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 7, 2014:

O.B. BUCHANA: Pop Yo' Bottle (Ecko) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

Resplendent on the record cover of his new CD, Pop Yo' Bottle, with a Lucifer goatee, matching earrings and a wry "got-a-buzz-on" smile, O.B. for the first time looks truly sophisticated.

O.B. has become more sophisticated when it comes to song selection, too. Having utilized composer William Norris (aka performer Sonny Mack) for his last two, well-received CD's--six songs from Knock The Dust Off and three songs, including the title tune, from Starting All Over--Buchana again goes to the well, so to speak, drawing up no less than four typically-steamy Norris tracks, some co-written with O.B.:

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "Party On The Weekend" on YouTube.

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "Private Party" on YouTube.

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "Pop Yo' Bottle" on YouTube.

....and
Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "What's The Deal" on YouTube.

Gerod Rayburn, another "frequent contributor" to the Buchana catalog, tallies two tracks: the Brook Benton-ish ballad "We Can't Just Leave Each Other Alone" and the peppy, vaguely O'Jays-like "Turn It Up," the first single from the album.

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "We Can't Just Leave Each Other Alone" on YouTube.

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "Turn It Up" on YouTube.

O.B. has a hand in quite a few of the composing credits, and John Ward shows up as co-writer on many of the songs, most prominently the catchy, "Ms. Jody's Thang"-like "O.B. Shuffle."

See Daddy B. Nice's #5 "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles Review for July 2014 ("O.B. Shuffle" by O.B. Buchana).

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "O.B. Shuffle" on YouTube.

Two of the most defining tunes on the set, however, are by intriguing newcomers, Henderson Thigpen with the very groovy and hooky "You're Welcome To The Party" (John Ward also contributes) and Lee Gibbs with the meditative and winsome "It Should Have Been Me."

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "You're Welcome To The Party" on YouTube.

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "It Should Have Been Me" on YouTube.

And while we're at it, let's celebrate O.B.'s astounding consistency. Yes, some predictability accrues with the big man's unflagging productivity over the last dozen years, but no younger-generation southern soul artist has put out more music. That's deserving of a ton of respect.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy O.B. Buchana's Pop Yo' Bottle CD.

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June 14, 2014:

CANDI STATON: Life Happens (Beracah/Fame/Red) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should Please Old Fans And Gain New.


First movie-star Blues Brother Dan Ackroyd tops the marquee at the Medgar Evers Homecoming Celebration (replete with southern soul acts) in Jackson, Mississippi on June 7th. Then renowned New Orleans recording artist Dr. John teams with southern soul's Bobby Rush on the somber-but-potent single, “Another Murder In New Orleans.”

Now Candi Staton reappears on the Muscle Shoals-produced CD Life Happens, part of a new cultural trend of vintage headliners acknowledging the existence (and, to an extent, bidding to get into) the phenomenon that is contemporary southern soul.

Like Peggy Scott-Adams--a diminutive lady with the lungs of a giant--Candi Staton has deep roots in southern soul and gospel, having married Clarence Carter and having recorded such soulful anthems as "Stand By Your Man," "Young Hearts Run Free," "I'm Just A Prisoner" and "Victim."

Listen to Candi Staton singing "Young Hearts Run Free" Live Onstage on YouTube.

Listen to Candi Staton singing "Stand By Your Man" on YouTube.

Listen to Candi Staton singing "Victim" on YouTube.

Listen to Candi Staton singing "I'm Just A Prisoner" on YouTube.

Although she never achieved the household renown of Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer or girl-group stars like Dianna Ross, Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love or The Pointer Sisters, in her heyday--producing hit singles for Rick Hall's Fame Studio in the late sixties and early seventies--Candi was marketed as the "The First Lady Of Southern Soul."

Staton and Hall appeared in last year’s critically acclaimed FAME documentary, Muscle Shoals, along with Bono, Aretha Franklin, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, and the new album represents Staton's bid for the kind of crossover popularity Mavis Staples has achieved.

Thus, the showcase tune from the disc, "I Ain't Easy To Love"--

Listen to Candi Staton and band singing "I Ain't Easy To Love" live onstage on the David Letterman Show on YouTube.

--features two contemporary country vocalists--John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Jason Isbell of the Drive-By Truckers--rather than blues/southern soul stars such as Bobby Rush or Mel Waiters.

And from a southern soul fan's perspective, what the album gains by striving for the "Americana" audience is offset by the tentativeness bordering on confusion of the album's umbilical relationship to its black, rhythm and blues roots.

For instance, songs being promoted in the blues radio market ("She's After Your Man," "My Heart's On Empty"), are really northern funk exercises we've all heard ad nauseum.

Cancelling out that negative for the most part, though, are the powerfully-soulful vocals of Ms. Staton. Her authenticity and range are remarkably undiminished by age, surpassing even Ms. Scott-Adams' recent secular comeback.

The full-blown yet impeccable arranging and producing on the Fame tracks, with all-live instrumentation by Muscle Shoals' studio stars, is impressive. The CD is much better financed than the usual southern soul album, and the results are commensurate.

Nevertheless, the majority of the songs were produced by Candi with son Marcus and daughter Cassandra in Atlanta--her home--and London.

Generously packed with fifteen selections, Life Happens traces a bell-curve trajectory, starting with a trio of strong (mostly Fame-recorded) numbers and then dropping off somewhat in quality (excepting the sizzling"3 Minutes To A Relapse") before returning to form with a trio of resurgent, concluding tracks.

On the front end, "Close To You," with its Clarence Carter/"Strokin'" ambience and guitar riffing, and even more especially "Commitment," with its Police-like, ("Every Break You Take") rhythm guitar work, recall the heady zest of Staton's "Young Hearts Run Free."

Similarly, the album ends on a high note with three socially-conscious songs with faultless vocals and brass-section fills to die for: "Have You Seen The Children," "A Better World Coming" and "Where I'm At" (the latter a bonus track on the physical CD only).

Barring a remix of "I Ain't Easy To Love" with a soul singer--and with the possible exception of the uplifting and passionate "Commitment," so redolent of Candi's signature Muscle Shoals sound--LIFE HAPPENS will probably not spawn hit singles in the southern soul market.

However, its Carole King-like tapestry of above-average material, not to mention its length, recording quality and the sheer, startling authoritativeness of Candi Staton's voice, make it a CD listening experience second to none.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Candi Staton's Life Happens at CD Express.

Sample/Buy Candi Staton's Life Happens CD at iTunes.

Read more background on Candi Staton's LIFE HAPPENS CD with Heikki Suosalo of Soul Express, including an interview with the artist.

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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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daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com

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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May 18, 2014:

RICKY WHITE: Majic (CDS) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should Please Old Fans And Gain New.

