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


 

Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews

July 25, 2015:

BIGG ROBB: Showtime (Music Access/Robb Music/Over 25 Sound)

Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

You have to hand it to Bigg Robb. While the Klass Band Brotherhood has been experimenting--some might say dithering--with uncharacteristic, hard-edged, funk material since the sweet, mid-tempo "Sugaa Shack" bomb that made their brand, Bigg Robb has recognized the cradle-rocking euphoria of "Shack" and appropriated their signature song, reverentially recording and re-recording it (with Nelson Curry's blessing) in the same fashion he co-opted Carl Marshall's "Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry (Remix)" (also reverentially, with Carl's blessing), giving both songs greater radio and internet exposure and ever more widespread popularity.

Showtime, Bigg Robb's terrific new album, features Robb's, Mz. Jackson's, et. al.'s techno-enhanced "Sugar Shack (Extra Long Remix)," displaying once again (as if we needed proof) that Robb is the most cunning and intuitive producer in the business today, but it by no means stands alone. Within the confines of Showtime's typically generous, B-I-G-G sixteen-track set, "Sugar Shack (Extra-Long Remix)" is merely the precursor to Robb's own bid for the "sweet spot" of southern soul music: the mid-tempo, lullaby-like "Good, Good."

Robb understands that a really good song is a "full house," and "Good Good's" basement is a bass line to die for, with all the other instrumental and vocal pieces lovingly layered like a ground floor, upstairs, attic and roof. Over the years Robb's enhanced lead vocals have progressed with such finesse (and his lyrics have stockpiled so much audience trust) that his singing now sounds perfectly sincere and authentic--natural, if you will--to anyone who listens to southern soul music with regularity.

"Good, Good" is the culmination of all of Robb's diligence, an easy-going anthem that perfectly sums up not only his charisma but the very popularity of southern soul itself.

Here's a birds'-eye view of the other musical riches contained in this new collection:

"Hotter Than Fish Grease" is the most sophisticated treatment yet of a Bigg Robb riff that first appeared on the SOUL PRESCRIPTION and JUKE JOINT CD's: "Fish In Some Grease."

An unabashed ode to making love, "Getting It In" is a dance jam propelled by a simple, repetitive guitar riff and a healthy dose of Bigg Robb-style story-telling. Humorous and vivid.

"Fill It Up" is another, sparely-produced fast jam, humble and infectious, its subject the joys of drinking. ("Now I'm feeling like a superstar.") Both these songs have had extensive runs on southern soul radio over the last year.

Watch the official Bigg Robb video of "Fill It Up" on YouTube, at the end of which you can see the fat man drunkenly staggering off.

"Please Don't Judge Me" is a soulful ballad with gospel overtones and plenty of Bigg Robb-style, voice-over storytelling, in the mode of Bigg Robb's "Everybody Makes Mistakes."

The musical backbone of "Blues and BBQ (feat. Denise Lasalle)" harks back to the days when your Daddy B. Nice still suspected Robb's southern soul "bonafides". (See Daddy B. Nice's Original Artist Guide to Bigg Robb.) Thus, the friendly jab in Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles for July 2015:

The attraction here is the Queen Of The Blues and the friendly banter. Minimal hooks from Robb lately ("Getting It In," "Fill It Up"). This one sounds circa 2005, a real throwback. What if, after all the trust and acceptance given him by the chitlin' circuit, Bigg Robb should turn out to be the Trojan horse for Ohio-based funk that we thought he was in the beginning?

That's nonsense, of course.

Bigg Robb has as much claim to being the heart and soul of chitlin' circuit music as anyone. He is Latimore's true heir: the current king of the southern soul voice-over.

Bigg Robb's generation--Robb, Sir Charles, T.K. Soul--has taken over. The old stars are nearly all gone, and SHOWTIME is yet another testament that we're in good hands.

Contributors to this CD, many of them longtime family members and Bigg Robb collaborators dating back to the Problem Solvas days, include Sure 2 Be (Bass, Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals), R-3 (drums and vocals), Eddie Cotton (guitar), Timothy Barnes (keyboards), Goldie Mack (guitar), Bart Thomas (vocals), Omar Cunningham (vocals), Toia Jones, Alice & Odessa Bledsoe, Tiffanie Troutman, Constance Tatum, Antoinette Jones & Alexandria McFadden (vocals), Curtis Foster (vocals), Randy Villars (saxophone), Danny Smith (guitar), Tony Williams (guitar) and Kurt Clayton (keyboards, organ).

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Bigg Robb's SHOWTIME at Amazon.

See Bigg Robb (21st Century)
Daddy B. Nice's #10 ranked Southern Soul Artist


See the chart, which encompasses a fifteen-year period in southern soul music.

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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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July 16, 2015:

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Blues Mix 16: Grown Up Soul (Ecko) Three Stars *** Solid. The artists' fans will enjoy.

Jaye Hammer pulls the most weight on Ecko's newest addition to its Blues Mix series: #16: Grown Up Soul. Still sporting a delivery as sharp and stinging as an inch-thick bullwhip, Hammer stands out on three tracks, including the strongest new single from the album, a duet with Donnie Ray, "Is She Still Waiting On You?"

The sampler features no less than six previously unreleased songs. O.B. Buchana contributes a new but typical ballad, "You Might Have To Hurt"; Sheba Potts-Wright showcases a new single, "Happy Tears"; the one-dimensional but sassy blues woman Val McKnight is represented by "Watch That Booty Do"; and both Hammer ("I Need It") and John Cummings ("What Cha Want To Do With Me Tonight?") check in with new material.

Ms. Jody unfurls one of the more satisfying tracks from her most recent CD, TALKIN' 'BOUT MY GOOD THANG, "A Piece On The Side." David Brinston's original "Something I Want" is included, although not the version with Ms. Jody, and Denise LaSalle's classic, "The Love You Threw Away," shines like a diamond in a new setting.

In addition, the late Earl Gaines wraps up the compilation with the bluesy classic, "Meat And Potatoes Man."

John Ward, Henderson Thigpen, Gerod Rayburn and Raymond Moore fulfill the composing duties, in addition to the contributions of the singer/songwriters.

Nothing surprises on this sampler, but neither does anything disappoint.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Ecko Record's Various Artists: Blues Mix 16: Grown Up Soul at Amazon.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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July 5, 2015:

AVAIL HOLLYWOOD: Wasted Confessions (Nlightn) Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here.

Like the opening chords of the truly great songs (LaMorris Williams' "Impala," J'Wonn's "I Got This Record"), you know within the first few bars that "Wasted" is something very special and very deep. This is Hollywood's best single yet, even more remarkable than the durable "Drinking Again." --Daddy B. Nice

Arguably the hardest-working man on the chitlin' circuit, Avail Hollywood has released his second CD of the year. (REHAB appeared in January.) "Wasted" was Daddy B. Nice's #1 "Breaking" Southern Soul Single for March 2015, a five-star accomplishment if ever there was one.

Anyone who has questioned Hollywood's abilities as a southern soul vocalist due to his idiosyncratic tone or hiphop tendencies will be converted and enthralled by this masterful vocal rendering of a new song fated to be a classic.

Uncharacteristically, Hollywood has put neither "Wasted" nor "Sugga Hole," a dance jam from the collection released this summer, on YouTube.

This CD gets five stars for its incredibly deep and satisfying title cut, "Wasted," but it gets one star for its unprofessional padding and its inexcusable pandering to an inner circle of sycophants who may or may not want to hear Hollywood's navel-gazing verbalizing between tracks. There's so much talk you think he'll never get to the music. And then, after some music, there's more talk. Has Avail's opening for R. Kelly (a recent tour-date high) disoriented the onetime serviceman who formerly always had his musical boots firmly planted on the ground?

Hollywood has always been full of himself, a trait your Daddy B. Nice previously held up as a seasoned "toughness" many other, less-bold, young performers would be encouraged to emulate. Here, however, Avail crosses the line into self-absorption. He commits the cardinal sin of disrespecting his musical audience.

If you're up for a serious dose of artistic hubris, by all means buy the CD, but if you're not into chest-thumping outside of Tarzan in the treetops in the old movies, your Daddy B. Nice recommends just buying the ninety-nine-cent mp3 of Avail's new classic, "Wasted," one of the most pure southern soul experiences of the new year.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Avail Hollywood's WASTED CONFESSIONS CD at CD BABY.

Sample/Buy Avail Hollywood's WASTED CONFESSIONS CD at iTunes.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Avail Hollywood.

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June 14, 2015: Pokey

VARIOUS ARTISTS: BEAT FLIPPA, I Got the Blues, Vol.1 (Music Access/Ross Music)

Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

Coming out of nowhere, unheralded and unpublicized, yet making an immediate impact on the admittedly anemic CD sales charts, Ross Music's Beat Flippa, I Got the Blues, Vol.1 is an exhilarating collection of southern soul songs, proving once again that the reservoir of underground talent in the Delta and Louisiana in particular is as deep as ever.

