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Pokey Bear (#1 On The New Generation Chart)
See the chart.
September 19, 2020: Daddy B. Nice's Profile
This Guide marks the ascension of Big Pokey Bear to the #1 recording artist in southern soul music, and the rise of "My Sidepiece" to the #1 song in contemporary southern soul. When Big Pokey sings "My Sidepiece," he sounds like a hound baying at a treed coon. Every fiber of his being is fixated on the prize. The story of how the song came to be recorded is as convoluted as a soap opera, and it all took place within the musical petri dish that was 2013 Baton Rouge. But first, some background.
In the late nineties, when I first began to visualize a charting of Southern Soul music, my overriding motive was to correct what I perceived to be a grievous wrong. When I searched the Internet for information on the great musicians I heard on radio stations on my trips through the South, I could find nothing about them. I was able to find loads of information on blues and soul artists up to about the 1980's, but anything more contemporary was still a dark continent. It was as if a cultural curtain had dropped and any information about contemporary southern soul and blues strictly forbidden. Even "southern soul" was a suspect and tentative term, used mainly as an adjective to describe older artists geographically tied to the Deep South.
To help right that wrong, I went about constructing a Top 100 chart of the best Southern Soul artists from the 90's to the present (at that time, early 00's), and I profiled those performers in "artist guides." Johnnie Taylor was the #1 artist on the chart for the bulk of those years, although Peggy Scott-Adams, Ronnie Lovejoy and Tyrone Davis enjoyed brief stints.
Then, in 2010, I began publishing a new chart to reflect the new artists and new realities of southern soul music: 21st Century Southern Soul. Sir Charles Jones, aka "the king of southern soul," dominated the #1 spot exclusively throughout the decade.
Now in 2020 it's time, once again, to catch up with the new songs and artists in southern soul music with a chart called "The New Generation," and Big Pokey Bear has dethroned Sir Charles Jones, at least for the time being.
Each month, year after year, your Daddy B. Nice guides listeners to worthy new songs, but no commentator can predict which songs will catch the fans’ imaginations---southern soul’s collective consciousness---in the way, for example, of Mel Waiters' "Hole In The Wall," Theodis Ealey’s “Stand Up In It” or Sir Charles Jones' "Friday," inspiring song references and covers by fellow artists and the passionate gratitude and devotion of the fans.
"My Sidepiece" by Pokey Bear has become such a song, entering that pantheon of trend-setting music and touching a collective nerve with its feminism-be-damned, masculine swagger. At times you can hear the street-wise sweetness of Marvin Sease in Pokey's vocal, at other times the powerful impulsiveness of Reggie P, at still others the primal relevance of Z.Z. Hill's "Down Home Blues," which jump-started the southern soul movement in the mid-eighties. Two YouTube pages streaming "My Sidepiece" have a combined total of nearly sixty million views (a previously unheard-of number for southern soul), and Pokey has become the most sought-after performer in the business.
Writer/producer Charles Lewis, aka "Highway Heavy," wrote the music to "My Sidepiece". According to Lewis, he first offered it to Coldrank (aka Cold Drank), who turned it down as too controversial. Lewis then took it to Wardell Brown (aka Pokey Bear), who embraced it and contributed lyrics. And they both took it to Daniel Ross (aka Beat Flippa), who produced it, and whose carnival-like keyboard progression forms the backbone of the now-famous chorus. Tyree Neal played guitar on the track, and Coldrank would later become Pokey Bear's manager.
Pokey Bear would publish his first solo album, "Josephine Son Pokey," and Tyree Neal would soon team with Pokey and Adrian Bagher to become The Louisiana Blues Brothas (one classic album, "Love On The Bayou," with "My Sidepiece" as the anchor). Highway Heavy would begin producing artists, most prominently Cold Drank, and Beat Flippa would produce two highly popular compilations of Louisiana talent called "Beat Flippa: I Got The Blues, Volumes 1 & 2". With Pokey Bear and "My Sidepiece" in the vanguard, this creative flowering in Louisiana marked a clear, geographical shift in influence away from the traditional blues bastions of Jackson and Memphis.
From a woman's perspective, and from the stance of present-day political correctness, the lyrics to "My Sidepiece" as sung by Pokey Bear are uncompromisingly brutal.
"You can tell my baby
What you want to tell.
You can say what you want to say,
She ain't going nowhere."
That may be why Coldrank declined to sing it. But in Pokey's rendering, the truthfulness is so unsparing and the braggadocio so over-the-top that even some women seem to get a kick out of it, i.e. see the humor in it.
Of course, men take particular delight. The song appeals to the "outlaw" in the male ego, the "Staggerlee" of black folklore. So when Pokey sings about all the places he could be (instead of at home where he should be), each new locale brings a "what will he think of next?" smile to the avid fan's countenance.
"You might find me in Morocco
Or down in Japan."
(Love the "down in".)
"You might find me in Mexico
Chilling in the sand."
"You might find me in Africa."
"You might see me in Italy."
"You might find me in Jamaica.
I got my baby beside me."
You're rooting for this "outlaw" because he's such a good story-teller, such a great dissembler, such a spell-binding raconteur---not to mention such a good rhymer. "My Sidepiece" was made for Pokey Bear and his particular talents, and I doubt it ever would have become the monster single it did if it had not been sung by Pokey. And to return to the thought that no commentator can predict which songs will catch the fans’ imaginations and enter southern soul’s collective consciousness, your Daddy B. Nice admits his choice was "They Call Me Pokey". For more on how Pokey Bear went from being a "complete unknown" to the most popular performer in southern soul music, read more in "About The Artist" (scroll down).