Shot into orbit around Planet Southern Soul by his 2013 signature smash single "Sexy"...

See Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Review For DECEMBER 2013: #3-ranked;

...Ricky White's new Majic CD consolidates the distinctive tenor's claim to wider recognition on the ever-expanding chitlin' circuit. With lyrics like...

"Turn that thing around.
Drop it to the ground."

And...

"Make it nasty.
Work that sexy."

...White leaves little doubt that he's delving into an unabashed celebration of sexual love. And in the unlikely event there remains a sliver of uncertainty on that point, White's video with T.K. Soul and two twerking dancers practically pasting the two stars to the studio walls with their posteriors effectively eliminates any confusion.

See the Ricky White video of "Sexy" with T.K. Soul on YouTube.

Mixing his natural (and--in the past--occasionally superficial) flamboyance with a hard-earned and well-calculated musicality, Majic finds Ricky White returning with his most finely-honed, mid-tempo Southern Soul sound to date.

While there is nothing on the collection to match the emotive romanticism of White's 2009 masterpiece, "I'll Still Love You," sometimes referred to as "The Wedding Song"...

Listen to Ricky White singing "I'll Still Love You" on YouTube.

...the set more than makes up for it in its seamless quality and sound.

In addition to the slinky, mid-tempo charisma of "Sexy," the Greenville, Mississippi-born native turned successful Arkansas restaurateur and southern soul singer/songwriter shines on the mid-tempo "Jook Joint" (complete with artist shout-outs) and the engrossing ballad "Let Me Ride," with the very able female background of Tanya Youngblood.

Listen to Ricky White singing "Shake" on YouTube.

The dance jams "Shake" and the "Ricky White Shuffle" segue from the slower tracks with a consistency of sound (chirpy synthetic horns, Otis-like vocal tics and well-fleshed-out rhythm sections) that encourages multiple plays.

Among the slow to mid-tempo stand-outs are the Tyrone Davis-influenced "If You Don't Want Me" (although White's vocal timbre couldn't be more different) and "Casino Blues,"....

"Sometimes you win,
Sometimes you lose."

...which has a romantic beauty far greater than its mundane, playing-the-slots theme.

"Freaky Lover" begins with an Isleys-style guitar solo but quickly resolves into the synthetic wash of keyboards and brass that permeates the album as a whole, while the percolating "Blues Is All Good" (once again with terrific back-up by Ms. Youngblood) gradually reveals itself as a reiteration of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean."

In his 21st-century artist guide to White, your Daddy B. Nice wrote:

Ricky White has a unique vocal timbre, an unvarnished, guy-next-door quality similar to Theodis Ealey and--at this point in time--maybe even a little stronger vocal power. As direct as the best country-western music, many of his phrases finish with a swirling, whiplash-sharp upturn that locks them into the memory banks of his listeners.

MAJIC fulfills those specifications and more. With all the music on the collection self-written and self-produced, the collection is highly-recommended.

--Daddy B. Nice

Read Daddy B. Nice's 21st-Century Southern Soul Artist Guide to Ricky White.

Sample/Buy Ricky White's MAJIC CD.

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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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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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April 19, 2014:

DAVID BRINSTON: Back On Track (Delta Down) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

Three songs from David Brinston's new album BACK ON TRACK have already wormed their way into my head so far I may never get them out. Normally, that would be cause for recommendation and celebration, but the collection as a whole--praiseworthy though it assuredly is--does have flaws that throw up a "yellow" flag for fans not already under Brinston's thrall.

As with all of David's latter-day albums, your Daddy B. Nice stacks BACK ON TRACK against his first two CD's (now long out of print), the ones that had Stan & Lenny Lewis and Marshall Love at the helm.

Notwithstanding the many great Brinston songs recorded since ("I Just Love Women," for example), it's hard to describe to today's fans how much the early-century David Brinston charmed fans, attracting them to the new southern soul music coming out of the Deep South. The songs, arrangements and vocals were close to full-blown masterpieces. The songs from that era generally regarded as most representative of David's since-somewhat-eroded "southern soul stardom" are:

Listen to David Brinston singing "Two Way Love Affair" on YouTube.

Listen to David Brinston singing "Party 'Til The Lights Go Out" on YouTube.

Listen to David Brinston singing "Kick It" on YouTube.

Listen to David Brinston singing "Hit & Run" on YouTube.

Like their illustrious forbears, the attention-getting songs on the new Brinston LP have the same strong songwriting base and the same ability to take over a corner of your mind usually reserved for commercial jingles.

I first encountered "Tragic Love" via the radio: Nikki DeMarks in Mobile, Alabama. From...

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

----------MARCH 2014------------

10. “Tragic Love”----------David Brinston

This is brand new David Brinston getting back to his roots, vocally-speaking. Like an old Fredrick Brinson. (That’s a joke.) But there’s truth in the fact that at their best, both the young artist and the old artist convey weathered wisdom and strafed vulnerability. Thumbs up for the (some-might-say-amateurish) female background: it fits in with the overall strangeness.


Then I received the hard copy of the album and instantly began humming the first track, "Diamond In The Middle," with its right-on, naughty couplet:

"My baby's got a diamond in the middle.
She knows how to make that thing wiggle."

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

----------APRIL 2014------------

4. ”Diamond In The Middle” ------------David Brinston

Just when you think the genre has exhausted all the possibilities for sexual double entendres (i.e. "stand up in it," "rock that man in the boat," "beat it up,"), we’re surprised with yet another: "diamond in the middle," which certainly strikes your Daddy B. Nice as both apt and vivid. If David Brinston’s one-of-a-kind vocal were any more tattered, it'd blow away in the wind.


Finally, I've succumbed to "911," a contagious, "Kick It"-style dance track with an ambience reminiscent of Donnie Ray's "Who's Rocking You?"

Other tunes with underlying strength and promise are "One Way" (with a hint of "Hit & Run") and "Your Love," with That Stokes Girl filling in on female background, as she does on "Tragic Love."

What separates the early classics from the new tracks? It's easy to name the culprit--production, lack of budget--but it's harder to put a finger on the specifics. The participants on this close-knit CD are people your Daddy B. Nice cherishes: laborers in the musical vineyard who have given their lives to contemporary southern soul.

Morris Williams, longtime Ecko Records associate, has become the defacto producer on jobs Ecko CEO John Ward can't make "work" on his higher overhead. Williams, for instance, produced the latest John Cummings CD, BACK TO THE GRIND, also reviewed on this page. But muscular rhythm tracks (ala Bigg Robb or Big Yayo) are not Williams' talent.

Linda Stokes is Brinston's longtime songwriter ("Nothing But A Party," etc.) and in a very real sense his muse. She contributes background vocals, songwriting and general support to the CD, but sophisticated vocals are not her bailiwick.