In recent years, inspired by popular southern soul compilations put out by indie labels like Malaco, Ecko and CDS and one-of-a-kind samplers by individual artists and producers like Sir Charles Jones (Sir Charles & Friends) and Bruce Billups (Bruce Billups Southern Soul Mix Re-Loaded), artists as diverse as Bigg Robb and Ricky White have pleased fans with semi-autobiographical sets featuring material by otherwise deserving but unknown artists.

Bigg Robb's Blues Soul And Old School introduced Pat Cooley, Napoleon and Special in 2007. Ricky White Presents: Combination 2 went even further last year, featuring Gwen White, William Calhoun, Henry Rhodes, Tonya Youngblood and Larry Milton, in addition to the more well-known The Love Doctor, Betty Padgett, Jerry L. and Stephanie Pickett, not to mention undisputed star T.K. Soul.

Beat Flippa, I Got the Blues, Vol.1 appears to be the brainchild of Pokey. I say "appears to be" because your Daddy B. Nice has never received a hint of publicity or product from Pokey or Ross Music Group, although I have received material pretty regularly from Tyree Neal and also, of late, Adrian Bagher (Pokey's fellow Lousianna blues brothers). What I do know is that Pokey, along with Tyree Neal and Adrian Bagher, put out what amounted to a three-person sampler, the under-reviewed but terrific Louisiana Blues Brothers: Love On The Bayou late last year. If anything that album is even more musically powerful than this collection, showcasing two singles that have become the blockbuster hits of southern soul radio in 2015: Pokey's "My Sidepiece" and "Call Me Pokey."

The credits for Beat Flippa I Got the Blues, Vol.1 read as follows:

Produced by Beat Flippa, Brent and Cee Rock for Tha Super Friendz Productions. All Tracks recorded mixed and mastered by Beat Flippa at RMG Studios (DBN notes: That's Ross Music Group, Pokey's label.) ...With features from Tucka, Tyree Neal, Stephanie McDee, Dellanor, and Bruce Dillon.

Here's a rundown of the delights on this album:

"If It Ain't The Blues" by Pokey & Cupid

...A slow-percolating, infectious dance jam in which Pokey sings: God bless Muddy Waters/ And B.B. King/ If it wasn't for the legends/ There wouldn't be no me.


And...If it ain't that Willie Clayton/ If it ain't that Marvin Sease/ If it ain't Sir Charles Jones/ I don't even wanna hear the song.

And Cupid admits, without the blues...There would be no "Swing Around The Roses"/ Or no "Barbeque"....

"Thank God It's Friday" by Pokey, Vince Hutchinson & Adrian Bagher

First rate, all-out club anthem with great vocals and harmonies (the Crosby, Stills & Nash of Southern Soul?), a disco-ey rhythm track and a unique keyboard/organ back-fill that takes it over the top.

"Please Be My Love Jones" by Pokey and Lysa

Ballads. Pokey ain't afraid of no stinkin' ballads, nor afraid of being melodramatic. The unusual roughness of his vocal tone makes it interesting, like hearing Teddy Pendergrass the first time. And, as usual, it's the addition of the female co-singer (Lysa) that seals the deal.

"I Still Do Her Wrong" by Pokey

Another ballad by Pokey. Here he takes a contrite position on infidelity (reversing the entitled swagger of "My Sidepiece"), although he doesn't hold out much hope of hewing to the straight and narrow, either. Musically, it's strong.

"If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It" by Pokey

Mid-tempo is southern soul's prime tempo, and mid-tempo is Pokey's specialty. Another strong bass line, another typically rowdy vocal, with a great chorus and female background.

"The Best You Ever Had" by Rosalyn Candy & Veronica Ra'elle

This album is a coming-out party for new female singers. Rosalyn Candy is a find. Veronica Ra'elle is already receiving kudos for her debut on the entertaining "My Sidepiece Reply" with fellow songstresses Ms. Portia and southern soul star Lacee, from the LOUSIANA BLUES BROTHERS album.

"I'll Be The Other Man" by Tyree Neal.

In a nice contrast to Pokey's charismatic bullying, Tyree Neal provides the winsome, guy-next-door element, and his guitar work (which brought Stephanie McDee back to the brink of stardom with "When I Step In The Club") runs like a rich, exotic thread through many of these songs.

"I'm Here For You, Baby" by Big Cynthia

Along with Stephanie McDee, Big Cynthia (Junior Walker's daughter) serves as godmother to the explosive musical scene surrounding Pokey.

"Let's Do it" by Adrian Bagher, Veronica Ra'elle & Big Cynthia

Distinctively-produced, hard-core, dance-floor jam from Adrian Bagher, who rose from obscurity a couple of years ago with "Around The Corner."

"You Chose The Wrong Chick" by Ms. Portia

Another amazing discovery, Ms. Portia arrives without a trace of tentativeness.

"I Want Your Body" by Mz. Pat

Ditto for Mz. Pat.

If space permitted, your Daddy B. Nice could go on . A deejay could put together a two-hour program with the contents of this album and still be praised for showcasing variety. Ross Music Group's Beat Flippa contains an astounding seventeen tracks (a steal at $8.99 mp3, $13.99 CD).

Whoever's writing and producing all of this material (so far a well-kept secret) will ultimately get their share of benign karma, blessings and fans' love. With JOSEPHINE SON POKEY, LOUISIANA BLUES BROTHERS and BEAT FLIPPA, Southern Soul's creative center of gravity has been kidnapped from Big Yayo in Jackson and ferried across the Mississippi to the "Left Bank."

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Beat Flippa, I Got the Blues, Vol.1 at Amazon.

Sample/Buy Beat Flippa, I Got the Blues, Vol.1 at iTunes.

See Daddy B. Nice's new Artist Guide to Pokey.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Product, comments, information or questions for Daddy B. Nice?

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June 7, 2015:

DAVID BRINSTON: Back Seat Rider (David Brinston) Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here.

David Brinston was one of the reasons your Daddy B. Nice left all the "other" music behind, and it's been uncomfortable watching the southern soul star slip a little, CD by CD, like a photograph fading to sepia in the sun.

I remember searching for the unknown artist who did a song called "Nothing But A Party." Back in those days, there was no one and no website to turn to for assistance. You searched through Napster and every other music avenue available, looking for these unknown artists and in many cases untitled songs you'd heard at random, often hampered by the wrong keywords, a process that took months and in some cases years. The David Brinston song was called simply "Party," or as it quickly became known, "Party 'Til The Lights Go Out," the fifteenth-ranked song on the Top 100
Southern Soul Songs: Daddy B. Nice's 21st Century Countdown

The song is magical. From the opening bars of the rhythm track, the music transports you to a beautiful place, a nirvana of love and dancing. Brinston's vocal is relaxed and confident, one of a kind. Brinston's longtime songwriter, Linda Stokes, who's always been humble about her singing abilities, can be heard in the background, just as she still can be heard today.

Ironically, there's a song on Brinston's new CD BACK SEAT RIDER that recapitulates "Party," and yet "Just Like Your Mama" is such a weak rendering by comparison that I didn't realize it was the "Party" background instrumental track until I heard the first few bars on the radio one afternoon.

That's the key to this album. If you don't have those fond memories of Brinston, there isn't much here. Brinston's unique high tenor was always fragile--at its best, vulnerable. Now it's downright weak. The voice literally disappears in the middle of notes. I was reminded of watching Bill Withers' acceptance into the 2015 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on TV the other night, when Bill had to let Stevie Wonder and John Legend sing his signature songs ("Lean On Me," "Use Me," etc.), and then, even Stevie Wonder, advancing in age, faltered. It was painfully obvious he was missing notes. The only singer left and able to carry the day was the youthful Legend.

I'm aware that I've been hard on Brinston CD's over the last decade, basically for the same reasons described above--nothing comes close to "Party" and the FLY RIGHT ("Party," "Kick It," etc.) album. And it's true there have been many great if idiosyncratic songs on those latter-year CD's, "Mississippi's Where It's At" for example--last year's excellent "Diamond In The Middle," for another, although the latter does sound like the voice of an old man. "911 (It's An Emergency"), from the same album Back On Track," has become another personal favorite.

Still, on this new set, with its nondescript material and production, I find nothing especially worthy of radio play: possibly, "Low Down, Dirty," "Just Like Your Mama," or "Back Seat Rider." Will your Daddy B. Nice be looking back a year later, wondering if I under-rated these songs, too? In my own defense, I was very complimentary of those songs in my review and gave the BACK ON TRACK album as a whole a much more positive three-star ranking.

I'd be interested in hearing from David's true fans. Is he meeting your expectations? Is he even relevant? In a new southern soul world of Bigg Robb, Tucka, J'Wonn and Pokey, does Brinston's tattered vocal sound still have appeal?

