Daddy B. Nice's #111 ranked Southern Soul Artist
"I Only Get Laid When I Get Paid"
December 1, 2016:
Ongoing Afternoon Gig on Beale Street!
Sonny Mack, sans band, is playing a weekday afternoon gig at the Kings Palace Cafe Patio on legendary Beale Street in Memphis just in time for the holiday season. Mack, who with his Mack 2 band has performed on occasion at night at the same venue, will be appearing solo Mondays-Fridays, 2-6 p.m., a perfect respite for holiday shoppers and tourists wanting to hear some southern soul and blues in a rare daytime setting. And while your Daddy B. Nice can't guarantee that Sonny will be singing to background tracks from his latest CD, I'll wager he'll be honoring requests to sing solo versions of "Get On Up" and other hits.
King's Palace Cafe Patio
162 Beale Street
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "Get On Up" (from his new CD) on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "Goody Good Good Stuff" on YouTube.
May 15, 2016:
SONNY MACK: Get On Up (Ecko) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.
I hope prospective fans aren't put off by the opening track to Sonny Mack's (aka songwriter William Norris's) generous new album, GET ON UP. The chorus of "Cheating Is The Only Way To Go" resembles an advertising jingle, the kind of melody you can't get out of your mind even though you'd call pest control if they only had a way to eradicate it. Marketed as the blues guitarist's first foray into southern soul, apparently due to its lyrics--a bad call, in my opinion--the track also exposes Sonny's vocal faults in all their threadbare nakedness: the utter lack of blues melisma, of gospel seasoning, of even the minimal coloration that made the late Mel Waiter's straight-ahead style appealing.
I duly noted these limitations in reviewing Mack's debut, Going For Gold, in 2012, comparing Mack to fellow lead-singer-challenged songwriters/guitarists such as Jim Bennett and Bobby Conerly. (The story behind Norris/Mack's performance name and the GOING FOR GOLD review can be found in Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Sonny Mack.) Comparisons to John Cummings, another Ecko-affiliated songwriter with a sweeter singing voice, are also valid, although Norris (Mack) is an even more prolific composer.
So when the CD's second song, the title track "Get On Up," rears up from the stereo system following "Cheating" with its disco-ey beat and sinuous melody line, the energy charge is like a lightning strike. Southern Soul needs more fast songs. This became clear to me in my own experiences recently in southern soul clubs. People (including me) want to dance, but you need an infectious hook or groove, and southern soul's customary time signature is mid-tempo--for instance, Mack's own "I Got To Get Myself Together,"--the "sweet spot of southern soul," in Daddy B. Nice parlance, but not really a dancing tempo.
Southern soul is typically a little more laid-back, grooving in place or line-dancing. So right now, with the concert scene exploding and the younger demographic responding, to be able to pen fast songs like "Get On Up" is a hot commodity, and Mack really brings it off, in the process launching the album into a much higher platform than GOING FOR GOLD. And when the next mid-tempo gem, "Goody Good Good Stuff," rolls out a couple of tracks later, the "sweet spot of southern soul" unfurls like a pleasant breeze on a 99-degree day. (Think Bigg Robb's "Good Good.")
By the time you get to Mack's reprise of Betty Wright's "Clean Up Woman," "Clean Up Man," first released on the Ecko sampler Blues Mix 8: Juke Joint Soul in 2012, you're shaking your head and thinking, "There's a lot of good tracks on this album." And Sonny's vocals sound natural and up-to-the-task throughout. Also reprised is another song from that Blues Mix 8 sampler, "Cheatin' Ain't No Fun," covered by Jaye Hammer in 2014.
The more you delve into GET ON UP, the more you respect the quality and productivity of Norris' songwriting. "Dig A Little Deeper," another huge hit for Jaye Hammer, is given a new outing here by Norris/Mack. Norris has made his "bones" composing. Take out Norris compositions from Jaye Hammer and O.B. Buchana CD's of the last five years and they'd be hollowed-out indeed. Mack's "Somebody's Been Fishin' in My Private Fishin' Hole," released previously on yet another Ecko Records sampler, builds on Sheba Potts-Wright's "Private Fishing Hole," a John Cummings/John Ward composition. As with Buchana and Hammer, Potts-Wright could do better on vocals, but when you're enjoying hit after hit (as on this album) who's complaining? You're thinking, "I like that, I've heard that before."
"Get On Up," however, isn't the only "new" thing on an album of familiar stand-outs. Besides the first-rate "Get On Up," "Goody Good Good Stuff" and "I Got To Get Myself Together," there's also the beguiling (both tender and moody) ballad, "Body Drain." Oops! Just fact-checked that, and it's from BLUES MIX 9, yet another Ecko sampler. Must have missed it: it sounds new to me.
If nothing else, GET ON UP gives notice that William Norris is ubiquitous. He's always been there but he's been nearly invisible. And, like Bob Dylan many, many years ago, your Daddy B. Nice will give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the vocals. Anyone with this much creativity, responsible for this much good music, is a treasure to be cherished.
--Daddy B. Nice
Sample/Buy Sonny Mack's new GET ON UP CD at iTunes.
See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Sonny Mack.
April 2, 2016: NEW ALBUM ALERT!
Sample/Buy Sonny Mack's GET ON UP CD at Amazon.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "Get On Up" on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "Cheating Is The Only Way To Go" on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "I Got To Get Myself Together" on YouTube.