David's brother Terry Brinston is executive producer and sound engineer. In sum, this is a "family" effort, straight from the source (meaning authentic southern soul), but lacking in the polish and panache that powered the early hits.

For veteran southern soul fans, the best songs on this set are too good to miss, yet even a Brinston-watcher can easily imagine better versions. Ultimately the difference may lie in Brinston himself.

The vocals which in David's earlier years seemed to pour out as effortlessly as syrup in August have grown less generous, even a bit pinched and grating. At times, even on the superb "Diamond In The Middle," David calls attention to his delivery (whether consciously or unconsciously), which shouldn't happen, and didn't happen in the old days when David mesmerized us with:

"You might be with someone else's woman
Or someone else's man.
We're not here to knock it,
We're just here to dance."

(from "Party 'Til the Lights Go out/Nothing But A Party").

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy David Brinston's BACK ON TRACK CD at CD Baby.

Read Daddy B. Nice's Original Artist Guide to David Brinston.

Read Daddy B. Nice's 21st Century Artist Guide to David Brinston.

To automatically link to all the awards, citations, chart-listings and other references to David Brinston on the website, go to Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.

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March 23, 2014: Twin Pick

TWO GENEROUS 13-SONG SETS: JOHN CUMMINGS, JETER JONES. Four Stars **** Distinguished Efforts.

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JOHN CUMMINGS: Back On The Grind (Q.T.) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort

Longtime Southern Soul songwriter John Cummings continues to hone his singing voice, a country-inflected tenor high on sensitivity and humility, in this--his second major southern soul collection---Back On The Grind.

The first single from the album debuted on Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Review in March 2014:

3. "Arkansas Caramel"-----------------John Cummings

Now this is southern soul. It’s so hard to describe, yet so instantly recognizable. Reminds me of Karen Wolfe’s “Man Enough.” This is that mid-tempo, sweet-spot heart of southern r&b courtesy of James L. Cain's rhythm track and guitar sound. And kudos on the vocal by longtime songwriter Cummings (Jaye Hammer's "Soul Train Dancer," O.B. Buchana's "I'm Goin' Back Home," Rick Lawson's "This Is The Party," Sheba Potts-Wright's "Lipstick On His Pants," Joy's "Cuttin' Up Sideways," Ms. Jody's "I Never Take A Day Off" and his own "Outside Man" (2010).


Not a few of those compositions were co-written, and BACK ON THE GRIND features a contemporary "Who's Who" of Memphis-area soul musicians who have worked with Big John in the past. They include Morris J. Williams, who provides the same trademark-wispy, background singing that he's contributed to so many Ecko Records tracks, and Percy T. Friends, who provides the lone non-Cummings-written track, "Serious Love." Cummings and Friends go all the way back to Joy's "Cuttin' Up Sideways" album in 2006, on which they collaborated.

The key new benefactors on the CD are producers/arrangers James L. Cain and Eddie "Q.T." Taylor, who along with Cummings give the set an authentic-sounding, traditional Southern Soul character in short supply these days. Especially appealing is the lead-guitar picking on "Mr. Do Right" and "Arkansas Caramel," which blends perfectly with Cummings' much-improved vocals. Both songs represent major advances over Cummings' previous top single, "Outside Man," which charted in May of 2010.

Listen to John Cummings singing "Mr. Do Right" on YouTube.

For a songwriter with so many previous hits by other artists in circulation, I recognized only one previously-recorded tune on the set: "Crazy About You, Baby," recorded by David Brinston on his 2008 PARTY TIME CD (the disc with "I Just Love Women").

Cummings' collection does have its share of conventional tracks, perhaps evidence that Cummings raided his unwanted demos to fill out the CD, but even the "ordinary" tunes avoid the pejorative "filler." Bluesy title track "Back On The Grind" is the paradigm--not striving for too much, but giving it to you with consummate style.

That's why, in a happy departure from tried-and-true singer/songwriter tradition, the Percy Friends-written song "Serious Love"--the last on the disc--comes as such a pleasant shock, taking the album to a whole new level before its conclusion. When--for the first time on the album--a woman's voice appears, you're blown away by the extra dimension it gives the song, and you also realize that much of the album is somewhat bare by comparison from a producing-and-arranging standpoint.

"Serious Love" showcases the silky-voiced but seldom-heard southern soul singer Keri, whose single "Borrowed Time" charted on Daddy B. Nice's Top 10: April 2007.

The true worth of BACK ON THE GRIND is a quartet of stand-out tracks: "Serious Love" feat. Keri, "Arkansas Caramel," "Mr. Do Right" and, last but not least, the odd-but-impression-making, slow-tempo, Mtume's "Juicy Fruit"-like "Black Beauty," on which Big John makes a legitimate effort to stretch the emotive power of his vocals.

Mission accomplished.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy John Cummings' BACK ON THE GRIND (hard copy).

Go to (Big) John Cummings in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.

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JETER JONES: Sweet Jones Live @ Leroy's Chicken Shack (Billionaire) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort

Warning: This CD review will forever be altered by the first impression given this reviewer by its obvious similarity to Chuck Roberson's The Devil Made Me Do It CD, the disc many of us called Roberson's best, the CD that contained the inimitable (we thought) "Chuck Strut."

So maybe I don't see so well any more, but given the microscopic credits on the jacket of Jeter Jones's new Southern Soul debut, Sweet Jones Live @ Leroy's Chicken Shack, and given the recent prevalence for rip-offs (see Daddy B. Nice's Corner: "Mr. Sexy Man's Clone"), the CD had your Daddy B. Nice digging through old Chuck Roberson discs and researching the principals.

Listen to Chuck Roberson singing "Chuck Strut" on YouTube.

Listen to a sample of Jeter Jones singing "Thicker Than Gravy."

Through executive producer Pete Peterson of Desert Sounds Records, who's currently embroiled in a falling-out with Peggy Scott-Adams over her BACK TO THE ROOTS CD, your Daddy B. Nice discovered that it was in fact Eric "Smidi" Smith, the talented producer behind those records--Peggy's as well as Chuck's--who has since left Desert Sounds to produce the Jeter Jones CD as well.

This isn't the first time a southern soul producer has "beamed over" material from one artist's CD to another, entirely different artist's CD. However it does call into question the definition of infringement. Is "Smidi"--even though it's essentially his work--nevertheless infringing on Chuck Roberson by taking the exact rhythm track, melodic riff, tempo and tone right down to the very key from Chuck Roberson's "Chuck Strut" and transferring it to Jeter Jones' "Thicker Than Gravy"?

Who knows? Only the lawyers.