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy David Brinston's BACK SEAT RIDER CD at CD BABY.

Read more Daddy B. Nice reviews of David Brinston CD's, including 2014's BACK ON TRACK album, in Daddy B. Nice's Guide to Brinston. Click here, scroll down to TIDBITS section.

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May 13, 2015:

MS. JODY: Talkin' Bout My Good Thang (Ecko) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

In the finale of her new album, a duet with John Cummings called "When The Show Is Over," Ms. Jody interjects at one point with some passion: "Have you forgotten? My name's Ms. Jody." By coincidence, I was listening to some old music the other day and happened upon "I'm Ms. Jody," the song that started it all for Ms. Jody, although few people were listening at the time. In it the singer introduces herself as "I'm Ms. Jody /I'm the new freak in town," which sounds delightfully retro in light of the nine redoubtable CD's Ms. Jody has served up since 2006.

Overall, the new CD, Talkin' Bout My Good Thang,
has a country influence, as if Ms. Jody has been listening to a lot of country music, which is a good thing--Ms. Jody has always drawn inspiration from county and done some of her best southern soul in the country vein--but also a bad thing, because the better-financed, contemporary country one hears on the radio across the broad swathe of the nation has a sophisticated, robust production that makes the Ecko house band (80% John Ward on rhythm tracks, guitar and organ with Leo Johnston on bass and Gerod Rayburn on guitar) sound thin by direct comparison.

But as one delves into the album in detail, the variety and range of the material becomes evident. There's a "sidepiece" song (i.e. Pokey, etc.), "A Piece On The Side," done from Ms. Jody's fresh perspective, which is to say the point of view of all intelligent and sensitive women.

"Talkin' Bout My Good Thang," the title tune, has a jazz feel that couldn't be more different from the country and blues that run through the rest of the set. The catchy "Talkin'" works, too. Subtle and low-key, it may be a surprise hit for Ms. Jody.

And yet, the biggest buzz your Daddy B. Nice got from the album was the first few bars of the first song on the CD, "I Ain't Gonna Lie This Time," so familiar....It turned out to be Omar Cunningham's much-admired bass line and percussion track from "Man Enough," and for a minute I was actually hoping Ms. Jody would do a straight-on version of the Karen Wolfe classic. However, the tune quickly veers down a new path and direction.

There are a couple of strong blues numbers. "If He Knew What I Was Thinking" charted on Daddy B. Nice's "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles at #8 in April 2015. Here's what your Daddy B. Nice wrote:

8. "If He Knew What I Was Thinking"------Ms. Jody

And more great blues, this time from Ms. Jody, in the tradition of "Every Woman For Herself," from her upcoming album, TALKIN' BOUT MY GOOD THANG. One reservation: Ms. Jody dilutes the immediacy of the lyrics by attributing the story to a "young lady who gave me a phone call the other day...and this is what she said." Although this third-person technique worked to perfection with "When Your Give A Damn (Just Don't Give A Damn)," here the lyrics would be more intense--more powerful--coming straight from Ms. Jody. Can you imagine Etta James attributing "I'd Rather Go Blind" to someone who called her?


Less spectacular but more satisfyingly authentic, the bluesy "I"m Gathering Up The Trash" is a fine number with antecedents in Ann Peebles' "I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home" and Pat Brown's "I'm Taking Out The Trash."

"Shake Your Tail Feather" is a "Bop"-like ditty that should easily score on the beach music circuit.

However, "Just Let Me Ride Again," the title that jumps out from the album credits (based on Ms. Jody's popular dance jam "Just Let Me Ride," from her last CD), doesn't follow the enticing hook of the original and ultimately disappoints.

"I'm Gonna Take It Lying Down" returns Ms. Jody to top form, though, with the important refrain to the song title.... "In another man's bed," repeated often enough to make any man not only crazy but sorry.

Neither her best nor worst collection, Talkin' Bout My Good Thang is a smorgasbord of Ms. Jody's interests and styles.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Ms. Jody's Talkin' Bout My Good Thang CD at Amazon.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Ms. Jody.

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April 26, 2015:

BIG POPPA G: I Believe (Pyramid City) Two Stars ** Dubious Debut by a New Male Vocalist.

Solo act Big Poppa G arrived in 2014 via his duet with the late Floyd Taylor, "Be There." The song was also given the prestigious opening track on Ecko Records' latest southern soul sampler, Blues Mix Vol. 15: Down Home Soul, giving the first-time solo artist instant credibility. Despite Floyd Taylor's star power, however, "Be There" never caught on in a big way with southern soul deejays, and your Daddy B. Nice found the ballad a little too cloying and pop-oriented to chart on Southern Soul's Top 10 Singles Review.

The debut CD, Big Poppa G's I BELIEVE, is just as puzzling, and your Daddy B. Nice has spent a couple of months sitting on the fence, trying to make out an opinion. There are some tremendous songs on this CD, for example the ballad "It Should Have Been Me," written by Lee Gibbs and previously recorded by O.B. Buchana on his Pop Yo Bottle album.

"If I Didn't Have You," another Lee Gibbs mid-tempo gem and potential classic, and Big Poppa G's showcase dance jam and bid for a signature song, "Call My Name," are so inherently infectious you wonder why they don't reverberate with more passion and power.

In Southern Soul music we're so used to gospel-forged vocalists with lungs of steel that we're almost blase' about it. In southern soul it's the material, or the arrangements, that are often lacking. So when we're confronted with a vocalist of limited means and pristine material, a reversal of the usual case, it's disorienting--like standing on one's head--but that, I believe, is the case here.

The liner credits extol "BPG" as reminiscent of the likes of Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, Lenny Williams, David Ruffin, Al Green and Freddy Jackson. No way. Any of those legends would immediately peg Big Poppa G as a background singer.

It's true that Lee Gibbs, the dominant creative force behind this album, bears some of the blame. The arrangements--keyboard horns, the usual southern-soul financial limitations--could be better. But the fault with the album lies with the singer, not the writer/producer.

Big Poppa G sings in tune. There's a nice, novel tone to his ascending notes (probably the quality that brought him the recording opportunity). But he seems to be singing through an invisible scrim of phlegm, once commonly called smoker's throat. He can neither hone in on a note with surgical intensity nor amplify beyond a pallid, mid-range volume. Only think of what someone like Jaye Hammer would have done with this album's bounty of music.

Instead, perfectly wonderful songs, compositions most recording artists would die for, result in a panorama of wasted opportunities, lacking emotional depth and climax. In the end, I BELIEVE is more of a coming-out party for its estimable writer, Lee Gibbs, than it is for the performer on the jacket, Big Poppa G.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Big Poppa G's I BELIEVE CD at CD BABY.

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April 18, 2015:

SIR JONATHAN BURTON: New Swing Soul (CDS/Music Access) Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here.

Jonathan Burton is an arranger/producer, not a songwriter, and it finally catches up with him on his latest CD, New Swing Soul.

Is your Daddy B. Nice the only one who sees the emperor wearing no clothes here? There are no songs on this album, although a couple of tracks towards the end of the set hint at being songs.

Burton doesn't have the wherewithal to construct chord changes. When great writers like Chris Mabry (Big Yayo) or Omar Cunningham sit down to write a song, they punch out a series of unique (or at least fresh) chords (notes) that constitute the structure of the entire tune. Listen to the first couple of bars of LaMorris Williams' "Impala" (written by Mabry) or J'Wonn's "I Got This Record" (written by JWonn & Mabry) and you'll hear these chords, naked and upfront. They're so beautiful and enticing they instantly grab your attention.

"Too Much Booty-Shaking" transcended Sir Jonathan's usual fare with just a hint more melody and a once-in-a-lifetime arrangement, one that built up so much suspense it became irresistible. Burton has basically been trying to repeat the "Booty-Shaking" formula ever since. On this set alone the signature tune is emulated with "Southern Soul Got A New Swing," "The Hole Inside The Hole In The Wall," "Southern Soul Showdown," "My Baby Can't Dance" and more.

But the formula was always weak: heavy on arrangements and bells and whistles, light on substance. It's not that it can't work. It's that it so much more often doesn't. All frosting, no cake. The inclusion of the best single from the album (with a wondrous arrangement), "Can't Touch This (Remix)" is apropos because Hammer's "Can't Touch This" was itself a chordless strip-down of Rick James much more musically phenomenal "Super Freak." And "Beachosity," which concludes the set, is yet another raiding of the Young Rascals' "Groovin'," the same bass line, the same treble-clef chords, the same tempo. "New Swing Soul," the title cut, isn't new at all. It came to the fore in the eighties and it's called funk.