For the latest updates on Pokey Bear, including CD reviews and contemporaneous reports, scroll down to the "Tidbits" section. To automatically link to Pokey's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and other citations on the website, go to "Pokey Bear (Big Pokey Bear)" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.
Note: Big Pokey Bear also appears on Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 21st Century Southern Soul (2000-2020).
--Daddy B. Nice
About Pokey Bear (#1 On The New Generation Chart)
Born in Houston, Texas and blessed with a Notorious B.I.G.-like rap style, Wardell Brown spent a few years playing football and studying kinesiology at Abilene Christian College before finally deciding to dedicate himself to rapping. His first full-length album, "Hardest Pit in the Litter," appeared in 1999. A year later, he returned with "D-Game 2000," featuring several Houston peers as guests. In 2001 he collaborated with the Wreckshop Wolfpack for "Collabo," then returned in 2002 with another solo album, "Da Sky's Da Limit".
Pokey’s first southern soul single, "They Call Me Pokey," was published by Ross Music Group in 2013 and distributed by CD Baby, the redoubtable, indie-artist, self-publishing house that just closed its doors earlier this year (2020). Pokey's debut album also arrived in 2013 with the colorful but perplexing title, Josephine Son Pokey. Did Pokey mean that he was “Josephine’s son, Pokey”? (As it turned out, he did.) In any case, the idiosyncratic syntax lent a little allure and authenticity to the album.
Pokey's first recognition as a southern soul artist came in November of 2013 in Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 Southern Soul Singles.
3. "They Call Me Pokey (Remix)"--------Pokey featuring Tucka & Tyree Neal
Teaming up with fellow Louisianans Tyree Neal and Tucka, Pokey's yet another Gulf-Coast artist with a groove-heavy new CD called Josephine Son Pokey, and his song "They Call Me Pokey" has the nonchalant swagger of a hit.
One month later....2nd appearance (December 13)
2. "Do The Hokey Pokey"------Pokey featuring Stephanie McDee
This new Stephanie McDee duet with Pokey is the real deal and a line-dancer's dream come true. Great arrangement, and they sing the dickens out of it.
Listen to Pokey Bear feat. Stephanie McDee singing "Do The Hokey Pokey" on YouTube.
And at year’s end, on Daddy B. Nice's Top 25 Southern Soul Songs of 2013, "Do The Hokey Pokey" by Pokey feat. Stephanie McDee, came in at #24. Pokey also garnered a Best Debut nomination for "They Call Me Pokey". (J’Wonn won in 2013 for “I Got This Record”.)
Daddy B. Nice charted four singles in total from Josephine Son Pokey,, but the "bomb" was yet to drop: The Louisiana Blues Brothers' "Love On The Bayou," an album that came "out of nowhere" and had minimal, pre-release support from the traditional southern soul community centered in Jackson and Memphis. Adding to the disc's unconventional status was the fact it was by a group (a rarity in southern soul music) that would break up after one album. The group consisted of Pokey accompanied by a guitar-playing-and-singing cousin of seminal southern soul singer Jackie Neal (Tyree Neal) and a singularly-endowed vocalist who'd had a local hit ("Around The Corner") in Jackson, Mississippi (Adrian Bagher).
"Love On The Bayou," including the song "My Sidepiece," arrived via Ross Music Group in 2014. Pokey was cited numerous times in 2014 for his contributions to the Louisiana Blues Brothers LOVE ON THE BAYOU album, culminating in this entry in Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles in April 2015:
2. "My Sidepiece (Reply)"-------Veronica Ra’elle, Lacey & Ms. Portia
Give it up for Louisiana's Pokey. Singing with an intensity and power not heard since the late Reggie P., he's cruising toward stardom like a Mack truck driven by Arnold "Terminator" Schwarzenegger. Here the put-upon ladies of the Gulf Coast respond in kind to his "My Sidepiece," which is closing in on an astounding half-million views on YouTube.
It seemed an astounding number at the time, that is, until "Sidepiece" rocketed into the millions. And Daddy B. Nice summed it all up with....
3. "My Sidepiece"------Pokey
"My Sidepiece" has won over the fans and sounds indisputably raucous on the radio a year after its release. When Pokey sings "Sidepiece," he sounds like a hound baying at a treed coon. The title refers to a girlfriend/mistress on the "side," and it has already entered southern soul lore, referenced by Stephanie McDee ("Annie Mae's Cafe"), Bigg Robb and others and remixed by producer Heavy. Pokey's also the creative force behind a new sampler crashing the southern soul album charts: I Got The Blues Vol. 1.
Meanwhile, Beat Flippa's compilation featuring Pokey, I Got The Blues Vol. 1, published in 2015, stoked the excitement already generated by Love On The Bayou. Singles from the sampler featuring Pokey included:
“If It Ain’t The Blues” Pokey w/ Cupid:
Listen to Pokey & Cupid & singing "If It Ain’t The Blues" on YouTube.
And with Vince Hutchinson and Adrian Bagher:
Listen to Pokey, Vince Hutchinson & Adrian Bagher singing "T.G.I.F." on YouTube.
And into outright ballads with “I Still Do Her Wrong”...
Listen to Pokey singing "I Still Do Her Wrong" on YouTube..
...And “Please Be My Love Jones” (w/ Lysa & Charlene Neal)
Listen to Pokey Bear's "Please Be My Love Jones" on YouTube.
Pokey Bear's "My Sidepiece" spawned musical "covers" and "responses" not seen since Theodis Ealey's "Stand Up In It" a decade earlier. (Scroll down this page to "Tidbits" for more detail.)
In 2016 Pokey released a new album, Mr. It Ain't Fair, a phrase purloined from his first hit single, "They Call Me Pokey". The featured single from the set was a New Orleans, street-band-flavored jam titled, "Good Foot".
