"I Got This Record"
J-Wonn #7 (New Album Alert!))
Composed by Jawonn Smith
March 1, 2023:
NEW ALBUM ALERT!Buy J-Wonn's new THE FOUNDATION album at Apple.
THE FOUNDATION Track List1. The Voice
2. Cross That Bridge
4. Take You Down Thru There
5. If This Could Be
6. Where I Wanha To Be
7. My Kinda Crazy
8. Put A Title On It
9. Too Good
10. I'm Sorry
11. For The Record
12. The Foundation
Daddy B. Nice notes:It's only been a few months, but the promotional material says "The wait is over". Close on the heels of the well-received Mr. Right Now, the never-idle J-Wonn has another new album in release. THE FOUNDATION includes new singles "Put A Title On It," "Too Good" and "Take You Down Through There".
The set starts out with the kind of "not-quite-grown-folks-yet" cliches I've criticised J-Wonn for in the past ("Cross That Bridge," "Invitation"). I didn't really get into the set until J-Wonn gets a little ornery with "Take You Down Thru There,"
the kind of mid-tempo, elbow-churning rocker that I've been waiting years to hear J-Wonn experiment with. Something Chuck Berry or Theodis Ealey or J-Wonn's old mate Big Yayo (remember their duo on "Cowgirl"?) would do. The contrast of J-Wonn's plaintive, boyish vocals with a muscular dance groove...Now that would be something to hear. Michael Jackson reborn.
For similar reasons I like "Some Kinda Crazy," which combines a locomoting instrumental track with an elegant, aerial-feeling melody. "Too Good" is the first official single.
"She used to cook.
She used to clean.
She washed my clothes.
She did everything."
Lyrics like this, candid, common and laughable as they are, are one of the reasons southern soul is anathema to a sizable segment of women. Especially those who work outside the home.
"Will you marry me?" J-Wonn asks in a voice-over at the onset of another song.
"I'll think about it," the beloved retorts.
Talk about popping the question too soon... And that's what I love about J-Wonn. You're going to get it uncensored, unfiltered. He's one of the least self-conscious, least self-aware celebrities in southern soul music.
Listen to all the tracks from J-Wonn's new album THE FOUNDATION on YouTube.
Buy J-Wonn's new THE FOUNDATION album at Apple.
Check out other appearances by J-Wonn on the website in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.
January 26, 2023:
DADDY B. NICE'S 16th Annual SOUTHERN SOUL MUSIC AWARDS
Listen to J-Wonn singing "Mr. Right Now" on YouTube.
His most evocative since "I Got This Record"...
J-Wonn ----- “Mr. Right Now”
See Daddy B. Nice's BEST OF 2022.
See the chart.
Originally published in Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews.
September 26, 2022:
J-WONN: Mr. Right Now (Music Access) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.
J'Wonn's "I Got This Record" is this generation's "Sho' Wasn't Me," the most perfect expression in a few verses of an entire era of southern soul, and still the finest southern soul single of the last decade. I've never played it for someone for the first time without them being impressed and genuinely touched. "I Got This Record" is primal in a way nothing J-Wonn has recorded since is. Subsequent albums have been good, even exciting at times, with quality songs more frequently than not, but there have also been tendencies that have been, shall we say, disturbing.
Musically, for one thing, J-Wonn shows a distinct preference for melody over groove, tempo and rhythm tracks, the kind of "bottom" his old mentor Big Yayo used to bring to the table, which has resulted in a bit of a musical imbalance---for lack of a better word an overly "flowery" oeuvre. For another, culturally (and lyrically), J-Wonn indulges in a world view restricted primarily to teen-age angst (extended to twenty-somethings) which for southern-soul-loving grown folks in particular seems far from the urgency and realism of "I Got This Record". If there's a knock on J-Wonn, it's been his tendency to limit himself to an extremely narrow slice of life's experiences---sans marriage, divorce, working life, etc. He's an open book, he asks you to take him as he is---all of which is admirable---but his preoccupations are often trivial or sentimental, something that would never occur to anyone listening to the equally young and raw performer singing his heart out on "I Got This Record".