Burton could accomplish so much more with a bona fide composer as collaborator. And yet, the self-written "Full Time Man," in which "the woman wants a full-time man," indicates that Jonathan can do more and do it well. There is actually a musical hook to this mid-tempo keeper. "Mind Your Business," too, has the hint of a melody, but it seems more like an after-thought in the overall package of the album.

Lest the artist and readers think your Daddy B. Nice is twisting Jonathan's arm, trying to make him slow down and write ballads, that's not my intent. Like Sir Jonathan, Bigg Robb specializes in club-friendly, fast-tempo tunes, but they don't sound alike. Robb--a great writer--has absorbed enough Clarence Carter to transcend his early funk roots, and he always finds a unique musical hook.

I've called Burton's songs "washing-machine beats" in the past to point up this utter lack of melody. It may work in the club--there's furious energy here--and I love the guy to death for his enthusiastic embrace of southern soul. But even as he toasts southern soul music and shouts out to chitlin' circuit artists in one track after another, Burton himself is not really playing southern soul but an offshoot of beach music.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Sir Jonathon Burton's NEW SWING SOUL CD at Amazon.

Read Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Jonathan Burton.

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April 8, 2015:

CARL MARSHALL: Love Brings Me Back To You (CDS/Music Access) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

Carl Marshall's new album, LOVE BRINGS ME BACK TO YOU, should instantly disarm even the most critical of Marshall's detractors. Not much minimalist keyboard funk, no "Good Lovin'" retreads. This is popular music, inviting and lush, arranged with loving care right down to the special musical tweaks and female background singing.

In fact, Track 1, Frank-O Johnson's "(This Must Be A) Cheating Town" sounds so immediately familiar you'd swear it was an old Carl Marshall tune. (It isn't; I looked.) But it's actually more fleshed-out than Marshall's music has been in a long time, and pretty close to irresistible.

"Sugar," the second track, is the same, so accessible and popular-sounding with its commercial-sounding harmonica phrase that you want to bob your head and hit the dance floor with a slow, sexy shuffle and dance to the Carl Marshall grown folks music in a way you haven't in years.

Ironically, Marshall has dipped into his back-catalog (from SONGS PEOPLE LOVE THE MOST) in choosing the first single from the new CD, "From The Church To The Motel." It's the most conservative choice he could have made, generic and derivative of his earlier work, and a tune with which his fans will certainly be familiar. But the best material on the album are the cuts that surprise listeners with their new energy and fresh arrangements.

Marshall suffered a stroke in 2012, and he's kept a low profile since the hospitalization, absenting himself from his former extensive production chores at CDS Records, where he is now a vice-president. It was anyone's guess if and how he would come back. "I Owe It All To The Blues," Daddy B. Nice's first charted single from the album (#6 April 2015), finds the rejuvenated Marshall tearing it up on guitar (his "woman"), part-Albert King and part-Jimi Hendrix.

"I've never been loved
The way I felt I should have..."


...Carl sings with a bluesy swagger only he or Bobby Rush could get away with. The wild guitar runs seem to free him like a phoenix rising, and when he double-tracks his voice in harmony, the song goes celestial.

"The Walk (Like A Soldier)" sounds like fairly routine Carl Marshall New Orleans funk until--again--Carl surprises you with a little "You're-in-the-army-now" phrase that makes the tune downright delightful. This is the kind of musical elaboration and depth Marshall didn't have the wherewithal to achieve during busier, perhaps more harried times. Jamonte Black (I believe that's her singing background) also elevates her vocals. "I'm Tired Of Missing You" is another straight-ahead ballad that illustrates Marshall's commitment to heartfelt vocals and sophisticated arrangements.

Not all of the tracks on the set warrant this kind of effusive criticism. The title track, Love Me Brings Me Back To You," is the kind of druggy-sounding, bargain-basement New Orleans funk with which Sly Stone jettisoned his career long before Carl hit his creative stride. Why Carl believes this "downer" funk is most representative of his oeuvre, your Daddy B. Nice will never know.

Good Marshall friend Rue Davis shows up on a mostly throw-away stepping exercise called "Laughing and Stepping," and Marshall redoes the simplistic "Wind It Up" yet again, gathering no kudos in the process. "I Wanna Know What Kind Of Love You've Got" and "Ladies Know Your Worth" are okay, plenty familiar, but nothing special.

But even the most marginal tunes on this very generous, twelve-track set are executed with the professionalism of an engaged and re-focused songwriter/producer. The songs are both a reminder of how unique an artist Carl Marshall is and how far into our heads he's gotten. Simply put, there's no one doing what Carl Marshall does--and no one who sounds like him. It's good to have him back.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Carl Marshall's LOVE BRINGS ME BACK TO YOU CD at CD Universe.

Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Carl Marshall

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March 7, 2015:

DONNIE RAY: She's My Honey Bee (Ecko) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

There's no blockbuster song on the order of "Who's Rockin' You?" Nor is there anything comparable to Donnie Ray's vintage classic, "A Letter To My Baby." But there is much to savor on Donnie Ray's new CD, SHE'S MY HONEY BEE.

Aldredge (Donnie Ray is his first and middle name) is at the least a competent songwriter, and once in awhile a fantastic one, as his credits for "Letter To My Baby" and "Who's Rockin' You" attest. On this new set he brings four superior songs (Tracks 3-6) to the table ("Hold It And Roll It," "She's My Honey Bee," "I"m Still Waiting On You" and "Stone Cold Party"), surrounding them with nine decent though not outstanding tracks by himself and various Ecko house composers: Henderson Thigpen, Raymond Moore, Gerod Rayburn and John Ward. The four outstanding cuts are all written by Donnie Ray Aldredge.

Listen to Donnie Ray singing"Hold It And Roll It" on YouTube.

All these songs have a distinct, fresh feel to them. "I'm Still Waiting On You" has an exceptional melody, atmosphere and message, while "Stone Cold Party" is an uptempo dance jam in the serviceable mold of T.K. Soul's "Party Like Back In the Day." With John Ward doodling naughtily on a Hammond B3 organ, "Hold It And Roll It" features Donnie Ray doing a plausible and laudable, Steve Perry "Booty Roll"-ish line dance. (In his own smooth Donnie Ray style, naturally.) See Daddy B. Nice's #6-ranked Southern Soul Single for March 2015. And in the quasi-title tune, "She's My Honey Bee," Donnie Ray gives a nod to under-rated fellow performer and singer/songwriter Rue Davis and one of his signature songs, "Honey Poo."

Rue Davis

Of the more second-tier or average tunes, at least another four or five are noteworthy. "Can We Start Our Love All Over" and "I Knew It Was You" will please fans of "Smooth Operator" and "A Letter To My Baby" respectively, sharing some of the bloodlines of their predecessors, and the "O.B." references in "I Can't Take Your Wife Back" will tickle O.B. Buchana fans.

Donnie Ray acknowledges the current trend in harder-edged southern soul in "Shake It Baby, which makes it interesting. And Donnie Ray won the Carolina Beach Music Awards recently for "Who's Rocking You?," making the mellow "Carolina Swing" a natural. All--or nearly all--of these and more ("Mr. Deejay Don't Slow The Party Down") are also written by Aldredge.

Nevertheless, if I were grading the album's components on the old-school scale of A to F, I'd give the songwriting--solid as it is--only a "C-plus" while giving Donnie Ray's masterful vocals and the John Ward arrangements and production an "A."

I'm constantly amazed at how full and natural Ward has made the Ecko studio sound with far less resources than Malaco (with all "live" musicians) in its heyday, and Donnie Ray sings so well and effortlessly we take him for granted. The set also gets an "A" for its generous thirteen tracks.

--Daddy B. Nice

Listen to Donnie Ray singing "I'm Still Waiting On You" on YouTube.

Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's new SHE'S MY HONEY BEE CD.

See Daddy B. Nice's 21st Century Artist Guide to Donnie Ray.

See Daddy B. Nice's Original Artist Guide to Donnie Ray.

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February 21, 2015:

SHEBA POTTS-WRIGHT: I Came To Get Down (Ecko) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

Sheba Potts-Wright made a huge splash in 2001 and 2002 with her naughty novelty hits "Lipstick On His Pants" and "I Can Bagg It Up" and her sumptuous cover of the Love Doctor's "Slow Roll It," (written by Sir Charles Jones), a song that helped to define 21st-century southern soul.

On "Slow Roll It" Sheba had none of the chops of the seasoned R&B/Blues singer she was to become over the next dozen years. What she had was the flirty, half-innocent precociousness of the young, and it's interesting to note, if you listen closely to "Slow Roll It," that Sheba lets out a girlish giggle identical to the one young Krishunda Echols emits a decade later in her "Mad Dog 20-20" on the current charts. Young feminine sounds such as these are devastatingly mesmerizing to a man.