Bear Season, Pokey's most complete album, appeared in 2019. (See Daddy B. Nice's five-star review in "Tidbits". Scroll down.) And a Pokey Bear movie and soundtrack, My Side Piece: Hit the Lotto, also arrived that year. Crown Me, released as this commentary was being written, followed in 2020. (Scroll down to "Tidbits" for the new "album alerts".)
Pokey Bear On YouTube:
Listen to Pokey & Stephanie McDee singing "Do The Hokey Pokey" on YouTube.
Listen to Pokey & Stephanie McDee singing "Do The Hokey Pokey" Live Onstage at Club Cheers in Baton Rouge at Pokey’s Birthday Bash Feb 2015 on YouTube.
Listen to Pokey singing "My Sidepiece" on YouTube.
Listen to Pokey featuring Tucka & Tyree Neal singing "They Call Me Pokey (Remix)" on YouTube. (DBN: This is the video where Pokey really pokes it onstage…It’s at the very end of the video…)
Listen to Pokey singing "Older Woman" on YouTube.
Listen to Pokey singing "I’m In Love With An Older Woman" Live at Club Miami Moon in Lafayette, Louisiana on YouTube. (Excellent video quality.)
Listen to Pokey & Cupid singing "If It Ain’t The Blues" on YouTube.
Listen to Pokey singing "I Still Do Her Wrong" on YouTube.
Listen to Pokey, Vince Hutchinson & Adrian Bagher singing "T.G.I.F.” on YouTube.
Listen to Pokey & Stephanie McDee singing "Do Tha Hokey Pokey" Live Onstage at Club Cheers in Baton Rouge on YouTube.
POKEY'S "MY SIDEPIECE" AS A CULTURAL PHENOMENON IN THE FOLLOWING VIDEOS
Listen to Veronica Ra'elle, Lacee, and Ms. Portia singing "My Sidepiece Reply" on YouTube.
Watch line-dancers dancing to “My Sidepiece Reply” on YouTube.
Watch an even bigger group line-dancing to Pokey’s “My Sidepiece” on YouTube.
Listen to Pokey singing "My Sidepiece" Live at a Wedding on YouTube.
Listen to Pokey singing "They Call Me Pokey" Live Onstage at Sibley, Mississippi on YouTube. (Poor audio, great video.)
June 8, 2015: CHART-BUSTERS
Pokey Debuts at #88 on Daddy B. Nice's 21st Century Countdown: Top 100 SOUTHERN SOUL SONGS Singing with an intensity and power not heard since the late Reggie P., he's cruising toward stardom like a Mack truck driven by Arnold "Terminator" Schwarzenegger.
See the chart, which encompasses a fifteen-year period in southern soul music.
June 14, 2015:
Daddy B. Nice reviews Pokey's, et.al.'s new BEAT FLIPPA, I GOT THE BLUES CD. (Click here.)
February 1, 2016: Pokey Bear Is 2015 Southern Soul Music Multi-Award Winner
Best Male Vocalist(s): "My Sidepiece" by Pokey & "Thank God It's Friday" by Pokey, Vince Hutchinson & Adrian Bagher Listen to Pokey, Vince Hutchinson & Adrian Bagher singing "T.G.I.F." on YouTube.
Best Chitlin' Circuit Blues Song: "My Sidepiece" by Pokey Listen to Pokey & The Louisiana Blues Brothers singing "My Sidepiece" on YouTube.
BEST CD: I GOT THE BLUES, VOL. 1 (VARIOUS ARTISTS)---BEAT FLIPPA Sample/Buy Beat Flippa's I GOT THE BLUES VOL. 1 at Amazon.
See Daddy B. Nice’s Best of 2015
August 1, 2016:
Pokey and "My Sidepiece" Climbs From The #88 Spot On Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 (21st Century) Southern Soul Countdown All The Way To #36!
The chart ranks the top one hundred contemporary southern soul singles over the last sixteen years--ultimately a twenty-year period (from 2000-2020).
See Big Pokey Bear's new position on the Chart.
Pokey also becomes the #36-ranked artist on Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 21st Century Southern Soul Artists Chart.
See the chart.
April 3, 2016: NEW ALBUM ALERT
Listen to Pokey Bear & Mystikal singing "Shake That Money Maker" on YouTube.
Listen to Big Pokey Bear singing "I Got A Root Coming On" on YouTube.
Listen to Pokey Bear singing "Get On The Good Foot" on YouTube.
7.Listen (along with 5 million-plus viewers) to Big Pokey Bear & The Louisiana Blues Brothas singing "My Sidepiece" on YouTube while you read.
March 1, 2016: Re-Posted from Daddy B. Nice's Corner:
March 1, 2016:
POKEY'S "MY SIDEPIECE" SPAWNING COVERS & RESPONSES IN THE SAME WAY THEODIS EALEY'S "STAND UP IN IT" DID A DECADE AGO Long before texting and Twitter, a Georgia-based southern soul singer/guitarist/songwriter named Theodis Ealey with a fine song already to his credit--"(All My Baby Left Me Was) A Note, My Guitar & A Cookie Jar"--put out a new song, "Stand Up In It," that became a sensation across the southern soul and blues worlds in 2003 and 2004, reproducing itself in countless covers (Falisa JaNaye's "Can You Stand Up In It," etc.), parodies and lyrical references within other artists' songs through '05, '06 and '07, culminating in then-king-of-southern-soul Marvin Sease singing in his new song, "Sit Down On It":
"Every time I turn my radio on,
I hear this cute little song,
Just trotting along,
Giving out instructions
How lovers should get it on,
I must admit
It's a cute little song.
But don't let the instructions
Lead you wrong.