(Jeter Jones, by the way, said "Thicker Than Gravy" was his favorite song on the album, which brought a smile.)

From a larger perspective, the incident demonstrates the power of the producer, the invisible man behind the records you love. The creamy peanut-butter grooves and horn charts of Jones' "Da Boot Scoot" and "Thicker Than Gravy" come from Chuck's (or should we say "Smidi's") "Chuck Strut" and Bobby Jones' "Ain't Got No Proof." Similarly, Jeter Jones' "Crazy Love" is a perfect redo of Chuck Roberson's (or should we say "Smidi's") "It's Not Over."

Listen to Jeter Jones singing "Da Boot Scoot" on YouTube.

Jeter Jones--from Mansfield, Louisiana--actually has a substantial list of independent CD's to his credit (see Jeter Jones at CD Baby), all in the many-nuanced R&B genre. He has much in common with (or has learned much from) fellow Louisianans Cupid (who did a remix of "Da Boot Scoot" with Jones) and Tucka, with both of whom he shares exceptionally sonorous vocal chops and an intuitive grasp of what's charismatic.

Anyway, once you get past the first time you hear the record and scream, "Yeowww! That's Chuck Strut!", the Jeter Jones songs work their way into your system on their own terms and are very close to being addictive. Among the best: "Body's Beat Up," "Da Boot Scoot," "Cowboy Up," "Thicker Than Gravy" and "Somebody Wanna Party."

This may be one of those albums and singers (think of Lebrado) whose work only gets better in retrospect, after day-to-day distractions have dissolved. This "chicken shack" music is hard to sit down on. And Sweet Jones Live@ Leroy's Chicken Shack, with Eric "Smidi" Smith showing the way, gives Jeter Jones instant entry into the Southern Soul world.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy "Da Boot Scoot Remix" (featuring Cupid) mp3.

Sample/Buy Jeter Jones' SWEET JONES LIVE @ LEROY'S CHICKEN SHACK CD.

ERIC "SMIDI" SMITH RESPONDS TO DADDY B NICE'S JETER JONES CD REVIEW:

SEE DADDY B. NICE'S MAILBAG


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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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daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com

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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February 17, 2014:

TRIPLE PICK:  3 NEW DIVAS: LGB, JUREESA MCBRIDE, VIVACIOUS VAL MCNIGHT. Four Stars **** Distinguished Efforts.



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LGB: I Am Who I Am (Rock N Stereo) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort

LGB is no musical prodigy. Endowed with limited range and scant power, she has nevertheless achieved the clarity of self and inner peace to embrace what she acknowledges as her "raspy soul voice."

Armed with nothing but her self-assurance and dogged determination, the product of Allendale, South Carolina has gradually fashioned a musical technique and a recording personality custom-tailored to her unique strength: an Alice-in-Wonderland-like freshness. In LGB's world anything seems possible musically, and even probable.

Thus you have LGB's 2010 debut, the rather cryptic and pseudo-intellectual "Reality Slowly Walks Us Down." What to make of it other than enjoy the subtle blend of melody and harmonies?

And although "Reality's" smoke-and-mirrors didn't seem likely to be repeated, LGB followed it up in 2011 with the even farther-out-of-left-field "Jealous Wo-Man, Yes I Am," which soon became her signature single.

This wasn't your traditional Southern Soul (what is these days?), unless you're fortunate enough to remember the path-less-taken southern soul of Frank Mendenhall and some of that legendary singer's exotic, off-the-wall mini-masterpieces.

Three years after its initial release, "Jealous Wo-Man" at last finds a home in LGB's second full-length CD I Am Who I Am.

The collection boasts two new songs that have already charted on Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles Chart (for January & February 2014), "You Don't Miss Your Water" (a tribute to William Bell) co-sung with Bishopville, South Carolina's Drink Small (and done twice), and "Country Woman," the most fully-accomplished new song and likely new single, performed in both southern soul and zydeco versions.

"Jody's Baby Girl" builds off an old Sam & Dave guitar riff ("I'm A Soul Man") but in typical LGB fashion avoids the crescendos and climaxes of the classic for a more subtle groove.

The two other most affecting--if peculiar--selections are the old standard "The Yellow Rose Of Texas" and an intriguing grafting of gospel and back-country folk called "Like A Tree In Water" ("I Will Not Be Removed").

Sample/Buy LGB's I Am Who I Am CD.

JUREESA MCBRIDE: I'm A Woman First: The Tales Of The Duchess (JSS/Silver Duchess) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort


When it comes to sheer vocal talent, Jureesa McBride has it all: strength, range, diction and a deep yet sparkling tone. Even her breathing mesmerizes.

A native of Pattison, Mississippi, a hamlet near Vicksburg in the heart of the Delta, McBride's pipes earned her regional accolades even before her first single, "Let Me Be Your Super Mistress," hit the air waves at WMPR in Jackson in 2013.

Super Mistress (notice it wasn't just "any" mistress) was head-turning, culturally-speaking, even for chitlin' circuit audiences: a straightforward come-on to a married man by a "hot" female. No demands--only looking to be a "mistress"--sung with a genuine conviction that couldn't be mistaken for satire.

The provocative lyrics, in retrospect, obscured the production, which was excellent (although invisible as it should be). That excellence of production, courtesy of Donovan E. Scott (with Jureesa and mother Shirley listed as Executive Producers) is a major reason Jureesa McBride's debut CD--I'm a Woman First (Tales of the Duchess)--is a seamless success.

For example, McBride and Scott take the old "I'm A Man" riff, which has been covered thousands of times, and infuse it with crackling energy in "I'm A Southern Girl." It's an impressive cover.

"I'm A Southern Girl" and the catchy, swaying "Did I Lay It On You Right" charted on Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles Chart in January and February of 2014.

Another track begging to be a single, the mid-tempo "Cookies In Your Milk," is perfectly executed, and the metaphor just may stick (Nellie Travis used "your cookie" in her duet with Adrena last year), while the uptempo "Southern Soul Swag" rocks with casual authority.

The opening and closing songs, "Woman First" and "I Can Still Make It," although obviously thematically important to the CD's concept, and just as obviously important to the artist, are nevertheless the only cuts where the production and Jureesa's hyper-emotive vocal go "a little over the top" from a Southern Soul perspective, verging on the histrionic, or what we call around here that "nasty old" slick urban r&b.

Sample/Buy Jureesa McBride's I'm a Woman First (Tales of the Duchess) CD.

VIVACIOUS VAL MCKNIGHT: Red Hot Lover (Vivacious) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort

Listening to the first bars of "Red Hot Lover," the title cut of McKnight's debut CD, after listening to Jureesa McBride is like leaving the mansion for the trailer park. Almost stubbornly unstudied, as if her audiences wouldn't put up with the pretension, McKnight hasn't the slightest interest in melisma or coloration, her notes often slide flat, and her tone has all the subtlety of a screeching alley cat. (I'm thinking of "Red Hot Lover" in particular.)