The J-Wonn of her day, Sheba not only earned but was virtually handed the tiara of upcoming young southern soul princess, successor to older-generation stars like Peggy Scott-Adams, Shirley Brown & Denise LaSalle. Long before Mel Waiters sang about a woman who "controls her own destiny" in "No Curfew," however, Sheba balked at throwing all her chips into the fickle music business, pragmatically maintaining an administrative career in private life and relegating her public musical career to a kind of arm's-length parallel track.

That has been southern soul's loss. While fellow Ecko label-mates Donnie Ray and O.B. Buchana published CD's annually, Sheba released on average only a CD every three years. Nor has Sheba toured much, although she has gigged (mostly in the Memphis area) occasionally. Throw in flirtations with other musical genres--primarily straight blues, in deference to her bluesman father, Dr. "Feelgood" Potts--and Potts-Wright's southern soul status has dimmed considerably since those early, heady years at the dawn of the century.

The appearance of the Best Of Sheba Potts-Wright CD in 2010 was a reminder of just how good Sheba had been, and also a wake-up call on her singles of note from the ensuing years, most notably the hard-core-bluesy, double-entendre delight, "Private Fishing Hole." Happily, Sheba's new CD I Came To Get Down rewards the expectations of fans whose appetites were whetted by that greatest hits album. Sheba strives for the "pop" sound that has eluded her in recent efforts--the sound that made "Slow Roll It" so memorable--and there is a fine stretch of three songs that is as enjoyable to listen to as anything Sheba has ever done:

The first, "We Got The Right Stuff," has lyrics right out of the O.B. Buchana canon--

"You call me dirty names,
And that I'm no good,
But before the fire goes out,
You're laying on more wood."

--but it's the mid-tempo melody and the textbook-authentic vocal that lingers.

"Big Boy Stuff," a put-down of an inadequate and immature suitor, is even better, and Potts-Wright fans can forgive themselves if, in the middle of the tune, they find themselves thinking they're listening to SHEBA (Potts-Wright's powerful debut).

"Stay With Your Wife" was released as the first single last year, and it too displays Potts-Wright's charismatic qualities: earthiness and sexual allure leavened with tenderness and wisdom.

"Baby, you got too much riding on this,
So I got to tell you the truth.
Sugar, you may be in love with me,
But I'm not in love with you.

...You need to stay with your wife.
That's where you should be.
Don't break up your home.
Don't do it for me."

Both "Stay With Your Wife" and "Big Boy Stuff" were composed by Henderson Thigpen and John Ward--two of the finest tunes yet by Ward's most recent acquisition (Thigpen) to Ecko's songwriting stable.

Only slightly less notable are the tracks "Where's The Party At," "I Want Yo' Man" and "Old School Lovin'."

A special treat is "I've Done All I Can Do (Remix)," a remake of Al Wilson's 70's heart-stopper, "Show And Tell." Sheba first did the number on LET YOUR MIND GO BACK (her last CD, in 2011), but this time she makes the source explicit, singing the lyrics to "Show And Tell" to introduce the track.

Other than the well-intentioned failure, "Happy Tears," the only thing on Sheba Potts-Wright's new album that left your Daddy B. Nice scratching his head was the obvious prominence given to the quasi-title tune, "I Didn't Come To Sit Down," a dubious hook at best done in two equally-baffling versions, one beginning and the other ending this otherwise admirable set.

--Daddy B. Nice

Listen to the official video of Sheba Potts-Wright singing "Stay With Your Wife" live onstage on YouTube.

Sample/Buy Sheba Potts-Wright's I CAME TO GET DOWN CD at Amazon.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Sheba Potts-Wright.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Bigg Robb, Showtime, 7-25-15

Various Artists, Blues Mix 16: Grown Up Soul 7-16-15

Avail Hollywood, Wasted Confessions, 7-5-15

Various Artists, Beat Flippa I Got The Blues Vol. 1, 6-14-15

David Brinston, Back Seat Rider, 6-7-15

Ms. Jody, Talkin' Bout My Good Thang, 5-13-15

Big Poppa G, I Believe, 4-26-15

Sir Jonathan Burton, New Swing Soul, 4-18-15

Carl Marshall, Love Brings Me Back To You, 4-8-15

Donnie Ray, She's My Honey Bee, 3 7 15

Sheba Potts-Wright, I Came To Get Down, 2-21-15

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Recently reviewed:

Avail Hollywood, Rehab, 1-24-15 (Contained in the Avail Hollywood Artist Guide. Click link.)

Various Artists, Blues Mix 15: Down Home Soul, 2-14-15 (Scroll down this column.)

Various Artists, Southern Soul Smashes 4, 12-13-14 (Scroll down this column.)

Raw Shaw, Feeling Soulful, 12-13-14 (Scroll down this column.)

Donnell Sullivan, Sugar Daddy EP, 12-7-14 (Scroll down this column.)

Big Ro Williams, Good Love Muscle EP 12-1-14 (Scroll down this column.)

Jim Bennett, Southern Soul Highway: The Essential Jim Bennett 11-26-14 (Contained in the Jim Bennett Artist Guide. Click link.)

Chuck Roberson, The Other Side Of Me: 11-24-14 (Contained in the Chuck Roberson Artist Guide. Click link.)

Hammer, Jaye, Still Got It 11-22-14 (Scroll down this column.)

Hayes, Uvee, In The Mood 11-20-14 (Scroll down this column.)

JR Blu Tru Blu, 11-15-14 (Scroll down this column.)

Various Artists, Blues Mix 14: Total Soul Blues, 11-15-14 (Scroll down this column.)

Ricky White, Various Artists: Ricky White Presents Combination 2, 11-14-14 (Contained in the Ricky White Artist Guide. Click link.)

Sir Charles Jones, Portrait Of A Balladeer 10-12-14 (Scroll down this column.)

J'Wonn, I Got This Record, 9-6-14 (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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February 14, 2015:

VARIOUS ARTISTS: BLUES MIX 15: Down Home Soul (Ecko) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new. Val McKnight

Previously recorded out-takes by the late Floyd Taylor continue to appear. One of the most pop-friendly specimens kicks off Ecko Records' latest sampler, Blues Mix Vol. 15: Down Home Soul. The song is "Be There" by new Memphis artist Big Poppa G. The track, on which Taylor co-sings, is taken from Big Poppa G's 2014 debut CD, I Believe.

The most refreshing feature of the new Ecko compilation, however, is its generous helping of female artists. A full 50% of the selections are by southern soul divas. Sheba Potts-Wright is represented by the fresh sounds of "We Got The Right Stuff," from her new album, I CAME TO GET DOWN, three years in waiting. Sheba delivers a theme out of the O.B. Buchana library in her classic vocal and instrumental style.

Miz. B, the seldom-recorded Memphis diva who thrilled southern soul fans a decade ago with the Senator Jones-produced exotica, "My Name Is $$$$$," contributes two selections to this Ecko set, the first a hard-hitting, vibrato-less jam in the Barbara Carr mode--overly derivative in your Daddy B. Nice's estimation; Miz. B literally sounds like Carr.

But the second track, "You Got To Be A Freaker"--a dancing groove written by herself and Morris Williams--is a keeper, coming in at #1 on Daddy B. Nice's Southern Soul Singles Review for February 2015. The instrumental track and Miz B.'s husky contralto guarantee this will be a club jam for years to come.

Listen to Miz B. singing "You Got To Be A Freaker" on YouTube.

(Note that Miz B is listed as Mz. B in the liner notes, perhaps a nod to married status rather than single status. However, there is another Mz. B currently recording, which may lead to confusion and less recognition for southern soul's Mz. B.)

The late Ollie Nightingale's "You Got A Booger Bear Under There" is dusted off for its first commercial release in a couple of decades. Nightingale was one of the very first--if not THE first--artists CEO John Ward recorded for his nascent Ecko label in the nineties.

Listen to Ollie Nightingale singing "You Got A Booger Bear Under There."

(Confession. Your Daddy B. Nice has never understood what "you've got a booger bear under there" means. As kids growing up in our household, "boogers" were associated with picking your nose. Incidentally, Miz. B. references that very line--"You've got a booger bear under there"--in "You Got To Be A Freaker." Enlighten me at daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com)

Ms. Jody is represented by "My Cat Smells A Rat," a less successful take-off on her iconic hit of a few years ago, "Your Dog's About To Kill My Cat." "My Cat Smells A Rat" is from Ms. Jody's latest CD, IT'S ALL ABOUT ME.

Listen to Ms. Jody singing "My Cat Smells A Rat" on Spreaker.

Under-rated and rising stars in the southern soul firmament Bertha Payne and Val McKnight flesh out this ample twelve-track set, although neither (to my knowledge) has been affiliated with Ecko in the past.

Payne's "Southern Soul Party" is a beguiling mid-tempo dance tune with a casual yet tough vocal, from her IT'S THE BLUES IN ME CD, one of many by the singer.

