Sorrento Ussery

Daddy B. Nice's #86 ranked Southern Soul Artist

Portrait of Sorrento Ussery by Daddy B. Nice

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"Put That Thang In Motion"

Sorrento Ussery

Composed by Sorrento Ussery

July 1, 2010: Daddy B. Nice highlights Mid-Decade Stars of Southern Soul

(Artists who flourished in the mid-years of the first decade of the 21st century.)

His name, Sorrento, sounds like Italian opera, but the Southern Soul deejays call Sorrento Ussery the "Jack-Town" (as in Jackson, Mississippi) "Wonder Boy." The late Tyrone Davis was once called "Wonder Boy." Sorrento's vocal talent, like Davis, is over-sized. He has the technique and emotional range of sophisticated vocalists like O. B. Buchana and Robert "The Duke" Tillman, but he sounds rougher, with a deep-throated sound like he's been smoking too much, which only adds to his mystique, because it hints at reserves of talent Ussery has yet to tap.

"Put That Thang In Motion" (from Make Sweet Love, Hep'Me, 2004) is a powerfully effective dance groove, lavishly produced at cutting-edge label Hep'Me Records, with Senator Jones, Sir Charles Jones and their studio wizards. As with many a dance floor groove, your Daddy B. Nice didn't catch that melody line on the first couple of listenings, but its hook sunk in, as all instinctual grooves do, and once hooked, it's been musical ecstasy on every hearing since.

"Hey ladies,
You're looking real good tonight.
I wonder,
Can we get this thing a little more high-class?"

"Put That Thang In Motion" may be the most powerful (and musical) dance jam in recent Southern Soul--since, say, David Brinston's "Kick It" (Fly Right, Suzie Q, 2001) or O. B. Buchana's "Let's Get Drunk" (I Got Caught, Suzie Q, 2001). That these two songs were produced at the same studio around the same time is no coincidence. An historian of Southern Soul could almost characterize Sorrento Ussery's "Put That Thang In Motion" as an homage to the vanguard sound Suzie Q was creating with David Brinston and O. B. Buchana at the dawn of the century.

What was that sound, you say? You might call it an infusion of hiphop-like dynamism, a more propulsive-than-customary rhythm track, without losing the soulfulness or the musical depth of Southern Soul rhythm and blues. In the case of "Put That Thang In Motion," it was also an infusion of reggae. But the melody line, filled by a brazen harmonica--or more likely a keyboard mimicking a mouth harp with a hint of oboe--updates "Put That Thang In Motion," leaping a half-decade ahead in terms of style if for no other reason than it bears the arranging "mark" of Sir Charles Jones.

"It's time to start the show.
Get on the dance floor.
Come on y'all.
Go for what you know.

Put that thang in motion.
Put that thang in motion, yeah."

Ussery is nothing if not versatile. "Dead Giveaway," the first radio single from his second CD, is a story-telling extravaganza, pure Southern Soul in the tradition of the crowd-pleasing, monologue-interspersed songs of the legendary Marvin Sease, or--to recall yet another master--Roy C. standing at the bar in "Living For The Weekend," blithely segueing from his tale of personal misery to a comfortable flirtation with the woman on the next bar stool.

The music is appropriately mid-tempo, with a delightfully-vintage female chorus and a Southern Soul theme as well-worn as a pair of cardboard-soled Chinese sandals.

"She said,
'You stayed up half the night.
Stayed gone half the day.
The look on your face
Is a dead giveaway."

While Ussery navigates "Dead Giveaway" with a deadpan humor, he is equally adept at romantic themes. "Hold On (If You Feel You've Got A Good Thing, Don't Let It Slip Away)" from the same CD (Dead Giveaway, Hep'Me 2005) delivers heartfelt emotion--in this case regret--with delicacy and sensitivity.

"As I sit all by myself,
I often look at the picture on the shelf.
And as I toss all night in my bed,
I think about the reason she left.
I believe it was someone else (who) said:
How can I have been so cruel?
How can I have been such a fool?"

The melody is especially graceful, and Ussery's breathy, deep, Notorious B.I.G.-like voice envelops the pristine arrangement (complete with touching female backup) in an atmosphere so redolent of classic soul that one almost pinches oneself to remember it isn't an oldie.