They say you ought to
Stand up in it,
But if you really want to know,
The best way to get it..."
Note the hint of condescension in Sease's twice-stated reference to the "cute little song." A little jealousy, perhaps? None of the pundits predicted "Stand Up In It"'s popularity. It wasn't an emotionally-deep or instrumentally-innovative record, and even listening to it today with all the hype that has accrued, it doesn't sound that different from other popular hits of the era. But it was. It was a touchstone, a cultural turnstile.
Now comes The Louisiana Blues Brothas (featuring Pokey's) recording of "My Sidepiece." (For those of you unfamiliar with the culture of southern soul, "a sidepiece" is a "mistress.")
"I guess I got it from my daddy,
'Cause it's all in my genes.
I'm addicted to the nonny (see Poonanny, DBN)
If you know what I mean."
And the same frenzy of copy-catting that followed "Stand Up In It" is now in full fray with "My Sidepiece." Both songs extol a symbol or metaphor--"stand up in it" in the case of "Stand Up In It," "my sidepiece" in "My Sidepiece"--and in both tunes it's a sexual double-entendre executed with a swagger powerful enough to force the words into our everyday vocabulary.
What greater gratification can there be for an artist? And what greater temptation for the artists watching this unexpected band-wagon passing them by than to jump on, too, with their own takes? At the very least, it tells the listener their songs are of recent (i.e. post-"Sidepiece") vintage.
Here's a simplified genealogy of "My Sidepiece" and its musical progeny:
First came The Louisiana Blues Brothas with....
Listen to Pokey & The Louisiana Blues Brothas singing "My Sidepiece" on YouTube..
Listen to Heavy, Tucka, Pokey & Tyree Neal singing "My Sidepiece (Remix)" on YouTube.
...Which begat a woman's response:
Listen to Veronica Ra'elle, Lacee and Ms. Portia singing "My Sidepiece (Reply)" on YouTube.
Those remakes were created within the loose circle of musicians surrounding surrounding "Sidepiece" producer Beat Flippa and the Neal family. But then Ghetto Cowboy and producer Ricky White jumped on the band-wagon with an even stronger, anti-sidepiece lyric overlaying the same instrumental track...
Listen to Ghetto Cowboy singing "My Main Squeeze" on ProBeatPort.
Meanwhile, original Louisiana Blues Brotha Tyree Neal changed sides and put out his own version of an anti-sidepiece song:
Listen to Tyree Neal singing "I Came Back Home (You Can Have That Sidepiece)" on YouTube.
But the true measure of the "Sidepiece" phenomenon has been its incidental references in the songs of female performers. Stephanie McDee brags she can co-exist with the male "sidepiece" culture in "Taking Care Of Business":
Listen to Stephanie McDee singing "Taking Care Of Business" on YouTube.
But the Duchess Jureesa McBride's "Personal Love Vendetta" is more typical, in which she sings about a woman's not-so-funny experience of "wasting years" being a sidepiece without actually uttering the word:
"It was an awkward situation.
Never met your kids.
And after a few years,
Might have met two of your friends...
...And all the times we went out,
I can count on one hand."
Listen to The Duchess singing "Personal Love Vendetta" on YouTube.
The Louisiana Blues Brothas original was just an ornery, meant-for-fun-loving song, not to be taken so seriously, many men (and a sprinkling of women) might respond.
Vick Allen takes a humorous, light-hearted turn on "sidepiece" with his:
Listen to Vick Allen singing "Be My Shawty On The Side" on YouTube.
And yet men, too, have taken up the cause from the more realistic female perspective. In his upcoming single, "Can I Be (The One You Make Love To?)," new artist Till 1 sings:
"Like my mommy and daddy told me,
Son, stay home.
You don't need no sidepiece."
To which Pokey might reply (from "My Sidepiece"):
"This is the definition
Of a real man.
When I’m with my sidepiece
About my situation
Perhaps the ultimate "Sidepiece" response song is Tha Don's "Hell Naw":
Listen to Tha Don singing "Hell Naw" on YouTube.
In an R. Kelly-inspired vocal, he advises a female friend to say "Hell Naw" to being a "sidepiece," thereby referencing in one fell swoop the two most popular songs of 2015, Pokey's "My Sidepiece" and Bishop Bullwinkle's "Hell Naw To The Naw Naw".
--Daddy B. Nice
July 22, 2017: NEW ALBUM ALERT
Sample/Buy Big Pokey Bear's new CD, BEAR SEASON, at CD Baby.
2. Ladies Room (feat. Beat Flippa)
3. I Can't Be Faithful (feat. Bishop Bullwinkle)
The Louisiana Blues Brothas
5. In the Mood (feat. Cupid)
6. We Belong Together (feat. Lacee)
7. Shake That Money Maker (feat. Mystikal)
8. Lick Dat Nukie (feat. O.B. Buchana)
9. Don't Call Me
10. It Ain't Go Work (feat. Miss Portia)
11. House Ain't a Home (feat. Deacon Dukes)
12. I Never Knew Love (feat. Crystal Thomas)
13. Swing Out (feat. Big Cynthia)
14. All I Want Is You (feat. Crystal Thomas)
15. Beat It Up (feat. Isaac J)
16. Floatin' Without a Paddle (feat. Mz Pat)
Daddy B. Nice notes:
Let's face it. Pokey's last album, MR. IT AIN'T FAIR, dressing up old R&B classics in new musical costumes, seemed a little like cheating. The material, for the most part, didn't resonate. But Pokey has been touring and recording--especially collaborating, his favorite mode--with furious abandon ever since. This collection brings together those collaborations and more, including his latest outrageous take as a grown-folks bad-guy, summoned and sermonized by none other than Bishop Bullwinkle.