The good news is that J-Wonn has finally bequeathed us with a spectacular album to match "I Got This Record" and his quiver of glittering singles. Mr. Right Now integrates treble-clef melodies and bass-clef rhythm tracks with masterful alchemy. It also refreshes and recharges J-Wonn's major theme: the male/female dynamic. Close watchers of the southern soul scene will immediately recognize the worthy and radio-friendly "Move On," whose official YouTube video already tops five and a half million views, and "Girl In The Mirror," with a melody so lushly memorable it stands out even in J-Wonn's melodically-rich catalog. Along with the refreshingly uptempo "I'm Impressed," "This Ain't That" and "Meet Me", this quintet of songs is migrated from 2021's Black Heart, The "Move On" EP. In July of this year the indie distribution network Music Access announced the imminent arrival of a new six-track J-Wonn EP titled "Thrill Is Gone". However, J-Wonn evidently decided to hold off on publishing another EP and packaged the "Move On" EP with the new "Thrill Is Gone" set to make an eleven-track album under the title Mr. Right Now.
"Thrill Is Gone" is a solid song, one of the best of the set, and it's received extensive airplay and YouTube response from the fans. Show a little respect for the Godfather, B.B. King, though, Jawonn. J'Cenae recently recorded "Ain't Nobody," making anyone who loves Chaka Khan wince. Don't these youngsters have any sense of musical history? B.B. King used to stay in a special, always-reserved, two-story room in a motel at I-20 & Ellis Ave. in your very hometown of Jackson, MS., Jawonn. If you're going to use the exact same words in the title as an illustrious predecessor (and deleting the "The" in "The Thrill Is Gone" doesn't count), better to do a cover song---an homage. Imagine J-Wonn doing a cover of King's "The Thrill Is Gone". I'd be interested in that. In fact, I'd be interested in anything J-Wonn wanted to cover, from LaMorris Williams' "Impala" (which Jawonn wrote before he got famous) to Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti".
What "Move On," "Thrill Is Gone" and "Girl In The Mirror" signal is that maturity is gradually creeping into J-Wonn's duffel bag of techniques. Even a middle-of-the-road track like "Wantin' More," co-authored with Daniel Ross (aka Beat Flippa), has a deftness that lifts it above J-Wonn's typical fare. And "Mr. Right Now" the strongest and newest cut on the album, is J-Wonn's most outstanding song in quite awhile, with a memorable melody, instrumental track and vocal. Whereas so many of J'Wonn's melody-dominated tunes bloom and die quickly from familiarity, "Mr. Right Now" has that ineffable quality (like "I Got This Record"). Written by David Jones, it's more melodic than J-Wonn's usual melodic stuff, but less obtrusively melodic. Like "I Got This Record," it transcends melody, and J-Wonn sings it like an angel.
The funny thing is "Mr. Right Now" hews to the same juvenile behavior I lamented earlier. Essentially, it's a young guy trying to talk a girl into a one-night stand based on their "animal magnetism" and other well-worn cliches with which women are painfully familiar. J-Wonn even bursts into Spanish at one point---one of the many unique touches that gives the song its special depth and insures it will be replayed long after other songs have faded. It reminds us that any subject can become universal (appeal to everybody) with the right musical ingredients and its singer's conviction. Like some crazy unknown kid telling us he's got a record. And like its title cut, Mr. Right Now the album is the first long-play set of which one can truthfully say J-Wonn fulfills the vaunted promise of his classic single.
--Daddy B. Nice
Buy J-Wonn's new MR. RIGHT NOW album at Blues Critic.
Send product to:
P.O. Box 19574
Boulder, Colorado 80308
Hard copies given preference for CD reviews.
See the chart.
March 1, 2021:
Daddy B. Nice's Profile
J-Wonn #23 The New Generation
In an otherwise tragically-truncated career, Ronnie Lovejoy recorded in 1999 what many consider the most representative if not the greatest song in contemporary southern soul music, "Sho' Wasn't Me". Only one song has come close to having that effect since. In 2013 a young singer/songwriter from Jackson, Mississippi recorded a primal cry out of the so-called "civilized" universe called "I Got This Record".
To begin to fathom how significant the impact of "I Got This Record" was from its very arrival, consider this. In Daddy B. Nice's Best Of 2013, J-Wonn's "I Got This Record" came in #1 over a group of tunes that could have made up an all-decade, best-singles list, including Nellie "Tiger" Travis's signature hit single, "Mr. Sexy Man," Ms. Jody's top classic, "Just Let Me Ride," not to mention Stephanie McDee's finest effort ever, "When I Step In The Club," Vick Allen's most heart-wrenching ballad ever, "My Baby's Phone," Krishunda Echol's wildly-happy and unique "Mad Dog 20-20" and Nelson Curry & Klass Band's supremely romantic "Dance Floor".