But hold on! In Southern Soul, as in the Bible, the last--by virtue of their righteousness--shall frequently go "first," and in Val McKnight's case that is the conclusion one almost begrudgingly grants the feisty singer as she drops one authentically-memorable track after another.

No stranger to Daddy B. Nice's Concert Calendar, Val McKnight has been performing in the Jackson, Mississippi area (including Vicksburg) for years, and of the three divas reviewed she is the most seasoned in the ways of back-street southern soul.

Listen to Valerie McKnight singing "Hoo Doo Woman" Live Onstage at the E&E in Jackson, Mississippi on YouTube.

McKnight's first charting single, southern soul-certified, was "You Bring Out The Freak In Me" way back in 2009, so this album has been a long time coming.

McKnight is equally adept at hole-in-the-wall blues ("Hoodoo Woman," "Juke Joint Party," "Blues Is A Serious Thing") and southern soul ("Two Is Company," "Jody Got The Job Done," "Red Hot Lover").

"Two Is Company" was Daddy B. Nice's #4 "Breaking" Southern Soul Single for February '14.

The set includes a couple of respectful covers-- Etta James' "Wet Match" and Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Members Only"--on which Valerie's vocal sounds almost conventional, proving that her "alley-cat" un-schooled-ness on "Red Hot Lover" and other rowdy numbers is a calculated one.

Val even "stoops" to urban r&b in "Flicker In The Flame" with another corresponding loss of vocal identity, and nothing sounds better than the segue into the first notes of "Jody Got The Job Done" and a return to the Vivacious One's true metier.

Harrison Calloway Jr. and Forrest Gordon provide the adept and flexible production, including most of the musical backgrounds, with Stevie J. on guitar.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Vivacious Val McKnight's Red Hot Lover CD.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

O.B. Buchana, Pop Yo' Bottle, 7-7-14

Candi Staton, Life Happens, 6-14-14

Ricky White, Majic, 5-18-14

David Brinston, Back On Track, 4-20-14

John Cummings, Back On The Grind, 3-23-14

Jeter Jones, Sweet Jones Live@ Leroy's Chicken Shack, 3-23-14

LGB, I Am Who I Am, 2-17-14

Jureesa McBride, I'm A Woman First, 2-17-14

Val McKnight, Red Hot Lover, 2-17-14

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Recently reviewed:

Avail Hollywood, Country Road, & Best Of Avail Hollywood, 1-19-14 (Scroll down this column.)

Ms. Jody, It's All About Me!, 12-28-13 (Contained in the Ms. Jody Artist Guide: click link.)

Simone De, Bad Boy, 12-1-13 (Scroll down this column.)

Stephanie McDee, Return Of The Southern Soul Queen, 11-12-13 (Scroll down this column.)

Twin Pick: Donnie Ray, Drowning In My Own Tears, & Best Of Donnie Ray, 10-12-13 (Scroll down this column.)

Latimore, Latimore Remembers Ray Charles, 9/21/13 (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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January 19, 2014: TWIN PICK  
AVAIL HOLLYWOOD: Country Road (Nlightn) and... THE BEST OF AVAIL HOLLYWOOD (Nlightn) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul heaven.


For every hundred young Southern Soul recording artists with the brilliant creative talent of--say--a Luther Lackey (who recently quit performing), there may be one artist with the down-to-earth grit, want-to, and business acumen to succeed and make a bona fide career. The creativity may not even be apparent at first. What counts for more is the artist's determination to go the "extra mile," to shake off the deflating criticism, adapt, get better and--above all--keep knocking on doors and working phones (the hardest thing in the world for the typical young artist).

Avail Hollywood is that one in a hundred. In the recently-posted 2013 Southern Soul Music Awards, under the category "Hardest-Touring Crowd-Pleasers," your Daddy B. Nice noted:

Hardest-touring artists can be broken down by generations--1st gen (B.B. King), 2nd gen (Mel Waiters), 3rd gen (T.K. Soul).

What I almost added but didn't was:

4th gen (Avail Hollywood).

The young Texarkana native has blazed a new chitlin' circuit path through towns and hamlets rarely visited by even the most traveled veterans of Southern Soul. And yet, Hollywood (aka Christopher Estell, born 1983) made the awards in a more important category. His new CD Country Road (released in September '12) was a finalist for "Best CD" of the year.

The title tune, "Country Road," is replete with southern soul savvy, arranging and producing acumen, and Avail's unusual, pirouetting, closer-to-talking-than-singing vocal style.

Listen to Avail Hollywood singing "Country Road" while you read.

Assisted by special effects and a thumping keyboard note that recalls Senator Jones' backing track to Mz. B's "My Name Is $$$$"--one of many references to southern soul lore--Avail has the following conversation with his significant other:

Hey, baby. Baby, what you doing?

I'm just going to pull over right here.

No, you just can't pull over on this country road like this.

What are you? Scared or something?

What if the sheriff come through?

I know the sheriff....


Avail's gal, of course, wins the argument, while Avail goes on to reference fellow young Southern Soul "guns" LaMorris Williams and Chris Ivy. Younger-generation stars Black Zack ("Sho' Wasn't Me" rap/remix) and Certified Slim contribute to the album (Certified Slim on “Beat It Up,”
Black Zack on “Club In The Woods”) befitting Hollywood's axis of influence. All this for a native of Texarkana, Texas, not exactly on the "beaten track," even by chitlin' circuit standards.

Beyond the tentative single “Don’t Leave Me,” Hollywood's first album, The Young Gunn of Southern Soul (2009), had little to define Avail Hollywood but swagger. But Hollywood came back with a vengeance, notching a signature single, "Drinking Again," on the album of the same name in 2011.

Listen to Avail Hollywood singing "Drinking Again" on YouTube while you read.

Hollywood's Country Road represents another huge advance, combining the stellar arranging and producing skills of DRINKING AGAIN with an unprecedented songwriting bonanza: the anthem-like, stepping song, "Anniversary," the country-themed "Club In Da Woods," the touching "Trying Not To Break Up" and the chugging "Halle Berry," among others.

Meanwhile, in 2013, Hollywood was putting out more classy-sounding singles: the uptempo, cajun-themed Creole Shuffle and the typically flamboyant but painstakingly-produced "Fatal Attraction."