Listen to Big Pokey Bear & Bishop Bullwinkle singing "I Can't Be Faithful" on YouTube.
#1 on Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles in December, Pokey's duet with Big Cynthia was recorded just before the big lady's death.
Listen to the late Big Cynthia and Pokey Bear singing "Swing Out" on YouTube.
January 1, 2018: NEW 5-STAR ALBUM REVIEW!
(Originally posted in Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews.)
December 12, 2017: TRIPLE REVIEW!
POKEY BEAR: Bear Season (Ross Music Group) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Trailride Music Vol. 1 (Music Access) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.
MISS PORTIA: All In My Feelings (Ross Music Group) Three Stars *** Solid Debut By A New Southern Soul Artist.
A few years ago... ...the viability of recording CD's in the southern soul genre was seriously in doubt. A slew of the old masters, with surnames like Taylor, Sease, Campbell, Williams, Davis, Nightingale, Blackfoot, Holloway, Mendenhall, Lovejoy, Waiters, Willis and White, had passed away. The remaining veterans, with names like Carter, Brown, Rush, LaSalle, Clayton, Latimore and Scott-Adams, were no longer recording southern soul albums in the fashion or quantity they had in their heydays. (See Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 Southern Soul chart.) But something happened as the death knell for southern soul music sounded.
An influx of new artists and potent talent arrived, willing and eager to move into the spaces the masters had vacated. (See Daddy B. Nice's New Top 100 Southern Soul chart.) And rather than decline, the number of CD's published in the southern soul arena climbed. The year just ending marks a high point in recording activity, with the albums submitted to this page for review reaching an all-time high. And yet with more reviews posted than any previous year, I still find myself in arrears, with at least three albums too important not to review waiting in queue as January 1--the little baby in the diaper--approaches.
The first and biggest is Pokey Bear's BEAR SEASON, perhaps the most significant release of the year.
The second is the latest compilation, TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1, from the resurgent southern soul hotbed of Louisiana.
And, third, is the well-sung, well-produced debut by new southern soul artist Miss Portia with ALL IN MY FEELINGS.
Apologies to Miss Portia for reviewing her with two such high-profile albums. As a new artist, her three-star debut is the equivalent of a 4 or 5-star rating for headliners like Big Pokey Bear or a sampler like Trailride Music Volume 1. But more than year-end expediency binds these three albums together. Pokey Bear and Miss Portia appear frequently in all three discs, as does wunderkind Louisiana producer Beat Flippa, who produced the majority of the tracks from all three.
Miss Portia broke into southern soul music in 2014 on the Louisiana Blues Brotha's breakthrough album... Love On The Bayou, accompanying Tyree Neal on "I'm Still Wearing Your Name." A year later, Portia's visibility took a big step forward with fellow newcomer Veronica Ra'elle (accompanied by veteran diva Lacee) on the popular "answer" song to Pokey Bear's southern-soul-earth-shifting "My Sidepiece". The song: "My Sidepiece Reply".
Since then Miss Portia, the performing name of Portia Palmer, has been busy recording singles, making videos and touring. With the backing of producer Beat Flippa, her debut album ALL IN MY FEELINGS has a clarity and depth unusual for a first effort. Flippa's instrumental tracks--hiphop-crisp rhythm sections, deep-soul organ at times, sparkling acoustic-guitar runs at others-- flesh out bare-bones melodies in tunes powerfully sung by Portia:
Listen to Miss Portia singing "Use What I Got" on YouTube.
Listen to Miss Portia and Pokey Bear singing "It's Gon' Cost You" on YouTube.
In both these no-nonsense declarations Miss Portia transforms little more than chants into bonafide musical vehicles through the sheer passion in her singing. Portia--in English literature the romantic heroine of Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"--makes no bones about being the street-wise woman who can deal with the "playa" types. Nevertheless, a duet with Ra'Shad (The Blues Kid), "You're All That I Need," revels in unlikely romance (and also delights in a full-fledged melody). But that track is the exception. More characteristic is the duet with Pokey Bear, "It Ain't Go Work"--also featured on Pokey's Bear Season--in which Miss Portia answers two wailing verses of Pokey Bear's marital discontent with an even more impressive verse of her own to close out the tune. Her vocal radiates authenticity and grit, and in this particular instance she "steals the show"
Miss Portia harks back to the great girl groups of the sixties, singers like Darlene Love on hits like "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "He's A Rebel". And you could look no further than Love's "Today I Met The Boy I'm Going To Marry" for a precursor to the marvelously-sung, gospel-drenched title cut, "All In My Feelings".
Mmmm... Phil Spector, producer of Darlene Love in rock and roll, to Beat Flippa, producer of Miss Portia in southern soul?... There are some parallels, the most obvious being the demonstrativeness of their respective styles and the resulting "freshness" in their respective eras and genres. Which brings us to Beat Flippa's newest compilation, in spite of not being advertised as such. And although TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1. is seemingly not published by the Ross Music Group (Beat Flippa is Daniel Ross), Ross's fingerprints are all over the collection, and fans can correctly assume the new sampler is on a par with the excellent Beat Flippa: I Got The Blues series.
Joining Miss Portia, Pokey, Tyree and all on TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1. are Jeter Jones, whose TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED album won a glowing 5-star rating on this page earlier this year; Crystal Thomas, whose singing your Daddy B. Nice recently (Dec. 17 Singles) described as "a tour de force--black as a steer's 'tookus on a moonless night"; Sharnette Hyter, another artist whose latest album was featured and praised here in 2017; Katrenia Jefferson, whom your Daddy. B. Nice has been touting since her obscure days in Jackson, Mississippi; and, finally, Big Cynthia, whose "Swing Out" charted here at #1 in December 2016, not long before her death. First-timers Deacon Dukes, Laylla Fox, G-Sky and Sweet Nay fill out the main roster.