In addition to gaining honors as the #1 Southern Soul Song Of The Year, "I Got This Record" reaped Best Ballad, Best Male Vocalist, Best Debut and Best Arranger/Producer for Big Yayo (Chris Mabry).
And to anyone questioning how a barely twenty-something recording artist came to catapult over dozens of otherwise deserving southern soul musicians with more extensive catalogs and experience, I simply point to his distinguished predecesssor. Ronnie Lovejoy jockeyed with Johnnie Taylor (and to a lesser extent Peggy Scott-Adams and Tyrone Davis) for fame and renown. Taylor arguably recorded a couple of dozen great songs, Lovejoy only one. But that one song Lovejoy recorded was (again arguably) better than any single Taylor ever recorded.
Twenty years ago, with masters like Lovejoy, Taylor, Davis and Little Milton moving on to Soul Heaven, there was genuine consternation within the southern soul community that the golden age of southern soul music (never much heard outside of the Deep South anyway) was over. "Grown folks," the audience, were aging along with the performers.
With the tremendous influx of young and aspiring performers over the last two decades, those concerns now seem wildly alarmist. Southern soul music has never been more popular and widespread, and the number of live concerts and attendance figures dwarf anything seen in the old days.
Much of the credit for securing that younger-generation audience goes to J-Wonn. He proved that a young guy could transfix not just young girls but women of all ages, who flock to his concerts and sing every word of "I Got This Record" along with him.
"I got this record...
That I want to play...
About this woman...
That cheated on me...
She cheated with Jody...
She cheated with Tom...
She cheated with Paul...
Oh, but she left me for John...
I got this record..."
And in making it cool to be young and gifted in southern soul music, J-Wonn inspired an entire new generation of young men and women to tear down the old walls of "grown folks music" and erect a new edifice of soul music that reflected the passions and concerns of the young once again. All this was made possible by the seismic musical tremor that was "I Got This Record".
One of the things that made the lyrics to "I Got This Record" so unforgettable was their very transparency. You could see a young creator in the act of searching for southern soul "touchstones" in each and every line. And all of his choices were right on. And at the same time J-Wonn was pouring his heart out on his very first record, those transparently derivative lyrics were making the story of J-Wonn's life a universal metaphor.
And standing in the shadows behind the lament was the even starker and more subliminal message of "I gotta song" and "I want to break into the music business---I want to be heard!" And that, too, is a metaphor for the entire southern soul genre and its quest for recognition and legitimacy.
All this was made possible by the seismic musical tremor that was "I Got This Record". It was the perfect storm of young genius meeting hallowed tradition---of past meets future. Every southern soul fan knows the words to "I Got This Record" by heart. They're as basic and unforgettable as a children's nursery rhyme.
"I caught 'em at the grocery store...
I caught 'em in the Mall...
Saw 'em at the casino...
But my Grandma even caught 'em at Bingo...
Caught 'em at the nail shop...
Cousin even caught 'em at the stop light...
But when I saw 'em in my room...
Lord, when I saw 'em in my room...
I got this record...
That I want to play..."
For more on J-Wonn's journey to the peak of the southern soul charts, scroll down to "About Artist".
For the latest updates (including biography, discography, album sellers, CD reviews and contemporaneous reports) on J-Wonn, scroll down this page. To automatically link to J-Wonn's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and other citations on the website, go to J-Wonn in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.
Note: J-Wonn also appears on Daddy B. Nice's
Top 100 21st Century Southern Soul (2000-2020). To read Daddy B Nice's commentary on J-Wonn prior to 2021, click here.
--Daddy B. Nice
About J-Wonn #7 (New Album Alert!))
J-Wonn is the recording name of Jawonn Smith, a native of Jackson, Mississippi. The singer/songwriter first came to the attention of Jackson's Christopher Mabry (later to become known as Big Yayo), a local producer who had made a name for himself producing ground-breaking singles with Stevie J. ("Because Of Me"), Dave Mack ("Booty Talking") and LaMorris Williams ("Impala"), (the latter written by Jawonn Smith), in each case delivering the strongest songs of their careers.