"Who Do Woman" is the most chitlin' circuit-recognizable tune by Jackson, Mississippi's Val McKnight, whose debut CD RED HOT LOVER, was positively reviewed by Daddy B Nice in 2014. See Artist Guide to Val McKnight.

Listen to Val McKnight singing "Who Doo Woman" Live Onstage on YouTube.

At times in the past, to gain career notice, Payne has gone by the title "Glamorous" and McKnight by the title "Vivacious." At this point, the modifiers are superfluous: these ladies are well on their way to being "known."

Fellas make up the rest of Ecko's Blues Mix Vol. 15: Down Home Soul. O.B. Buchana and Donnie Ray check in with related blues jams ("Take My Wife Back" and "I Can't Take Your Wife Back," respectively). A new artist, Art Benton, makes an appearance doing a good iteration of Muddy Waters in "You Doin' The Same Thing." And last but not least, the late Lee "Shot" Williams, a singer who was always looking for that cutting-edge sound, serves up a remix of a remix of the "Juke Joint Slide."

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Ecko Records' Blues Mix Vol. 15: Down Home Soul at Amazon.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: Southern Soul Smashes 4 (CDS) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy. Luther Lackey

(12-13-14) SOUTHERN SOUL SMASHES 4, the latest sampler from CDS Records, opens with a hard-edged offering from the musically mercenary Ricky White, a "Planet Rock"-influenced mutation of his dance jam, "Sexy." The late Floyd Taylor lends his wonderfully supple tenor to another southern soul-hiphop hybrid, Simeo's "I Like The Way (Remix)" (about the effusions of men watching strippers and/or club-dancers), the pay-off coming when Floyd delivers his first rapping verse ever in an unexpectedly husky voice. Dallas's Gregg A. Smith (he of the classic "Stacked In The Back") checks in with the old-style ballad, "Still Pretty." Chicago's Stan Mosley (he of the classic "Rock Me") performs "Lockdown." The Mid-Atlantic's Jim Bennett is represented by "Slap It Slap It Tap It Tap It..." Talented songwriter/snakebit entertainer Luther Lackey appears with his swan song to performing, the navel-gazing but dramatic "When I'm Gone," and Charles Wilson, a musical chameleon long before Ricky White, puts on his Mel Waiters hat for "I Dance Better." The compilation has the merit of collecting diverse, little-known artists into one venue. Thus, also included are Jerry L's Ricky White-influenced "She's Got That Ooo Wee," Patrick Henry's Carl Marshall-influenced "After Your Man Is Gone," Blind Ricky McCants "Old School Girl," Uvee Hayes' "Get Yo Dance On," Earl Duke's "A Woman's Needs" and Sir Jonathan Burton's "Meat On Them Bones." DBN.

Sample/Buy SOUTHERN SOUL SMASHES 4 at iTunes.

Listen to Floyd Taylor and Simeo singing "I Like The Way (Remix)" on YouTube.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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RAW SHAW: Feeling Soulful (Malindy) Three Stars *** Solid Southern Soul Debut by a New Male Vocalist. 12-13-14.

California-based Malindy Music is one of the few non-Deep-South record labels to break into the hard-to-crack Southern Soul market. The breakthrough came with Lina's stunning "I Won't Let My Baby Down," which came from out of nowhere (California) in 2010. Malindy artist Raw Shaw's (aka Lewis Shaw's) cover of "I Won't Let My Baby Down" is the centerpiece of this 7-song debut CD, Feeling Soulful. Lina sings background on "I Won't Let My Baby Down" as well as pairing with Raw Shaw on the hiphoppish "Ghetto Tactics," arguably the next-best track. Shaw's rendering of the melodramatic McKinley Mitchell classic, "End Of The Rainbow," is also outstanding. Shaw also recycles Johnnie Taylor ("Just Because"), Wilson Pickett ("In The Midnight Hour") and Etta James ("I'd Rather Go Blind") with less success. But with a larger-than-life voice that resounds through coliseum-sized spaces, Feeling Soulful marks Raw Shaw as one of southern soul's finest current interpreters. DBN.

Sample/Buy Raw's Shaw's FEELING SOULFUL at CD Baby.

Listen to Raw Shaw singing "I Won't Let My Baby Down" on YouTube.

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DONNELL SULLIVAN: Sugar Daddy EP (Donnell Sullivan) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy. (12-7-14)

Even southern soul insiders could be forgiven for mistaking this five-song EP for a debut. Donnell Sullivan's first album, Back It Up, appeared in 2011 and was actually a more distinguished collection, with twice the number of tracks, including a potential hit song, "Back Door Lover," but the song failed to make a strong enough impression with deejays and the CD fell off the radar. Two of the songs on the new EP, SUGAR DADDY, made Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten Southern Soul Singles Review, "Whistle (While You Twerk)" (#9 November 14) and "Sugar Daddy" (#5 December 14). Donnell Sullivan has what entertainers call a "facility" and he looks like a "keeper," and a guy who'll stick with it until he makes it. Without the soul, his music would register on the bubblegum side of pop, but like his influences (Tyrone Davis, Willie Clayton, T.K. Soul) before him, he's working hard on his technique. One doesn't become a southern soul singer overnight. DBN.

Sample/Buy Donnell Sullivan's SUGAR DADDY EP at CD Baby.

Listen to Donnell Sullivan singing "Sugar Daddy" on YouTube.

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BIG RO WILLIAMS: Good Love Muscle EP (Roosevelt M. Williams) Three Stars *** Solid Southern Soul Debut by a New Male Vocalist. (12-1-14)

Big Ro touts a refreshing, "bad-boy" perspective in short supply as southern soul's stars have increasingly gained celebrity and a newfound decorum. "Good Love Muscle" looks straight back to Clarence Carter's "Strokin’" and other southern soul anthems too libidinous for mainstream radio, with a hugely entertaining rhythm section, wild lyrics and a big husky voice befitting the message. Williams was a hiphop artist when he ran into Sir Charles Jones, his old high school classmate, who advised him to try southern soul. The first song on the EP is the worst, extremely derivative boogie/swing, but each cut, starting with the second track ("She Got That Jelly") and its funky, percolating rhythm track and verses, gets better. "Jelly," however, is sabotaged by its chorus, which fits with its verses about as well as the top half of a dog would fit with the bottom half of a cat. Track 3, "She Put That Thang On Me," is the first thoroughly southern soul song, with a wonderful chorus that recalls the soft, country-gospel choruses favored by Senator Jones' Hep'Me releases in the early 00's. Track 4, "Sweet Sexy Southern Girl," features the bragging of a thuggish womanizer, so vivid and creative it's inspiring, over an instrumental palette as powerful and ambient as some of Bobby "Blue" Bland's best, while "Good Love Muscle" simply "blows the roof off" the "mofo"--one of Daddy B. Nice's "best songs of 2013"
--a surefire classic. DBN.

Sample/Buy Big Ro Williams' GOOD LOVE MUSCLE EP at CD BABY.

Listen to Big Ro Williams singing "Good Love Muscle" on YouTube.

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JAYE HAMMER: Jaye Hammer's Still Got It (Ecko) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy. (11-22-14) Hammer's third Ecko collection features the usual assortment of chitlin' circuit themes ranging from Ollie Nightingale's "I'll Drink Your Bathwater, Baby" to Buchana-"Back Up Lover"-inspired "Let Me Help You Get Even With Him"--with an Hawaiian chaser. The gem of the set may be the deep and resonant ballad, "Make Up Sex." Most of the better material ("I'm A Booty Freak," "Hammer's Juke Joint Shack," "I'm Not Going To Cheat On My Wife Any More," "The Longer You Love Me") will satisfy core fans but fail to bring in "newbies," and it's doubtful there's a break-out "hit" of the originality of Theodis Ealey's "Stand Up In It" or Klass Band Brotherhood's "Sugaa Shack." In that respect, the very thing that elevates Jaye Hammer's level of musicianship, namely his musical association with O.B. Buchana and John Ward (Ecko CEO/producer), also puts a ceiling on his identity. The constant comparisons with Buchana are obvious, but Ward's no-nonsense rhythm tracks and guitar instrumentals, which seem on first impression solid but faceless, also convey an identity. (Ward actually has a more inventive approach to the organ; there's a small keyboard fill in "Any Kind Of Party" that's an absolute delight.) The point is, any potential hit of Hammer's is competing for attention with nine of his tunes plus ten more of O.B.'s (at the least, in any given year) with somewhat the same instrumental sound. Diverging musically in incremental ways--even with the vocals--might be called for. In the end, this is good southern soul music, and slow but sure (bereft of the big hit) still works. Latoya Malone provides great (i.e. modest and authentic) female background vocals, especially on "Hammer's Juke Joint Shack". DBN.

Listen to Jaye Hammer singing "Make Up Sex" on YouTube.