Here is what I wrote--without benefit of any foresight, of course--about Big Cynthia before her untimely January 3rd death.
Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .
1."Come Saddle Up" / "Swing Out"-------Big Cynthia / Big Cynthia featuring Pokey Bear
Cynthia never met a note she wanted to bend, which has arguably limited her appeal over the years. One of the longest-tenured artists in southern soul, this daughter of Junior Walker and current godmother to the Louisiana southern soul scene was recording for Avanti and Ace in the 90's. I succumbed to "Swing Out" after a couple of plays. The energy is too electric to do without. And man-of-the-moment Big Pokey submits an especially grainy, vintage-sounding vocal.
Listen to Big Cynthia and Pokey Bear singing "Swing Out" on YouTube.
The pertinent phrase from the "bullet" review is "current godmother to the Louisiana southern soul scene". After Jackie Neal, and to a lesser extent Stephanie McDee, Ms. Walker IS the house mother for contemporary southern soul-Louisiana style. Big Cynthia also contributes the catchy, zydeco-flavored "I'm Ready," a sultry duet with rising star Sharnette Hyter.
If TRAILRIDE MUSIC plays as a fitting memorial to Big Cynthia, it serves equally as a showcase for Jeter Jones, the uber-talented Louisiana artist who came out of nowhere to graft zydeco to southern soul in ways never before imagined. Jones' music is very much the heart and soul of the sampler--its thematic center--as represented by one of the most popular tunes from his Trailride Certified album, "She's Ratchet," as well as being the inspiration for one of the sampler's catchiest dance jams, "Watch My Boots, Pt. 2," a cloning of Jones' "Watch My Boots".
The new "Watch My Boots, Pt. 2," is the brainchild of yet another Ross Music Group discovery, Deacon Dukes. (Dukes also contributes the compelling "Prove My Love".) "Watch My Boots Pt. 2" features a lazy susan of singers: Jeter Jones, Pokey Bear, Miss Portia, Big Lee and Dukes.
And it might be said that what Ross Music Group does better than any current label, including Memphis' redoubtable Ecko Records, is to absorb and roll out exciting new artists with astounding regularity....But the biggest Jeter Jones gift to TRAILRIDE MUSIC is the anthology's keynote track. The "Z-B-T" in "ZBT Anthem" stands for "zydeco, blues and trail ride," and the "blues" stands for "southern soul". Most all the new RMG stars, with the exception of Cold Drank and a few others, participate in singing the verses: Pokey, Tyree, Jeter, Portia, Crystal, even rappers Blu3 Black & Gangsta.
I've described some of the best the album has to offer, but there are valleys amidst the peaks. Tyree Neal's "I'll Pay For It" irritates because it hews so closely to the Staple's classic, "Do It Again," note-to-note on the iconic bass line. And Tucka can't do anything with the remix of shrill-voiced Laylla Fox's repetitive "I Taste Like Candy." The words seem to get caught in his throat and dissolve, swallowed up in the instrumental track. And there is plenty of music in between the peaks and valleys, some better, some worse, most of it interesting, and most of it dominated--or in the lengthy shadow of--the Big Pokey Bear.
TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1 ends with a typical, musically-controversial Pokey Bear track: propulsive, repetitively-refrained, a "house"-style jam that might generate snickers if sung by anyone but this powerhouse at emoting conviction. "Pokey at the Trailride" features the Deaconaires, an offshoot, presumably, of this fascinating new character, Deacon Dukes. The hallmark of the song is a "Go Pokey!" chorus reminiscent of a Texas high-school football game. Beat Flippa spices it up with a little naked piano run, adds a little background horse-whinnying, and Pokey does what he does. Whether you succumb to its energy or shrug it off with a polite "no thanks," it's typical of the album's overall creativity.
...At times I regret giving this fine sampler only 4 stars. I blame it on Pokey Bear, whose BEAR SEASON is even more distinguished, and deserving of putting the Big Pokey on a pedestal all by his lonesome. Pokey's the kind of guy who can sing, over a wild, dancing-tempo-ed tune, the words--
"Take a look at Miss Cathy
With her high heels on..."
...and make you care about it--make you want to SEE it, make you want to get up and swing your hips. (From "Swing Out," the duet with Big Cynthia duplicated on both BEAR SEASON and TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1.)
I was openly skeptical of Pokey Bear's last album, the one with all the covers. Always liked that title, though: (Mr. It Ain't Fair.) I thought, "Now come on, big guy, you can show me more than this."
Well, your Daddy B. Nice is here to tell you Pokey Bear has delivered. BEAR SEASON is all you can ask of a major new southern soul star--one of a piece, daring, panoramic, above all "charged".
Pokey can sing louder and longer than anyone in the business. Every vocal is at fevered pitch. He flays his vocal cords relentlessly, the same way he whips his churning pelvis. ...You can't help but wonder if or when he'll "burn out". On "Lick That Nookie," a duet with O.B. Buchana (no "softie"), you can hardly make out O.B., and you wonder why Beat Flippa doesn't turn down the instrumentation (to over-simplify). That is, you do until Pokey Bear comes in. Suddenly the sound is just right.
I warmed to BEAR SEASON on the very first track, even though scoffing in the first few bars at the disco beat. It was "Meeting In The Ladies Room" (!), by the girl-group Klymaxx, one of those songs that makes me all warm and fuzzy remembering those great eighties' disco dance floors. Pokey's version, dominated by a blazing guitar and rhythm-guitar riff and a rare Beat Flippa vocal, is simply called Ladies Room," and I applaud Pokey for doing an upfront cover, unlike the "disguised" covers--recycled instrumental tracks dressed up in new clothes--of MR. IT AIN'T FAIR.