The J-Wonn/Yayo collaboration resulted in the single "I Got This Record," one of the most stunning debuts in 21st-century southern soul. The record sounded as if it was (and should have gone) "national". J-Wonn has stated he recorded the song in one take, an episode that was later memorialized (or re-created) in the dominant YouTube video of the song, "I Got This Record".
With only word-of-mouth, local air-play and one meagerly-recorded, live-with-boombox, YouTube video on the sidewalk of legendary Farish Street, J-Wonn became an overnight sensation, the charisma and sensitivity of his vocal compelling your Daddy B. Nice to call his coming-out party "dramatic enough to recall Sir Charles Jones' "Friday".
The first media mention of J-Wonn's "I Got This Record" appeared at SouthernSoulRnB in September of 2013:
Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles Review for. . .
1. "I Got This Record"----J-Wonn
A stunning debut, and a home-run arrangement from the young producer of the moment, Big Yayo (LaMorris Williams' "Impala," Dave Mack's "Booty Talking"), who told your Daddy B. Nice he also manages this breathtakingly golden-toned vocalist.
A year later, reviewing J-Wonn's debut CD of the same name, Daddy B. Nice wrote that the single sounded even better than it did when it arrived---in fact, "sounded good enough to drag the entire southern soul genre into the R&B mainstream." (Scroll down this page to "Tidbits #2 to read the original CD review.)
The original 2014 release of "I Got This Record" (the CD) eventually went out-of-print, to be replaced by I Got This Record (The Deluxe Edition), published in 2017. The title song was a remix differing from the original. Background strings replaced guitar lines. And most telling, J-Wonn himself had lost a smidgen (or more) of that desperate "edge" he brought to the original. Fortunately, another, recently-published but not well-known, commercial release of the original single, I Got This Record (The Original Single), is available through Amazon.
J-Wonn scored a trifecta of new singles to start 2015, headlined by a guest appearance on Big Yayo's "(I Need A) Cowgirl," an infectious fast-tempo jam that the duo took on the road, further cementing J-Wonn's charismatic interaction with the fans. T-Baby, featured on the first mix of the hit single, was replaced on a subsequent mix by Rosalyn Candy.
Watching J-Wonn prancing half-naked onstage as if he were riding his horse to Big Yayo's dance-hall smash "Cowgirl," laughing and singing and reveling in the moment, it was obvious J'Wonn had that rare, androgynous, sexual quality of Michael Jackson or Little Richard. (Watch a concert clip.)
The other two 2015 singles were "Mississippi Boy: Part 2" with Charles Wilson and "I Need A Grown Woman". "Grown Woman," along with the subsequently-released singles "Daddy's Girl" and "24/7" would headline J-Wonn's sophomore album released in 2015, The Legacy Begins. The album---and especially its three popular singles---was notable for a McCartneyesque, pop-music flair focused on light-hearted melodies.
The most revealing moment of the set, however, came at the end of J-Wonn's live version of "I Got This Record," when the squeals of the young women in the audience became powerful enough to recall the shrieking, girl-dominated fans of The Beatles and other teen-age sensations, not to mention southern soul's own Sir Charles Jones in his early touring days.
J-Wonn started off 2016 with something starkly different: the solemn and heart-felt hymn, "Lord I Need To Talk To You". The song had the same from-the-heart quality of "I Got This Record," and its overt gospel technique was a revelation of the source of some of the power behind J-Wonn's "I Got This Record". Recorded as as an anomaly or exception to J-Wonn's usual fare, the audience response was nevertheless so positive J-Wonn would make it into a full-fledged album in 2019.
Making Love To Your Mind, J-Wonn's third album, appeared in 2018, featuring the idiosyncratic ballad "Him And Her" and the R. Kelly-like "Fed Up". J-Wonn and Tucka also shared year-end Best Male Vocalist honors for their collaboration on the well-received single, "Pretty Girls".
The album My Turn arrived in 2019, prompting Daddy B. Nice to write: "Like an ice flow broken off from the southern soul continent, J-Wonn continues his post-Big Yayo drift toward urban smooth..." The set featured a duet with Keith Sweat ("Feel Me"), and more pop-oriented material highlighted by "Two Covers". "Great vocals, great instrumental tracks," Daddy B. Nice wrote in his review, "but there ain't a southern soul song in the bunch, although I love the "Lovers & Friends"-inspired "Slow".
J-Wonn started of 2020 with a Daddy B. Nice #1-ranked single:
Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .
1. "Yo Luv Baby"----J-Wonn
J-Wonn's "I Got This Record" is still arguably the greatest southern soul single of the last decade, and "Yo Luv Baby" shares some of its characteristics: superb vocal, melody, arrangement and similarly universal lyrics: "I'll travel miles/ Girl, I will travel cities/ Girl, I'll travel states/ Just to get to your love."
It was followed in July by:
Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles For. . .
...4. "Touch Me"----J-Wonn
With "Yo Love, Baby" (January '20) and now this song, "Touch Me" (July '20), J-Wonn has taken his writing to a new level, making his total package--writing and performance--first-rank, unparalleled for sheer hormonal excitement.
Listen to J-Wonn singing "Touch Me" on YouTube.
And in September by:
Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles For. . .
...4. "Step With Me"-----J-Wonn feat. Jeter Jones
This tune is all J-Wonn "want-to". The mesmerizing young star has matured amazingly as a vocalist, assembling a whole bag of J-Wonn-tailored techniques and phrasings, including a refreshingly youthful, voice-over personality. The "just give me some...drums and a bass line" chorus brought smiles because I criticized J-Wonn a couple albums back for ignoring the bass clef.
Listen to J-Wonn & Jeter Jones singing "Step With Me" on YouTube.
And it, in turn, was followed by the release of "Move On," a powerful ballad, in January of 2021, boding well for an exceptional collection of material for J-Wonn's upcoming CD.
March 1, 2021
RE-POSTED FROM DADDY B. NICE'S CD REVIEWS
September 6, 2014:
J-WONN: I Got This Record (Savior Music) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven. A year later, leading off J-Wonn's debut CD of the same name, "I Got This Record" sounds even better than it did when it arrived--in fact, sounds good enough to drag the entire southern soul genre into the R&B mainstream. The fact that it has not done so yet only makes the steam in the pressure cooker that is southern soul all the more intense. Music this good will not pass without its eventual triumph.
Twenty years ago, with masters like Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone Davis and Little Milton moving on to Soul Heaven, there was genuine consternation in the southern soul community that the golden age of southern soul music (never even heard outside of the Deep South anyway) was over. "Grown folks," the audience, were aging, along with the performers.
In 2014, with the tremendous influx of new young performers preceding J-Wonn over the last decade, those concerns seem wildly alarmist. Southern soul music has never been more popular. The number and dimension of live concerts dwarfs anything seen in the "old days."
Yes, the sound is different--in some ways, especially from a production standpoint, better--but it is still southern soul music. No one knows this better than the young artists like Jawonn Smith and Chris (Big Yayo) Mabry, the executive producers of this album, who are migrating from hiphop (the dominant form of the day) into southern soul, the genre that is all about music, not about using music as a conduit to get into the movies.
This album is so full of quality music--fifteen tracks of it--it's almost impossible to compare to most soul music albums. One has to go back to classic collections like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Jimi Hendrix's "Electric Ladyland" or The Beatles' "Rubber Soul" or "Revolver" CD's to convey its mind-blowing mix of panoramic musical vision and technical breakthrough.
Big Yayo, who has nurtured and shaped this freakishly-talented young singer/songwriter Jawonn Smith into the phenomenon we know as J-Wonn, is fresh from ground-breaking singles stints with Stevie J. ("Because Of Me"), Dave Mack ("Booty Talking") and, most gloriously, LaMorris Williams ("Impala"--written, incidentally, by an even younger Jawonn), in each case delivering the strongest songs of their careers.
Your Daddy B. Nice has written extensively about "I Got This Record" over the last year, including awarding it the #1-ranked song of 2013, somewhat ahead of its major exposure across the chitlin' circuit and indeed the whole country and world in 2014.
Daddy B. Nice's
TOP 25 SOUTHERN SOUL SONGS OF 2013
1. I Got This Record--J-Wonn
A stunning debut, and a home-run arrangement from the young producer of the moment, Big Yayo (LaMorris Williams' "Impala," Dave Mack's "Booty Talking"), who told your Daddy B. Nice he also manages this breathtakingly golden-toned vocalist. "I Got This Record” is J-Wonn's coming-out party, dramatic enough to recall Sir Charles Jones' "Friday" and LaMorris Williams' "We Can Do It (Impala)".
Listen to the new video of J-Wonn singing "I Got This Record" on YouTube.