Sample/Buy Jaye Hammer's STILL GOT IT CD at Amazon.

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UVEE HAYES: In The Mood (Mission Park) Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here. (11-20-14) Notwithstanding her fine duets with the gritty Otis Clay, and unlike her raunchy St. Louis "soul sister" Barbara Carr (See SOUTHERN SOUL BLUES SISTERS), Uvee Hayes has always skated along the fringes of southern soul music, studiously avoiding anything carnal or lowbrow. Uvee picked one of Johnnie Taylor’s most delicate and sentimental tunes a few years ago for her hit single “Play Something Pretty.” Similarly, the title tune of her new set (“In The Mood”) is a smooth-as-silk cover of one of Tyrone Davis' most atypically jazzy outings. Although "A Woman's Gotta Do" (a remake of Uvee’s "A Man's Gotta Do") and "Handy Man" (a redo of her "Maintenance Man") qualify marginally as southern soul, the overwhelming bulk of her new album plies a meditative, jazzy style of singing more suited to the "Americana" or “Urban Smooth Jazz” market. There's nothing wrong with that; just be warned. This is music you'll hear in a cabaret with fine linen and waiters in starched uniforms, not in your favorite "hole in the wall” between Ms. Jody and Nellie "Tiger" Travis. DBN.

Sample/Buy Uvee Hayes' IN THE MOOD CD at CD Universe.

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JR BLU: Tru Blu (William Fonville/Capital A) Three Stars *** Solid Southern Soul Debut by a New Male Vocalist. (11-18-14)

Cleveland-born JR Blue scored the #6 single on Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Review for June 2014 with the song “She’s Been Good." The song gained your Daddy B. Nice's praise for its "David Ruffin-like vocal and sweet Van Morrison-style saxophone fills." (See Vanthology, a tribute to Van Morrison by Little Milton, William Bell, Syl Johnson and other soul singers.) "She's Been Good" went on to pick up some Delta-area radio air play for the young performer, whose writing and production skills are even more accomplished than his vocals. Blu (born William Fonville) grew up playing sax, and live horns--both trumpets and saxophones--along with live guitars, keyboards and background singers reinforce the quality of many of the tunes. The CD was recorded at the (Willie) Mitchell Family Royal Studios in Memphis. DBN.

Sample/Buy JR Blu's TRU BLU CD at CD Baby.

Listen to JR Blu singing "She's Been Good" on YouTube.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: BLUES MIX 14: Total Soul Blues (Ecko) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new. John Cummings

(11-16-14) The latest sampler from Ecko Records features strong material from O.B. Buchana and his hard-singing clone and label-mate, Jaye Hammer. Any Buchana fan would be excused for mistaking the album's first track, "Any Kind Of Party," for O.B., but it's Hammer, who also notches a scorching dance jam with "I'm A Booty Freak." O.B. checks in with two well-done songs, "Private Party" and "O.B. Shuffle." Sonny Mack, who wrote "Private Party" (under his given name William Norris) for O.B., serves up two tracks, "Dig A Little Deeper" (which he wrote for Hammer) and "It Ain't What's In Your Pocket." But the two biggest surprises are the pair of outstanding new songs by John Cummings, "Good Love," an affecting and sweetly-sung ballad, and "Southern Soul Blues Fest," a fan's appreciation of Deep South concerts complete with a roll call of the genre's current performers. Sub-par contributions from fellow Ecko recording artists Ms. Jody ("My Jody's Booty Slide") and Donnie Ray ("She's A Real Hot Lady"), not to mention erstwhile label-mate Rick Lawson ("I'm Your Man In The Streets"), are redeemed by a show-stopping Barbara Carr version of Ollie Nightingale's "If The Lord Keeps The Thought Of You Out Of My Head," which will have listeners licking their chops in anticipation of her upcoming new album. DBN.

Sample/Buy BLUES MIX 14: Total Soul Blues at iTunes.

Sample/Buy BLUES MIX 14: Total Soul Blues at Amazon.

Listen to Barbara Carr singing "If The Lord Keeps The Thought Of You Out Of My Head" on YouTube.

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October 12, 2014: SIR CHARLES JONES: Portrait Of A Balladeer (Endzone Ent.) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

Five years since his last album dropped--six if you're counting the years since his last collection of original material--Sir Charles Jones finally overcomes his mid-career recording malaise with Portrait Of A Balladeer, a collection that begins awkwardly but picks up energy, confidence and even a modicum of transcendence as it abides.

Sir Charles' professional life has been a case study in bewaring what you wish for. In the early years of the new century, only three people were talking about the illegitimate bastard form called "southern soul": Charles' first producer, Senator Jones (no relation to Charles and not a politician); Sir Charles, who had the chutzpah to call himself the "King of Southern Soul"; and media writer Daddy B. Nice, who was hunkering down in Mississippi towns like Jackson, Greenville-Leland, Indianola, Hattiesburg and Vicksburg, memorializing this unique sound that heralded a new era of rhythm and blues or--conversely--a little-known genre doomed to be lost forever.

A few "industry" people used the term "southern soul" begrudgingly (while constantly searching for other euphemisms), but Senator Jones, Sir Charles and Daddy B. Nice were the only ones who wouldn't shut up about it. And that was due primarily to the breakthrough represented by Sir Charles Jones's music, which brought a new sound to the table, one legitimate enough to compete with the older stars.

Then, as first Johnnie Taylor passed, then Tyrone Davis, then Little Milton and (later) Marvin Sease, Southern Soul flagship label Malaco Record's Tommy Couch, Jr. pronounced "southern soul" dead.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery. A new generation of young stars embraced the sound ushered in by Sir Charles Jones and southern soul rebounded with a vengeance, becoming more popular than the naysayers ever imagined.

One could have reasonably assumed that creatively speaking, as a songwriter and producer, Sir Charles Jones would ride this wave of interest in southern soul music like the "king of southern soul," Superman cape rippling in the wind. And yet, the mantle of "king" hung heavily on Sir Charles, a blessing onstage but a curse in the lonely room at home or in the studio, a creative burden, a hard-to-achieve perfection he had to live up to or be seen as a failure.

As his original "discoverer" and guiding light, Senator Jones aka WMPR Jackson, Mississipi's late-night DJ Uncle BoBo passed away, then his good friend, the late recording genius Reggie P., and finally his musical mentor, Marvin Sease, Sir Charles lost confidence in his songwriting abilities.

To make things worse, Charles's early recording hassles with labels, including rejection by Malaco and betrayal by Mardi Gras, made him wary of all commercial avenues to producing and distributing his music. So Sir Charles became a commercial loner, rejecting (with exceptions) any and all labels and shrugging off the sale and distribution of what little music he made in the fallow years, a paranoia about marketing which lasts to this very day: witness the current unavailability of Portrait Of A Balladeer so soon after its release.

In effect, Charles has relied on his sporadic singles to bolster his concert revenue, which has steadily grown. And in this Charles reflects the changing times in the music industry, with CD sales plummeting even as concert income grows--especially in southern soul, with its devoted fans. New stars like Cupid and J-Wonn are following the same formula: free music/pay me at my next concert.

But Charles' long bout of "writer's block" has been as worrisome to his fans as it has been a hardship to him. Thus, Portrait Of A Balladeer begins apologetically ("I've been away a long time"), with a tentative piece of TV-familiar sentimentality called "Glow," in which, rather than just getting into the good stuff, Charles makes unnecessary demurrals in an effort to re-connect with his audience. It may be the most un-soulful song he's ever recorded, and you get the sinking feeling the album may be a disaster.

In the second track, "Tear Our Love Down," Charles is still not himself. He is easing himself into "his old self"--the one we want to hear--by way of digression, but you can hear something primal in him beginning to stir.

Fans will know he's in his element instantly during the talking introduction--vintage Charles--to the third track from the set, "Independent Ladies."

"I want to dedicate this song to all the independent ladies all around the world," he says in his best, gutteral, sexy voice of old.

"Lord knows I take my hat off to every woman that's being a woman and being a woman about hers. All the independent ladies in the world, keep your head up. This song is dedicated to you from Sir Charles Jones."


You can sense the women melting "all around" the world--at least the ones who've heard that voice before. The song has already amassed almost 13,000 hits on YouTube as of this writing, more than doubling the number of listens of most of the other tracks off the album.

What follows is a delight by any measure for anyone who's been waiting since MY STORY'S "Happy Anniversary" for the kind of Sir Charles Jones music that transports you to an emotional space you'd almost forgotten existed.

Although there may not be a single masterpiece on the order of "Anniversary," there are eight great tracks, not counting the admirable "Independent Ladies" and the two opening tracks already discussed.

Sir Charles utilizes a lot of new songwriting talent, including Kortez Harris III, co-writer of "Sweet Sweet" and "So Beautiful," and Jermaine Rayford, co-writer of "Nasty" and "Expire," and John Phillips, another co-writer on "So Beautiful."