February 1, 2015: "Memphis Stars" Featured Artist
NEW GIG ALERT!
Sonny Mack & The Mack 2 Band is appearing weekly in Memphis on Sundays, 8 p.m.-12 a.m., at the King’s Palace Cafe's Tap Room on historic (168) Beale Street. Phone: 901-575-2220.
To automatically link to Sonny Mack's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and many other references on the website, go to "Mack, Sonny" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.
To automatically link to William Norris's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and many other references on the website, go to "Norris, William" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.
July 5, 2014: CHART-CLIMBERS!
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "I Only Get Laid When I Get Paid" on YouTube.
--Daddy B. Nice
About Sonny Mack
William Norris (aka Sonny Mack) was born in Jackson, Mississippi, October 12, 1951. His father, a blues harmonica-player, moved the family to Chicago in 1954, where as a boy growing up William was given the nickname "Dead Eye" for a "lazy-eye" condition.
Sonny Mack: Going For Gold (Ecko) Three Stars *** Solid Southern Soul Debut by a New Male Vocalist.Sonny Mack gives a succinct description of his life and musical style in his song "Guitar Licker" from Mack's new solo debut CD, Going For Gold.
"When I was a young boy
In old Chi-Town,
Watching all the pretty girls
One day a woman
Pulled me to the side
And she showed me
How to lick it."
And, after the "guitar licker" chorus. . .
"I moved to Memphis
About twenty years back.
Started playing the blues
Now how about that?
I do what I do
Pretty good, I'm told.
I've been licking that thing
Since I was twelve years old."
Sonny Mack's "licking" style is in the bluesman mold of Albert King, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray, and even as Mack ventures into Southern Soul territory in tunes like "It's Saturday Night"--with traces of Theodis Ealey here and O. B. Buchana there--he remains anchored in the blues.
Sonny Mack is a guitarist and songwriter/arranger first and foremost, and like some other emerging artists of the moment--Bobby Conerly and Jim Bennett--he has to "work" at his vocals just to carry them off. "Going For Gold," the title track, has the lyricism of B. B. King or Little Milton, but Mack is by no means a vocalist of their level of talent.
The Southern Soul singer Mack most resembles is Chuck Roberson, a journeyman performer (also from the Ecko label, only a decade earlier) whom you would never put in the same breath with a Johnnie Taylor or Tyrone Davis, but who was always best when hewing to a blues context.
Roberson is a sweeter, more sophisticated singer than Sonny Mack, but your Daddy B. Nice would be hard-pressed to think of a Roberson album that had as much quality and quantity as this Sonny Mack disc.
Going For Gold is a generous 14-track collection, with nary a throw-away, gimmick or remix. All the music was written by Mack (under the name William Norris). Among the notable tunes:
"Guitar Licker" is Sonny Mack's equivalent of Little Milton's "Guitar Man."
"Going For Gold" is the album's centerpiece, with the set's finest melody and arrangement.
"It's Saturday Night" is Sonny Mack's version of Sir Charles Jones' "Friday," a working-man's anthem to letting go. Here the over-achieving "want-to" in Mack's vocal is particularly successful, raising the song to a higher level.
"I Forgot To Say I Love You" is a mid-tempo, Ealey-like song with background vocals by Morris J. Williams and Shilena Banks which add immeasurably to the arrangement and might have done much to distinguish other songs on the set, which suffer from a certain sameness and lack of color.
"I Only Get Laid When I Get Paid" is a Buchana-like ode to the well-documented connection between money and sexual attraction.
"You Do That To Me" boasts a refreshingly different guitar sound, but the melody never quite resolves itself.
"I'm A Blues Man" is standard bar blues, but it's what Mack does best, and it shows. This tune does have a rare and bounteous female background.
"La La La" shows Sonny Mack at his creative best, marshalling a good song with fresh chord changes and a better-than-average vocal.
"Midnight Man," with its peppy keyboard and all-business beat, almost sounds like a Lee "Shot" Williams song. Mack's vocal is convincing.
The only clunkers are the overly derivative "Let Me Change My Mind," "Playing Catch Up," "Bang That Thang" and "Moon Over Memphis," which sounds at times like a religious hymn and at other times like a country-western ballad. Despite "Moon Over Memphis's” double vocal track, the tune exposes the limitations of Mack's voice.
Overall, however, Going For Gold introduces a mature guitarist/singer/writer who has obviously been accruing valuable material for quite some time.
If you're looking for the next Sir Charles Jones, or an enfant terrible with the vocal technique and "wow" factor of LaMorris Williams, you've come to the wrong CD.
But if you're looking for genuine, modest, blues-based Southern Soul, and at least one standard torch-bearer for the genre in "I Only Get Laid When I Get Paid," you could do much worse than to check out Sonny Mack.
--Daddy B. Nice
Bargain-Priced Sonny Mack Going For Gold CD
July 6, 2014: Sonny Mack on YouTube
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "It's Saturday Night" on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "I Only When I Get Laid When I Get Paid" on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing live onstage at Sweet Angel's Birthday Party on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing on Beale Street in Memphis on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack covering the Average White Band Live Onstage on Beale Street on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "Bang That Thang" on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "Her Heart Belongs To Only You" on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing Tyrone Davis' "Turn Back The Hands Of Time" Live Onstage on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "Moon Over Memphis" on YouTube.
Listen to Sonny Mack singing "You Do That To Me" on YouTube.
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