steps, I just don't know.

Then I saw you dancing.
You were the best I've ever seen.
A superstar on the dance floor,
Making the moves look
Like they came out of a dream.
You make it look easier than it can be..."


What O.B. is talking about in such autobiographical detail in "Teach Me How To Swing" is the bond between performers and dancers. I react to these lyrics from the perspective of the dance floor. I'm like those club-dancers in the Sharnette Hyter video to "Stilettos & Jeans." What got me into club-dancing was my fascination for the moving human form (and being divorced, lonely, desperate, and not wanting to go to church to meet women), and after a few years, I just danced for the sheer love of dancing. So I can well understand the poignancy behind O.B.'s putting dancers on a pedestal, a wish-fulfillment that reverses the usual fan-to-star situation. Although I do like the background singing on the "Club Remix," however, in the end "Teach Me How To Swing" really doesn't warrant doing twice. In a set with so many fine tunes, though, who's nitpickin'?

Two solid songs with hit potential in their own rights, "Las Vegas, Mississippi" (O.B.'s talking about Tunica, right?) and "Keep On Rollin'" round out this highly recommended album.

Way to go, O.B.! And congratulations for being the #6-ranked artist in contemporary southern soul music.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy O.B. Buchana's new PARKING LOT LOVE AFFAIR album at Amazon.

Buy O.B. Buchana's new PARKING LOT LOVE AFFAIR album at iTunes.

Chart-Climber! O.B. Buchana Rises from #9 to #6 on...

See Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (21st Century)

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to O.B. Buchana.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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March 5, 2018:

BLACK DIAMOND: Love Journey (Black Diamond / M.D. Records) Three Stars *** Solid Debut By A New Southern Soul Group.

Scratching my head a few songs into this set, I had one dominant thought: Black Diamond is a lot further from being a southern soul act than a couple of their singles had led me to believe. For example, "Don't Stop Moving," the opening track of the group's debut album, LOVE JOURNEY, and a piece of pop and southern soul artistry that any southern soul aficionado would treasure, is followed by the banal, female-lead-sung "Groove You," which doesn't sound anything like the male-lead-sung "Don't Stop Moving". It could be a different band entirely.

So if you're coming to this album with strong southern soul expectations, you need to temper them. The regional base of Black Diamond overlaps with the beach music genre, "beach music" being a kind of Southern Soul Lite (albeit better than most of the country) in which boy-band melodies, flute-like keyboard lines and other "pop" mannerisms--not to mention interchangeable male and female lead singers--are more the norm.

But oh my! The fireworks generated by the mostly Ricky Fuller-based vocals on the album's choicest tracks! The talent of the four principals--Ricky and Clarence Fuller, Karen Jackson and Reginald L. Barnes--is not in question. Nor is the expertise of their producers: Jamal Lewis, Eric Darnell, George Dickens Jr. and Purvis Williams.

Multi-talented fellow-Carolinian J. Red produced "I Will (If He Won't)," the song that first brought Black Diamond to the attention of the chitlin' circuit. (I received my copy in March of 2014! Hard to believe it's been four years.)

Then there's "True Love," not quite as catchy melodically but still a solid piece of songwriting, and an obvious attempt to create a song immersed in southern soul convention.

The masterpiece of the set is "They Want Me Too," a lavish composition in which all the group's finest qualities mesh: the lead-singing of Ricky Fuller, the back-and-forth harmonizing of Ricky and his brother Clarence, and the most effective (if modest) use of Karen Jackson's background singing to forge a tune good enough to crash both the southern soul and beach music charts.

Here's my initial write-up upon its first charting here in 2016:

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Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------MARCH 2016---------

5. “They Want Me Too (Don't Let It Ruin Us)”--------Black Diamond

One of the lead singers (North Carolina brothers Clarence and Ricky Fuller share duties) sounds like The Eagles’ Don Henley, charismatic within a restricted vocal range, but one that etches itself in your memory. The harmonies (including Karen Jackson and LaShunda Tyson) are great.

Listen to Black Diamond singing “They Want Me Too (Don’t Let It Ruin Us, Baby)” on ReverbNation.
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Or one could cite "Rescue You," in which the band scores the biggest coup a new band with southern soul aspirations can attain, guest-featuring none other than the "King of Southern Soul," Sir Charles Jones.

At its best ("Don't Stop Moving," "They Want Me Too," "True Love," "I Will"), LOVE JOURNEY is the perfect fit for that "Americana"-Grammy niche--an irresistible blend of southern soul and pop. Due to mainstream America's ignorance of the chitlin' circuit and southern soul music, only recall that William Bell's 2016 Grammy for his contemporary southern soul album THIS IS WHERE I LIVE came in the "Americana" category.

But as commendable and enjoyable as the bulk of the first half of LOVE JOURNEY is, the second half--consisting of mostly Karen Jackson-showcased tunes--disappoints. In-your-face, urban-smooth "Slippin" and "Real Love" in particular are far removed from the southern soul atmosphere set by the preceding Fuller Brothers songs.

And is it southern soul prejudice to suggest the use of Karen Jackson as a lead singer does not work in a southern soul context? (Not because she's female, you understand, but because she's a competing lead singer with a jarringly different sound.) And if so, isn't that prejudice (call it the prejudice of not wanting to be confused) also reflected in southern soul radio? I haven't heard any of the Karen Jackson lead vocals on the usual outlets.

Which brings up the larger question. Can Black Diamond as currently assembled even survive? I don't see how. There's too much talent tugging in opposing artistic directions. Whether you like them or not, the Karen Jackson vehicles distract and detract from the Ricky Fuller hits (the songs the fans recognize as "Black Diamond"), diluting their impact, and this dichotomy in sound imperils the band's continuing viability.

Add to that the difficulty of even being a "band" in southern soul. The only two examples of successful bands on the chitlin' circuit in recent years are the Klass Band Brotherhood (whose fans also overlapped with beach music) and The Revelations featuring Tre' Williams (essentially white Northerners with a black front-man), and where are they today? Disbanded. Nelson Curry and Tre' Williams, their respective lead singers, are solo artists, following a long and hallowed tradition of lead singers transitioning from R&B groups to solo careers.

I can only think of one other instance in the 21st Century of a (regionally) successful contemporary southern soul "band". That would be Hardway Connection. Ironically, Hardway also came out of that "Southern Soul Lite" Eastern seaboard connection, Maryland specifically.

The Black Diamond "brand"--a tremendous accomplishment in itself--is Ricky Fuller's. It's the sound of "They Want Me Too" and "Don't Stop Moving," and if this were a four or five-song EP, LOVE JOURNEY would rate five stars--the best there is.

But as constituted LOVE JOURNEY is unfortunately a twelve-track ultimatum on the contradictions confronting this band's future.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Black Diamond's new LOVE JOURNEY CD at CD Baby.

Buy Black Diamond's new LOVE JOURNEY CD at iTunes.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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