J-Wonn and his record swept 2013's top honors for Best Ballad, Best Male Vocalist, & Best Debut, with collaborator Big Yayo nabbing Best Arranger/Producer. A summary of J-Wonn's meteoric rise is contained in Daddy B. Nice's new J-Wonn Artist Guide.
Conceptually, J-Wonn's songs extol the virtues of romantic love and the perils of cynicism, the perfect thematic foil for his claim to fame: a vocal timbre and tone that captures the ineffable innocence of young love.
I Got This Record (The CD) contains any number of potential hit singles, although none quite so deserving of the term "classic" as "I Got This Record." Many of the songs will appeal to listeners with that vaguely-familiar, heard-once-before quality that makes a song instantly memorable. That's because deejays have already been dipping into the set with the happy abandon of treasure-hunters.
"Sleep In It" is a light, lilting tune about falling asleep in the aftermath of sex.
"True Love," a Carl Sims-like, deep-soul ballad has charted even higher than "Sleep In It" on Daddy B. Nice's recent Top 10 singles reviews.
"One Day Left" is a mid-tempo track with a rousing acapella-like conclusion featuring layer-cake like harmonies.
"Let's Get Out Of This Club"--for some reason titled "All Right"--has a haunting phrase at the end of its hook, accentuated in the opening verses by JWonn's last note, which drops down unexpectedly. The song builds an atmosphere so dense it lingers long after.
The ballad "Deeper" is the song viewers hear in the background to the introduction of the official J-Wonn YouTube video for "I Got This Record," and with noticeable expertise "Lied To You" ventures into the love-seat domain of songs like Mtume's "Juicy Fruit."
"Night Time Lover," an uptempo cut, raises tantalizing possibilities for J-Wonn's future forays into dance-floor jams, perhaps the only aspect of southern soul music not thoroughly digested and revived in this collection. The faster tempo brings out another charismatic strain in J-Wonn's vocal stylings. The rousing "One For The Road" with its chugging-train-like rhythm track, is another uptempo anthem waiting in the wings for its day on radio.
And yet, this sketchy overview doesn't do justice to the sheer breadth of riches on the album, including "You," "So Long," "Superstar," "VFW," and "I Look Good On You."
Too good to be true? The roll call of impressive new performers in Southern Soul since the turn of the century is replete with head-turning talent, but the seldom-used word "genius" may be the only encomium worthy of J-Wonn, who with this exceptionally accomplished debut CD takes his place in the top rank of contemporary southern soul singers.
--Daddy B. Nice
Sample/Buy J-Wonn's I GOT THIS RECORD CD at Amazon.
Sample/Buy J-Wonn's I GOT THIS RECORD CD at iTunes.
Read Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to J-Wonn.
December 13, 2016: Re-posted from Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews
J-WONN: The Legacy Begins ( I Got This Record Publishing) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.
The most revealing moment on J'Wonn's new CD THE LEGACY BEGINS comes at the end of his live version of "I Got This Record." Up to that moment, you're marveling mostly at the faithful rendition via live onstage instruments of the studio version of J'Wonn's signature tune. Then comes the end and the squeals of the young women in the audience, far-off from the onstage sound equipment, but nevertheless powerful enough to recall The Beatles in their early days and their squealing, girl-dominated audiences.
Longtime followers of southern soul music have never experienced quite this kind of audience reaction. Johnnie Taylor was the marquee heart-throb of his day, but the women screaming their appreciation were more mature, experienced and knowing. Marvin Sease drove his female audiences to heights of passion, but their catcalls and mock-shock cheers were hardy, wild and comedic. Perhaps Sir Charles Jones, kicking off contemporary southern soul in the early years of the century, was the real harbinger of J'Wonn's arrival: the girls went crazy.
But none of the stars, it seems, drew the really young girls--even teen-agers--the way J'Wonn does. He does what no southern soul veterans thought possible: he makes southern soul accessible to the young, in the process demolishing the old critical "truism" that southern soul would die with its aging audience.
J'Wonn's most revealing concerts over the last couple of years have been his gigs with Big Yayo (the producer of "I Got This Record" and the album of the same name) and their performances of Big Yayo's dance-hall smash "(I Need A) Cowgirl." Watching him prancing half-naked onstage as if he were riding his horse, laughing and singing and reveling deliriously in the moment, it's obvious J'Wonn has that rare, androgynous quality of Michael Jackson, or even more apt, Little Richard--not as outrageously kinky/androgynous as Richard--but equally sexual and one-of-a-kind. (Here's another concert clip.)