By the way, later in the album Pokey reprises one of those MR. IT AIN'T FAIR covers I've been criticizing--"Shake That Money Maker," a duet with Mystikal--but it's really a sample of "Genius Of Love," another great eighties jam. However, "Ladies Room" segues into another, more serious subject.
"I just got back from the doctor," says Pokey. "I got a disease. I'm addicted to women."
Here's how your Daddy B. Nice described "I Can't Be Faithful" earlier this year.
1. “I Can’t Be Faithful”----Big Pokey Bear featuring Bishop Bullwinkle
The two biggest new stars in southern soul music team up for the first time on a Beat Flippa-produced track that continues Pokey’s theme of being “addicted to the women.” Hewing to his theme of preaching about worldly evils, in this case Pokey’s, Bishop Bullwinkle stuns with his crystal-clear clarity and tone, proving he’s not just a novelty act but a unique vocalist.
Watch the official video starring Pokey Bear and Bishop Bullwinkle.
"Ladies Room" and "Faithful" commence an incredible opening run for BEAR SEASON. "I Can't Be Faithful" segues into "Naked," which is credited to The Louisiana Blues Brothas. Writer Tyree Neal's composing style is as languid as ice cream on a hot southern afternoon--I don't know if he's ever written an uptempo tune--but "Naked," with Beat Flippa's church-service-like organ swirling around the subtle, swinging melody, is perfect. Even Pokey Bear settles into something akin to sensitivity and finesse.
"I've got a woman on the other side of town," Pokey sings, "says she needing me," and the syllables of the lyric fit like jigsaw pieces perfectly into the tempo. "She said she wanna get naked."
Then, with three boffo numbers under his belt, Pokey Bear keeps the pedal to the floor with "In The Mood," a mid-tempo duet with Cupid.
"I'm so excited," Pokey croons. "To be dancing with you."
Cupid has done so many duets you can find them at your local flea market "a dime a dozen," few of them memorable, but "In The Mood" is an exception, with a likable melody, a groovy beat and a steady producing hand by the ever-present Beat Flippa. And, as in "Naked," Pokey shows his tender side to great effect. When Cupid's refreshingly romantic voice joins in, the contrast is just right. The song swells into something akin to an anthem.
Next up is yet another duet with a headliner, Lacee. Everybody wants to sing with Pokey, and southern soul's every-woman diva shines on "We Belong Together," a ballad of regret in which Pokey Bear once again defies expectations--and refutes what your Daddy B. Nice said above about always "flaying" his vocal cords--with yet another contemplative vocal. This evocative string of duet-ballads--with Tyree, Cupid and Lacee--lends the album a depth and coloration surprising for a Pokey Bear project.
Never mind. Pokey soon returns to a party-hardy frame of mind with the gravelly rapping of Mystikal ("Shake That Money Maker"), the torrid duet with O.B. ("Lick Dat Nookie"), the chiding rant "Don't Call Me," the domestic dysfunction with Miss Portia ("It Ain't Go Work"), the alley-cat wailing with Deacon Dukes ("House Ain't A Home"), and the wild, flailing dance rhythm of his duet with Big Cynthia ("Swing Out").
But as good as these tracks are, (not to mention a couple of others that follow, especially "Floating Without A Paddle"), they still don't prepare you for the mesmerizing pull of the Pokey Bear/Crystal Thomas duet "All I Want Is You".
Listen to Big Pokey Bear and Crystal Thomas singing "All I Want Is You" on YouTube.
Crystal Thomas broke into southern soul a couple years ago accompanying Jeter Jones on record and tour, and she published an uneven debut album, Lyrical Gumbo, reviewed here in 2016. The finest single from the album was "Country Girl," but nothing on the album or even the single quite hints at the breathtaking confidence and authority and fluid easiness of Crystal Thomas's vocal on "All I Want Is You".
Crystal sings like Ella Fitzgerald might have sounded had she been born after rap. And the two of them--Pokey Bear and Crystal Thomas--together? Imagine a darker, bayou version of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Beat Flippa's organ steams up the glass with bayou atmosphere while Pokey and Crystal volley back and forth like the bluesiest singers on the planet.
"Do you want money?"
"Do you want cologne?"
"Do you want a pair of patent leather shoes?
And Pokey says,
"Do you need diamonds?
"Do you need a car?"
"Do you need fancy things that make you feel like a star?"
All they need is each other, folks. And all you need is ears to take in the extraordinary groove and vocal back-and-forth. Pokey Bear's true forte'? Collaborative singing. "All I Want Is You" epitomizes everything that lifts this album into "southern soul heaven": energy, life, musicianship and blacker-than-midnight soul.
--Daddy B. Nice
Buy Pokey Bear's BEAR SEASON (EXPLICIT) CD at Amazon.
Buy Pokey Bear's BEAR SEASON CD at iTunes.
Buy TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1 at Amazon.
Buy TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1 at iTunes.
Buy Miss Portia's ALL IN MY FEELINGS CD at iTunes.
July 22, 2017:
First it debuted at #88 (6-8-15). Then it climbed all the way to #36 (8-1-16). Now Pokey Bear & The Louisiana Blues Brothas' "My Sidepiece" Climbs From The #36 Spot On Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 (21st Century) Southern Soul Countdown All The Way To #19!
The chart ranks the top one hundred contemporary southern soul singles over the last seventeen years--ultimately a twenty-year period (from 2000-2020).
See Big Pokey Bear's new position on the Chart.
Pokey also becomes the #19-ranked artist on Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 21st Century Southern Soul Artists Chart.