"Where there's sunshine,
There's some rain.
Where there's joy,
You'd better believe there's gonna be pain.

What you've got to do, brother:
If you feel you've got a good thing,
Don't let it slip away."

Sorrento is no straight-ahead shouter. He is an impressionist, a master of shading and tone, and once you've grown accustomed to his voice, you'll always recognize it. Among the bounteous crop of talented Southern Soul male vocalists to debut in the last few years, Sorrento Ussery stands out as one of the most gifted.

--Daddy B. Nice

About Sorrento Ussery

Young singer Sorrento Ussery first came to the attention of the chitlin' circuit on the Sir Charles Jones CD, Southern Soul Party: Sir Charles Jones & Friends (Hep'Me) in 2004. Jones had been bogged down in a dispute with his record company following his second CD, Love Machine (Mardi Gras, 2001), issuing no new product for almost three years.

Thus, the Southern Soul Party CD was partly a Sir Charles Jones' "white album" and partly a Hep'Me Records sampler featuring tracks to which Sir Charles had contributed singing, composing, arranging or producing.

Sorrento Ussery was featured on two tracks from the CD, "Put That Thang In Motion" and "Let Me Take You Out." Southern Soul Party came out formally in October, but pre-release tracks--including Ussery's "Put That Thang In Motion"--had been circulating on the Stations of the Deep South since summer, when Ussery's solo Make Sweet Love CD (Hep'Me) had appeared.

Besides the aforementioned songs, Make Sweet Love included tunes cowritten by Ussery and legendary Southern Soul songwriter Harrison Calloway, "Make Sweet Love" and "Bird In The Hand." Otherwise, Ussery wrote, arranged and produced all the tracks on the album, a feat he would replicate in 2005 with the release of his second CD, Dead Giveaway (Hep'Me).

Two Ussery songs "Swaying To The Beat" and "Make Sweet Love" were featured on the Mardi Gras sampler, Hot New Southern Soul, Vol. 2, in 2004.

The compilation album Waiting To Exhale: New Southern Soul Women vs. Southern Soul Men (Hep'Me, 2005) spotlighted Ussery's "Bird In Hand" and "I'm In The Mood."

Jackson, Mississippi remains Sorrento Ussery's home base.

Song's Transcendent Moment

"Put that thang in motion.
Put that thang in motion, yeah.
Put that thang in motion, baby.
Put that thang in motion, yeah."

If You Liked. . . You'll Love

If you liked The Impressions' "It's All Right" (with Curtis Mayfield on vocals) you'll love Sorrento Ussery's "Put That Thang In Motion."

Honorary "B" Side

"Hold On (If You Feel You've Got A Good Thing)"

5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Put That Thang In Motion by Sorrento Ussery
Put That Thang In Motion

CD: Make Sweet Love
Label: Hep'Me

Sample or Buy
Make Sweet Love

4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Hold On (If You Feel You've Got A Good Thing) by Sorrento Ussery
Hold On (If You Feel You've Got A Good Thing)

CD: Dead Giveaway
Label: Hep'Me

Sample or Buy
Dead Giveaway

4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Dead Giveaway by Sorrento Ussery
Dead Giveaway

CD: Dead Giveaway
Label: Hus-La

Sample or Buy
Dead Giveaway

3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Make Sweet Love by Sorrento Ussery
Make Sweet Love

CD: Make Sweet Love
Label: Hep'Me

Sample or Buy
Make Sweet Love

3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Swaying To The Beat by Sorrento Ussery
Swaying To The Beat

CD: Make Sweet Love
Label: Hep'Me

Sample or Buy
Make Sweet Love

2 Stars 2 Stars 
Sample or Buy Bird In The Hand by Sorrento Ussery
Bird In The Hand

CD: Make Sweet Love
Label: Hus-La

Sample or Buy
Make Sweet Love

2 Stars 2 Stars 
Sample or Buy Let Me Take You Out by Sorrento Ussery
Let Me Take You Out

CD: Southern Soul Party
Label: Hep'Me

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