So it shouldn't come as such a surprise to open a CD entitled THE BEST OF AVAIL HOLLYWOOD (NlightN, 2014) and find an astounding quantity of music--and yet it does. Behind our backs, so to speak, this young star has accumulated quite a catalog. The contents include:

Fatal Attraction
Country Road
Club In Tha Woods
One Man's Trash
Domestic Love
Let's Get Raw
Drinking Again
Creole Shuffle
Halle Berry
Make The Bed Rock
Don't Leave Me
Beat It Up
Ima' Give It To You
Week-End
Anniversary
Forever & Always
Trying Not To Break Up


Christopher Estell does all the writing, arranging and producing. Pete Peterson of Desert Sounds Records, himself a 2012 Southern Soul Music Awards arranger/producer, is listed as “project coordinator” on the COUNTRY ROAD CD and appears to be collaborating with Hollywood on distribution through Select-O-Hits.

Is Hollywood an acquired taste? Perhaps, for the older generation. He certainly has made inroads with the younger audience. But even the traditional r&b crowd, listening to the seamless sequence of well-written, well-sung, well-produced songs gracing THE BEST OF AVAIL HOLLYWOOD, will come away with a genuine respect for this talented AND ambitious young performer.

Highly recommended.

--Daddy B. Nice

Read Daddy B. Nice’s Artist Guide to Avail Hollywood

Listen to Avail Hollywood & Black Zack singing "Club In Da Woods" on YouTube.

Listen to Avail Hollywood singing "Country Road" on YouTube.

Listen to Avail Hollywood singing "Fatal Attraction" on YouTube.

Sample/Buy Avail Hollywood's Country Road at CD Baby.

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December 1, 2013:
SIMONE DE: Bad Boy (Premier Music Ent.) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

A colorful character, book author and onetime Congressional candidate with the looks of a model, 48-year-old, Mobile, Alabama-based Simone De (Moore)'s new album, "Bad Boy," showcases an emerging Gulf-Coast star on the cusp of discovering his true southern soul identity.

"De" has at least a couple of previous albums--A Definitive Collection and Soul Enchantment --under his belt. The singer first became a blip on your Daddy B. Nice's radar in 2006 with his single, "Since I Lost You, Baby," which populated all the deejay charts of the time.

Not to be confused with the well-known Temptations standard, Simone De's "Since I Lost You, Baby" was a pleasantly-tempo-ed romantic ballad sung in a nasal, pleading tenor.

But Simone De really broke here at Southern Soul RnB in 2012 with the release of his song, "Feels So Good."

Listen to Simone De singing "Feels So Good" on YouTube while you read.

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

JUNE 2012

1. "Feels So Good"------Simone De

You hear the opening bars and you think you're listening to Karen Wolfe's "Man Enough" published by Anna Coday's B&J Records a couple of years ago. Simone De uses the background track of the Omar Cunningham-written song and gives it a surprisingly different cast, complete with new lyrics and a passionate, nuanced vocal.


And later that summer, in a "Corner" article on Nikki DeMarks from WDLT Mobile's All Blues Saturdays, your Daddy B. Nice was still marveling at the new perspective:

And as Simone De's "Feels So Good" filled the air space with the sound of Omar Cunningham's background from the Karen Wolfe classic, "Man Enough" (a burglary I condemned the first time I heard the Simone De promo single), I found my former criticism of the song irrelevant. I found "Man Enough" dissolving before my very eyes.

Listen to Karen Wolfe singing "Man Enough" on YouTube.

This had happened before. The first time, for example, I heard Larry Milton's "Knock My Boots," which kidnaps the background from The Love Doctor's "Slow Roll It." After an initial period of disdain, I gave into Larry Milton's vision. Now I always look forward to hearing "Knock My Boots."

Similarly, listening to Simone De singing "Feels So Good" on Nikki DeMarks' program on WDLT, the Karen Wolfe memories were dissolving. I couldn't remember the melody to "Man Enough." I was into what Simone De was doing with the very same background. "Feels So Good" FELT so good.


"Feels So Good"'s uniqueness came from the vocal's "grit," and when I talk about Simone De's "southern soul identity" I'm talking about De's passionate vocals--as gritty as traction sand--should he choose to undertake this southern soul "mission impossible".

Here's the reason I mention the iffy "should." A good number of tracks on BAD BOY have nothing to do with southern soul, including "Bad Boy" itself, which is done in an 80's-funk style, and could be an out-take on a Bigg Robb album of a decade ago, before he got serious Southern Soul "religion."

Listen to Simone De singing "Bad Boy" on YouTube.

Here's a peek at the highlights grit-wise and non-grit-wise on BAD BOY:

"Wanna Be Your Lover." A worthy mid-tempo ballad from 2006's A Definitive Collection. Based on an old Staples riff ("Do It Again"), it signaled Simone De's habit of either covering undisputed soul classics or composing new ones that sound eerily close.

Thus, the inclusion of "Tonight Is The Night," a McCartney-esque ballad, bordering on--yet for the most part avoiding--the trite and sentimental, also taken from A Definitive Collection , along with "Wanna Be Your Lover" and "Since I Left You, Baby."

(Rolling over previously-recorded songs, by the way, is a common practice--and much-needed one--where little-known artists with scantly-distributed early CD's are concerned.)

"Need Love" is a distinguished new song, a heartfelt ballad with vivid details and a sparkling arrangement. The outing features a duet with an excellent, uncredited female singer.

"Woman You Are," another new tune, sounds extra-special, with an impressive mid-tempo melody, a sumptious arrangement and a gritty vocal. This song has the potential to be a hit single.

Listen to Simone De singing "Woman You Are" on YouTube.

"So Right, So Good," released by De earlier in 2013 as a single, is okay but derivative (The Isleys, The Average White Band).

Simone De's old standard, "Since I Lost You, Baby," however, sounds especially memorable, with De skillfully bending notes with unique twists and turns as he traverses the compelling melody line.

Listen to Simone De singing "Since I Lost You, Baby" on YouTube.

A handful of other songs from the twelve-track collection fall short of spectacular, making the set uneven at best. But overall, it's hard to complain about a CD which contains the likes of "Feels So Good," "Woman You Are," "Need Love," "Since I Lost You, Baby," "Wanna Be Your Lover" and "Tonight Is The Night."

--Daddy B. Nice

P.S. Not for sale through national distributors/retailers yet. Go to the official Simone De website.

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November 12, 2013:

STEPHANIE MCDEE: Return Of The Southern Soul Queen (Miracle) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

Stephanie McDee's funny, iconic song "Monkey Talk" was a close "also-ran" for Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists & Songs (90's-00's). Now, a decade later, Stephanie returns with a treasure trove of pent-up material in Return Of The Southern Soul Queen.

Style-wise, it's a wild mixture of southern soul, zydeco and electronica, with over-the-top forays into sixties' girl-group soul-pop and contemporary Louisiana gumbo-gospel. In effect, it's a double album (17 tracks) of gorgeous zydeco-influenced southern soul with minimal filler.