Willie Clayton, whose imprint Endzone is the publisher of PORTRAIT, is all over the album, including co-writing credits on "So Beautiful," "Sweet Sweet" and "Do You Feel," on which the ubiquitous soul singer shares vocals with Charles.

Willie Clayton

Both "Do You Feel," and"So Beautiful" have been featured on Daddy B. Nice's Southern Soul Singles Review as follows:

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

----------MAY 2014------------

2. "Do You Feel (Like Partying Tonight)"--------Sir Charles Jones & Willie Clayton

With expectations high, duets are almost always a little disappointing, but this collaboration defies the odds: it's the two right superstars at the right time, ready and willing to give one other unconditional respect. Both are in awesome vocal form, performing vocal acrobatics (like kids on a trampoline) over the robust and resonant rhythm track.


and....

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

----------JULY 2014------------

3. "So Beautiful"----Sir Charles Jones

And while we're giving into summer madness, are you ready to slow jam? How about yours truly, Sir Charles, with HIS new and magical song with a hint of the Far East? After the long hiatus from recording CD's, Sir Charles' vocal sounds oh-so-fresh, simultaneously relaxed and full of "want-to," and the lush instrumentation is served up with a technical flair that surpasses even his vintage work. Sir Charles' "So Beautiful" reminded your Daddy B. Nice of Malcom McClaren's 1984 electronica version of Madame Butterfly.


Musically, the songs are distinct and of a piece--not one even vaguely qualifies as "filler." "I Can't Breathe" opens and sustains with a Carole King-like piano riff.

"(Do Me The) Honor (Of Marrying Me)'s" doodling synth lines revisit the pungent, dreamy atmosphere of "Take Care of Mama."

"Expire," with the great line, "I've been hustling on the streets since 1991," plumbs the breathtaking emotional depth and male-female give-and-take in the fan-revered "The Letter (Guilty)," but with positive results.

Elements of Bill Withers' "Use Me" and Bobby Gentry's "Ode To Billy Joe" mingle and echo in the back hallways of the marvelous, churning stanzas of "Sweet Sweet."

And "Nasty's" voice-enhanced solo towards the end cries out for Sir Charles' natural voice, but the flaw ultimately disappears in the overwhelming wash of synthesized background.

By the time the album queues to the ballad "Sunshine,"
Sir Charles has returned to the mainstream balladeering with which he so awkwardly began the set ("Glow"), but now he's in full form, his southern soul genes handily co-opting the sentimental aspects of the majestic central riff and transforming it into deep, deep soul as only he can.

The album, astonishingly, is already out of print, but fans can watch for a re-issue and in the meantime stream the songs directly from the YouTube links provided in this review.

In the credits the songs are frequently and unfortunately constricted to one-word titles, so that "Honor" (which sounds military) stands for "Do Me The Honor" (actually a wedding proposal), and "Expire" (which sounds terminal) for "My Love Don't Expire." (Sic on the grammar.) In the case of "I Can't Breathe," the abbreviated title means something almost diametrically opposite to the fuller lyrics, "I Can't Breathe Without You."

But the songs themselves constitute the best assortment of new Sir Charles material in a decade, a soulful fabric far richer than MY STORY, a set sophisticated enough to hark back to the definitive LOVE MACHINE. The songs all vary, but they all have that Sir Charles sound: a modern-day Johnny Mathis forged in a cauldron of the blues.

--Daddy B. Nice

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September 6, 2014: J-WONN: I Got This Record (Savior Music) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.


A year later, leading off J-Wonn's debut CD of the same name, "I Got This Record" sounds even better than it did when it arrived--in fact, sounds good enough to drag the entire southern soul genre into the R&B mainstream. The fact that it has not done so yet only makes the steam in the pressure cooker that is southern soul all the more intense. Music this good will not pass without its eventual triumph.

Ten years ago, with masters like Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone Davis and Little Milton moving on to Soul Heaven, there was genuine consternation in the southern soul community that the golden age of southern soul music (never even heard outside of the Deep South anyway) was over. "Grown folks," the audience, were aging, along with the performers.

In 2014, with the tremendous influx of new young performers preceding J-Wonn over the last decade, those concerns seem wildly alarmist. Southern soul music has never been more popular. The number and dimension of live concerts dwarfs anything seen in the "old days."

Yes, the sound is different--in some ways, especially from a production standpoint, better--but it is still southern soul music. No one knows this better than the young artists like Jawonn Smith and Chris (Big Yayo) Mabry, the executive producers of this album, who are migrating from hiphop (the dominant form of the day) into southern soul, the genre that is all about music, not about using music as a conduit to get into the movies.

This album is so full of quality music--fifteen tracks of it--it's almost impossible to compare to most soul music albums. One has to go back to classic collections like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Jimi Hendrix's "Electric Ladyland" or The Beatles' "Rubber Soul" or "Revolver" CD's to convey its mind-blowing mix of panoramic musical vision and technical breakthrough.

Big Yayo, who has nurtured and shaped this freakishly-talented young singer/songwriter Jawonn Smith into the phenomenon we know as J-Wonn, is fresh from ground-breaking singles stints with Stevie J. ("Because Of Me"), Dave Mack ("Booty Talking") and, most gloriously, LaMorris Williams ("Impala"--written, incidentally, by an even younger Jawonn), in each case delivering the strongest songs of their careers.

Your Daddy B. Nice has written extensively about "I Got This Record" over the last year, including awarding it the #1-ranked song of 2013, somewhat ahead of its major exposure across the chitlin' circuit and indeed the whole country and world in 2014.

Daddy B. Nice's

TOP 25 SOUTHERN SOUL SONGS OF 2013

1. I Got This Record--J-Wonn

A stunning debut, and a home-run arrangement from the young producer of the moment, Big Yayo (LaMorris Williams' "Impala," Dave Mack's "Booty Talking"), who told your Daddy B. Nice he also manages this breathtakingly golden-toned vocalist. "I Got This Record” is J-Wonn's coming-out party, dramatic enough to recall Sir Charles Jones' "Friday" and LaMorris Williams' "We Can Do It (Impala)".


Listen to the new video of J-Wonn singing "I Got This Record" on YouTube.

J-Wonn and his record swept 2013's top honors for Best Ballad, Best Male Vocalist, & Best Debut, with collaborator Big Yayo nabbing Best Arranger/Producer. A summary of J-Wonn's meteoric rise is contained in Daddy B. Nice's new J-Wonn Artist Guide.

Conceptually, J-Wonn's songs extol the virtues of romantic love and the perils of cynicism, the perfect thematic foil for his claim to fame: a vocal timbre and tone that captures the ineffable innocence of young love.

I Got This Record (The CD) contains any number of potential hit singles, although none quite so deserving of the term "classic" as "I Got This Record." Many of the songs will appeal to listeners with that vaguely-familiar, heard-once-before quality that makes a song instantly memorable. That's because deejays have already been dipping into the set with the happy abandon of treasure-hunters.

"Sleep In It" is a light, lilting tune about falling asleep in the aftermath of sex.

"True Love," a Carl Sims-like, deep-soul ballad has charted even higher than "Sleep In It" on Daddy B. Nice's recent Top 10 singles reviews.

"One Day Left" is a mid-tempo track with a rousing acapella-like conclusion featuring layer-cake like harmonies.

"Let's Get Out Of This Club"--for some reason titled "All Right"--has a haunting phrase at the end of its hook, accentuated in the opening verses by JWonn's last note, which drops down unexpectedly. The song builds an atmosphere so dense it lingers long after.

The ballad "Deeper" is the song viewers hear in the background to the introduction of the official J-Wonn YouTube video for "I Got This Record," and with noticeable expertise "Lied To You" ventures into the love-seat domain of songs like Mtume's "Juicy Fruit."

"Night Time Lover," an uptempo cut, raises tantalizing possibilities for J-Wonn's future forays into dance-floor jams, perhaps the only aspect of southern soul music not thoroughly digested and revived in this collection. The faster tempo brings out another charismatic strain in J-Wonn's vocal stylings. The rousing "One For The Road" with its chugging-train-like rhythm track, is another uptempo anthem waiting in the wings for its day on radio.

And yet, this sketchy overview doesn't do justice to the sheer breadth of riches on the album, including "You," "So Long," "Superstar," "VFW," and "I Look Good On You."

Too good to be true? The roll call of impressive new performers in Southern Soul since the turn of the century is replete with head-turning talent, but the seldom-used word "genius" may be the only encomium worthy of J-Wonn, who with this exceptionally accomplished debut CD takes his place in the top rank of contemporary southern soul singers.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy J-Wonn's I GOT THIS RECORD CD at Amazon.

Sample/Buy J-Wonn's I GOT THIS RECORD CD at iTunes.

Read Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to J-Wonn.

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