When all is said and done, there are no "breakthrough," "can't-miss" songs on the order of "I Got This Record" (or even "Cowgirl") on THE LEGACY BEGINS. The new album is J'Wonn's first without his mentor, Big Yayo--also the first on J'Wonn's new, self-produced label. And to continue the Beatles comparisons, when it comes to songwriting without Chris Mabry (Big Yayo), J'Wonn is a little like Paul McCartney without John Lennon, or in over-simplified terms, melody and music hall (McCartney--J-Wonn) without grit and rhythm (Lennon--Big Yayo), an approach epitomized by some of the set's biggest singles: "Daddy's Girl," "I Need A Grown Woman," and "24/7."
Listen to J'Wonn singing "Daddy's Girl" on YouTube.
These aren't "big" singles in a dubious, southern-soul-bragging kind of way. These songs really are "big." They're popular and have made huge inroads with the young crowd.
Listen to J'Wonn singing "I Need A Grown Woman" on YouTube.
And in profiling J'Wonn's "24/7" on the Top Ten Singles (November 2016), your Daddy B. Nice returned to the age vs. youth issue in a more critical way:
How can you criticize a young artist for singing about young topics (infatuation with a new lover)? But we are miles from the celestial heights of J’Wonn’s classic, ”I Got This Record.” Although songs like “24/7” and “Daddy’s Girl” are creating a new generation of young southern soul fans, I can’t help comparing these tunes to the similarly light-weight, borderline-fluffy, follow-up efforts of LaMorris Williams—“Pretty Lady,” etc.--to his breakthrough classic, “Impala.” I hope to see J-Wonn rediscover the ageless depth and soulfulness of “I Got This Record” in the same way LaMorris eventually did with this year’s classic album, Mississippi Motown.
And just this month (December 2016), I added an exclamation point to the "young and fluffy" critique in praising the atypically older-sounding "(I'm Taking It) To My Grave."
The most southern soul track from J-Wonn's surprisingly pop-ish, new THE LEGACY BEGINS CD.
My own favorite J'Wonn song from 2016--the solemn and heart-felt hymn to God, "Lord I Need To Talk To You" (which to my surprise received an impressive 28,000 views after charting here in April 2016)-- didn't even make it to THE LEGACY BEGINS.
Listen to J'Wonn singing "Lord I Need To Talk To You" on YouTube.
The best thing about this prayer-slash-meditation? It doesn't appear to be a conscious attempt to record a gospel song, which would have added a layer of artifice, however transparent. No, this is simply a song from the heart, like "I Got This Record."
What cannot be denied about THE LEGACY BEGINS is J'Wonn's impressive musicality and production expertise, which come as something of a surprise despite the evident artistry behind "I Got This Record." In setting out to accomplish a palette of styles and moods, the young singer/songwriter has ransacked every sub-genre in R&B, including a "stepping" song, "The Night Away," the obligatory, "to-the-right, to the left," dance jam, "We Gone Party," and the old-fashioned (some might call "timeless," others "archaic") mainstream soul of "Left Me Now."
These and other tunes from the album are remarkably realized. The Legacy Begins may not be the foundation of a rather pompous-sounding "legacy." It may not even be the album we know J-Wonn is capable of. But it is, in its way, a tour de force.
--Daddy B. Nice
Buy J'Wonn's THE LEGACY BEGINS at Amazon.
Honorary "B" Side
"Pretty Girl (feat. Tucka)"
I Got This Record
CD: I Got This Record (The Original Single)
Label: Savior Music Group
Pretty Girl (feat. Tucka)
CD: Pretty Girl (The Single)
Label: Music Access
CD: Don't Move (The Single)
Label: Music Access
Him And Her
CD: Making Love To Your Mind
Label: I Got This Record Publishing
I Need A Grown Woman
CD: The Legacy Begins
Label: Music Access
Lord I Need To Talk To You
CD: Lord I Need To Talk To You
Label: Savior Music Group
CD: My Turn
Label: Music Access
CD: I Got This Record (The Deluxe Edition)
Label: Savior Music Group
Yo Luv Baby
CD: Yo Luv Baby (The Single)
Feel Me (feat. Keith Sweat)
CD: My Turn
Label: Music Access