(The exceptions are the tracks "Ghetto Life" and the entry and exit cuts--straight rap--almost as if McDee were marketing fifteen excellent southern soul numbers to an audience entirely made up of hip-hop enthusiasts.)

But that is a small blemish on a collection of songs that has not only taken the southern soul scene by surprise but coincided with the arrival of a new creative movement of Louisiana-based artists who are influencing the direction of Southern Soul: McDee herself, Tyree Neal, Tucka, Cupid, Rude, Simone De and--just emerging--Pokey.

(Not to short-change their antecedents Jackie Neal, T.K. Soul, Kenne Wayne, L'il Fallay, Lebrado, Big Cynthia...)

As repeat readers know, your Daddy B. Nice posts a "Top 10 'Breaking' Southern Soul Singles Review every month. McDee scored an unprecedented #1 single in back-to-back months with "When I Step In The Club" and "Lion Of Judah" (October-November 2013).

Along with her fellow Gulf-coast performers, McDee virtually hijacked November's Top 10, pushing away otherwise worthy charting efforts by the likes of Andre Lee, Karen Wolfe, Nathaniel Kimble and Chandra Calloway.

The songs on Return Of The Southern Soul Queen are all about stretching boundaries, defying expectations, re-working supposedly off-limits or out-of-fashion styles and doing it all with a sure Southern Soul hand without which they'd fail miserably.

Listen to Stephanie McDee singing "When I Step In The Club" on YouTube while you read.

Assisted by Tyree Neal on guitar and production, for example, McDee's vocal in "When I Step In The Club," flits like a butterfly against the tapestry of Neal's looping guitar riff, weaving first one way and then another, totally in the moment like the jazz "scat" singers of old. "When I Step In The Club" is sure to become "bumper music" for generations of future deejays who want to dispense its potent but subtle good-time sensual vibes to radio fans.

"Married To One Man (In Love With Another) Remix" recycles an older song of McDee's by way of wild and fearless producer Shonta (pronounced shon-tay), who gives it an overblown "MacArthur Park"-style arrangement that perfectly complements McDee's husky, proletarian vocal. The synthetic strings and keyboards play off McDee's street-wise grit to achieve a kind of southern soul mini-symphony.

Shonta (shon-tay) oversees an even wilder (and from a northerner's perspective almost "punkish") concoction in what McDee calls "a little bit of Louisiana gospel gumbo"--"Lion Of Judah." The song (or chant) is basically melody-less, but the vocal and the chorus (complete with zydeco organ, marching-band brass, vocoders and an insane rhythm section) exert a contrapuntal tension of hurricane intensity.

In his November Top Ten Single #1-ranked analysis, Daddy B. Nice wrote of "Lion Of Judah":

You can imagine Rosie Perez dancing to "Lion of Judah" instead of Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" at the beginning of Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing."

But any one of seven or eight of the songs on the CD could become popular radio singles.

Vying for immediate radio time are the very Southern Soul-tinged "Cheating On Me," featuring Tyree Neal, along with "Good Thang Man" and "You Used To Be A Good Man," while effective redo's of "Monkey Talk," "Call The Police" and "Busted" sound better than ever.

"I Get So Emotional" boasts a Tyrone Davis flavor, or going back further, a vintage Motown-Philly sound. However, for an album with so much quantity, it's remarkable how few antecedents can be detected. "Caught Up," for instance, bases its melody on the old Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell standby, "Your Precious Love." But that's about it.

McDee's voice--by no means sophisticated or finished--possesses a funky integrity that nevertheless fits whatever style she exercises, whether it be the relatively traditional balladeering of "All I Want" or the uptempo, hook-driven paces of "Hideaway Motel" (an homage to Marvin Sease). There's no over-reaching, no pratfalls, just solid singing in the service of rhythm and fun.

To get so much great music--hummable, danceable, non-perishable music--in such humble and straightforward circumstances (and under the auspices of a singer who sounds more like a right-on journey-woman than a Shirley Brown wannabe) doubles the novelty and pleasure.

Highly recommended.

--Daddy B. Nice

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October 12, 2013: TWIN PICK
DONNIE RAY: Drowning In My Own Tears (Ecko) And... BEST OF DONNIE RAY (Ecko) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

So accustomed is your Daddy B. Nice to listening to Donnie Ray Aldredge, I actually picked through each song on the new Drowning In My Own Tears CD muttering, "I like that phrase," "I don't like that phrase," "That's interesting," "I've heard that before, Yes...No...Yes," and so on, more like a working producer than a fan out for a little enjoyment.

And many Southern Soul fanatics will experience the same simultaneous sense of wonder and surprise on the one hand and familiarity and borderline contempt on the other as they mutter and shake their heads through the first two tracks--"Real Good Lover" and "Let's Get This Party Started"--because they have that generic, I'm-aiming-to-be-the-opening-cut-That's-my-mediocre-goal feel to them. (On subsequent listens, they do get better, but you know what I mean.)

Then, on track 3, "Groove Party," Donnie Ray clobbers everybody with a fantastic, get-off-your-chair-and-dance anthem in the Gamble-Huff mode. I'm in awe of Donnie Ray singing in that early-seventies, Philly-disco atmosphere, as he did on his recent smash single, "Who's Rockin' You?" The Philly soul sound brings out a unique, sonorous quality in Donnie Ray's voice that sets him truly apart from other singers.

On the other hand (and negating that theory, to a certain extent), freshness and energy permeate the old-school ("A Letter To My Baby"-like) Donnie Ray cuts too, namely the personable "Play Something Pretty On My Radio" and "Drowning In My Own Tears", the title song, which includes a disarming, Question Mark & The Mysterians-like keyboard.

"Same Woman" is a duet with Jaye Hammer, and despite Donnie Ray's dozen or so albums over the years there is a novelty and even anonymity to the pairing. Hammer, a large-scale new talent, is still little known, even within the confines of southern r&b. So, for instance, as opposed to the recent pairing of Sir Charles Jones and O. B. Buchana on "I Can't Get Her Off Of My Mind," it's not as easy to distinguish readily when it's Hammer and when it's Donnie Ray.

"What About Me" is a ballad in the classic southern soul mode.

"If You're Woman Enough (To Leave Me)" is an obvious reference to Karen Wolfe's "(If You're) Man Enough (To Leave, I'm Woman Enough To Let You Go)," but unlike Simone De, who lifted the background track from Karen's hit single when he made his own radio jam "Feels So Good," Donnie Ray borrows the concept and puts it into an entirely new musical framework.

It works, too. Like "Groove Party," "If You're Woman Enough To Leave Me" mines that vintage orchestral-soul sound that displays Aldredge's tenor to such stunning effect.