Daddy B. Nice notes:
In honor of his meteoric rise up the southern soul charts and ranks, and inspired by his most recent song and hilarious video with Bishop Bullwinkle, (Listen to Big Pokey Bear & Bishop Bullwinkle singing "I Can't Be Faithful" on YouTube.), I was itching to do an ornerier, funnier drawing of Big Pokey, and so... I hope this applies.
See the chart.
February 28, 2018:
Daddy B. Nice Announces THE WINNERS of the 2017 (11th Annual) SOUTHERN SOUL MUSIC AWARDS.
Best Mid-Tempo SongTop Contenders:
“I’m Stepping Out” ---- Mr. Campbell
"Kiss It Good-Bye" ---- Lomax
“I Can’t Be Faithful”----Big Pokey Bear & Bishop Bullwinkle
"Textual Harassment" ---- Nellie "Tiger" Travis
“You’re My Gold” ---- Joe “Blues” Butler
“My Country Girl” ---- Jeter Jones
"Shake Something (Remix)" ---- J. Red, Columbus Toy, Ms. Lady Blues
“Don’t Blame It On Jody” ---- Adrian Bagher
“Caller I.D.” ----- El’ Willie
“It’s The Weekend” ----- Magic One
“Stilettos & Jeans” ----- Sharnette Hyter & J.J. Callier
“Bedroom Rodeo (Remix)” ----- Big Yayo, Gentry Jones, Omar Cunningham
“Call Me” ----- Nelson Curry
“Preacher Car In My Yard” ---- Luther Lackey
“All I Need Is You” ----- Pokey Bear & Crystal Thomas
"I Had To Lie" ----- Ms. Jody
"Call My Name" ----- J. Red & Sharnette Hyter
“Neighbor” ----- Solomon Thompson
"Pretty Girl" ----- J-Wonn & Tucka
"I Left My Woman" ----- Stan Butler
"'Til The Sun Comes Up" ---- Tucka
Best Mid-Tempo Song: "I Can't Be Faithful" by Pokey Bear & Bishop Bullwinkle Listen to Pokey Bear & Bishop Bullwinkle singing "I Can't Be Faithful" on YouTube.
Best Female Vocalist Top Contenders:
"All I Want Is You" ---- Crystal Thomas (w/ Pokey Bear)
“I Wanna Ride It” ----- Sweet Angel
“It’s Gon’ Cost You” ---- Miss Portia
“I’m In Love By Myself” ---- Peggy Scott-Adams
“Spacey Love” ----- Nellie “Tiger” Travis
“Trying To Love Two” ----- Lady Audrey
“I Had To Lie” ---- Ms. Jody
“Stilettos & Jeans” ----- Sharnette Hyter
“Honey Hole”-----Vickie Baker
“Sexy Swing” ---- Candice G.
"We Belong Together" ---- Lacee (w/ Pokey Bear)
"Do You Want Somebody?" ---- LaKeisha (w/ Alonzo Reid)
"He's Got That Body" ---- Katrenia Jefferson
"I'm Ready" ----- Big Cynthia (w/ Sharnette Hyter)
Best Female Vocalist: Crystal Thomas for "All I Want Is You" (w/ Pokey Bear)Listen to Crystal Thomas singing "All I Want Is You" (w/ Pokey Bear) on YouTube.
Best CDTop Contenders:
O.B. Buchana --- Swing On With O.B.
Pokey Bear --- Bear Season
Miss Portia --- All In My Feelings
Uncle Wayne --- The Birth Of Hithm And Bluez
Ms. Jody --- Thunder Under Yonder
Jeter Jones --- Trailride Certified
Sharnette Hyter --- Grown Folks Talkin'
Lady Di --- Three Way Love Affair
Angel Faye Russell --- A Taste Of Angel
Mo B --- Toast It Up
Joe "Blues" Butler --- Full Figured Woman
David Brinston --- Sidepiece Motel
Mr. Sam --- Make Time (For Her)
Stevie J. Blues --- Back 2 Blues
Big G --- Darkest Hour
Sweet Angel --- Can't Walk Away
El' Willie --- The Game Changer
Rashad --- Country Soul
Stan Butler --- The Blues In Me
Nellie "Tiger" Travis --- Mr. Sexy Man: The Album
Jaye Hammer --- Last Man Standing
Bigg Robb --- Born 2 Do This
Latimore --- A Taste Of Me: Great American Songs
Tre' Williams --- Chocolate Soul
Lacee --- Mind Gone
Lomax --- Is This What You Want
Tyree Neal --- Still Called The Blues
Simone De --- Unbelievable
J. Red --- J. Red The Nephew And Friends
Beat Flippa --- Trailride Music Vol. 1
Best CD: Bear Season by Pokey BearListen to Pokey Bear & Crystal Thomas singing "All I Want Is You" on YouTube.
See Pokey’s other nominations in Best of 2017.
Honorary "B" Side
"They Call Me Pokey"
CD: Love On The Bayou (L.A. Blues Brothas)
Label: Ross Music
They Call Me Pokey
CD: Josephine Son Pokey
Label: Ross Music
All I Want Is You (feat. Crystal Thomas)
CD: Bear Season
Label: Music Access
I Can't Be Faithful (feat. Bishop Bullwinkle)
CD: Bear Season
Label: Music Access
If It Ain't The Blues (feat. Cupid)
CD: Mr. It Ain't Fair
Label: Music Access
Thank God It's Friday
CD: I Got The Blues Vol. 1 (Beat Flippa)
Label: Ross Music
Can You Keep A Secret?
CD: Crown Me
Label: Music Access
CD: Mr. It Ain't Fair
Label: Music Access
CD: My Side Piece: Hit the Lotto (Original Motion Pict
Label: Scotlawood Motion Pictures