"Shakin' It Up" is a surprise and a winner. It nagged at me uncommonly before I put my finger on the classic that makes this song's engines purr: Johnnie Taylor's "Wall To Wall." (And once you make the connection, you notice the explicit references embedded in the song itself.) The echo, the added dimension, of "Wall To Wall" makes Donnie Ray's "Shakin' It Up" a strong candidate for a radio single.

The album closes with an especially affecting ballad called "You Keep Taking Your Love Away."

BEST OF DONNIE RAY, Aldredge's new "best-of" collection, slipped by unnoticed earlier this year, and given the up-and-down aspects of "regular" albums, it's a great value.

Actually, with the exception of the first two signature tunes--"Who's Rockin' You?" and "A Letter To My Baby"--the front end of this compilation is a little weak, filled with tunes which received scant notice at the time of their release.

Nevertheless, the album is important because it brings together for the first time the bulk if not the complete repertoire of Donnie Ray's hits:

"A Letter To My Baby," based on The McCrae's "Rocking Chair," the song that won Donnie Ray his fan base;

"Who's Rockin' You?", in which Donnie Ray hit his perfect Southern Soul groove;

"I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home," Donnie Ray's most winsome and affecting if understated song (not least because of the female chorus);

"This Time the Dog Got Caught by the Cat," a better-than-average "response" song to Ms. Jody's "Your Dog Is Killing My Cat" when it came out, and it has aged well;

"It's Just A Party Thing," one of those perfect, good-time, heart-of-Southern-Soul songs in the mode of David Brinston's "Party 'Til The Lights Go Out (Nothing But A Party)";

"Sensual To Me," one of Donnie Ray's pre-eminent ballads, under-represented somewhat in this collection;

...and "BYOB," which still sounds good, its simplicity in its favor.

The short and spiffy precursor to "Who's Rockin' You," "BYOB" was the song that put fans and critics on notice that Donnie Ray was aiming for the center field fence.

For anyone who's ever enjoyed Donnie Ray, this pair of albums--one current, one retrospective--represents a godsend of worthy material, the best "face" Donnie Ray has put yet on his rising career.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Donnie Ray's New DROWNING IN MY OWN TEARS CD.

Drowning In My Own Tears at iTunes.

Sample/Buy New BEST OF DONNIE RAY CD.

Best Of Donnie Ray at iTunes.

Read Daddy B. Nice's new 21st Century Southern Soul Artist Guide to Donnie Ray.

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September 21, 2013:

  LATIMORE: Latimore Remembers Ray Charles (Henry Stone Music) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

Here's a great album for the old school. The more interesting question is whether Latimore Remembers Ray Charles will have any relevance for the younger generation of R&B enthusiasts for whom Ray Charles may seem as biblically distant as Methuselah.

Here are just a few of the many tantalizing facts surrounding this giant of early soul music:

Ray Charles is ranked #2 on "The 100 Greatest Singers" by "Rolling Stone" magazine, second only to Aretha Franklin.

Ray Charles wasn't born blind. He had his eyesight and saw the bounteous visual beauty of the world until the age of four or five, when his vision became impaired, presumably by glaucoma. By the age of seven he was consigned to a world of blackness. Imagine how much more difficult than being blind from birth it was to first know the world visually and then lose it.

In his youth Ray Charles lived and worked throughout Florida--Greenville, St. Petersburg, Orlando, Tampa, Tallahassee, Miami--but when he decided to leave the Sunshine state he told a friend that he wanted to go as far away from Florida as possible. He ended up in Seattle, where he met a young fourteen-year-old named Quincy Jones.

Ray Charles grew up in an America ruled by jazz and swing, and popular music headlined by such African-American artists as Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis. If you want to know why Ray Charles is considered a revolutionary artist (one of the pioneers of soul, R&B and Rock and Roll), listen to the Tin Pan Alley-era sounds of Cole or Mathis and then play Charles' rollicking "What'd I Say."

Although worthy and invaluable in exposing the music of the great Ray Charles to a new generation or two, Latimore Remembers Ray Charles is a tricky project. Can Latimore's versions of the songs--recorded at the legendary Florida music mogul Henry Stone's Miami studios--stand by themselves? Or do they just remind you of the originals, and pale by comparison?

"Georgia On My Mind," for example, which came out when your Daddy B. Nice was about 13 years old, makes me pine for the incredible "high-definition" vocal and production of Ray's original, which--along with Charles' other country-western excursions like "Crying Time" and "I Can't Stop Loving You"--tore up the static-ridden radio of the early sixties.

On the other hand, "Hit The Road, Jack," this last summer's hit Southern Soul single by Latimore, achieves a compelling identity of its own. It's a genuine updating of its own--not as starkly brilliant as the Grammy Award-winning, Charles version that already sounded like a throwback to mid-fifties R&B by the time it hit Billboard's #1 in 1961--but with a casual charm and appealing voice-over towards the end that makes the song completely and comfortably Latimore's.

I Got A Woman" and "What'd I Say" are almost as skillfully transformed, deferring to the iconic sound of the originals while adding a deft and casual contemporary feel.

Those three songs made Charles' reputation as "the genius" in the early sixties, and along with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, the Everly Brothers and Elvis, Charles paved the way for the explosion of rock and roll in the mid-sixties by The Beatles, Beach Boys and Bob Dylan.

Charles explained that the piano-driven chords and back-and-forth choruses of "What'd I Say" developed from give-and-take with his audiences, with the wailing call-and-responses ("Heyyy!"..."Heyyy!") imitated by every live rock and roll and R&B band over the next two decades.

"I Can't Stop Loving You," #1 for ten weeks on "Billboard" in 1962, was Charles last great blockbuster, ironically (for a black artist) setting up country music as well as soul music as a dominant American genre for decades to come.

Latimore is such a logical choice for a project paying homage to Ray Charles it's remarkable, in retrospect, that it wasn't conceived until now. Latimore followed Ray Charles into Henry Stone's Florida studios not long after the Genius made his mark in the early sixties, becoming arguably Stone's single-greatest vocalist after Charles. The familiarity of the two living principals makes the album a slam-dunk in execution.

Latimore plays piano and keyboards, Warren "Roach" Thompson plays guitar and Gene Mulvaney plays steel guitar on the country-western cuts. The songs feature live brass sections and faithful background vocals mimicking Ray's venerable Raelettes by Gwen McRae, Valerie Woods and Tessie Porter, among others. George "Chocolate" Perry and Joe Stone do the bulk of engineering, mixing and production.

Highly recommended.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Latimore Remembers Ray Charles at CD Baby.

Read Daddy B. Nice's new 21st Century Artist Guide to Latimore.

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Boulder, Colorado 80308


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