Best Of 2021: The Year In Review

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Portrait of Best Of 2021: The Year In Review by Daddy B. Nice
 


Best Of 2021: The Year In Review

January 1, 2022:

2021:The Year In Southern Soul

Pictured: Jay Morris

January came in like a lamb. Southern Soul concerts were few and far between. Musically, the dust was settling on Beat Flippa's double album "Producer Of The Year," and Big Yayo's "Electric Cowboy," two strong efforts. Kicking off the new year were Jaye Hammer's "It's Jaye Hammer Time" and Jeter Jones' sampler "Fish Grease Friday," produced by Ronald "Slack" Jefferson and featuring (among other artists) a host of new and younger-than-usual talents in R&B Pooh, King South and JD. Pokey Bear ruled the singles charts with a new single, "Excuse Me," along with Cadillac Man, who released his best single to date, "Southern Soul Woman".

February, with Valentine's Day, saw an uptick in mid-level touring. Willie Clayton and others, however, were still doing "virtual" concerts. Crystal Thomas released a rare vinyl recording, "Now Dig This". Arthur Young released another new album, "A Trucker's Blues," and Jeter Jones dominated the singles charts with "Love You Down" with JD and "It's About To Go Down" with Billy Cook. Stevie J. Blues reprised "All Because Of Me" and Hump Dog reprised "The Crawfish Song".

March welcomed in strong debut albums from Slacktraxx artists Volton Wright and Tasha Mac, and Wright's disc in particular spawned a trifecta of harmony-rich singles: "Southern Soul Girl" with T.K. Soul, "Supa Woman" featuring J.D. and Jeter Jones and "Circles". Rapper Joe Nice, assisted by Sean Dolby, scored the #1 Single with a remake of the Lynn White standard "Take Your Time," and the tune would go on to seize #1 in Daddy B. Nice's Top 25 Singles of 2021. The first of many mega-sized, Blues Is Alright Tour-type concerts starring Sir Charles Jones, Pokey Bear, Lenny Williams, Calvin Richardson, Theodis Ealey and Bobby Rush---the 14th Annual Motor City (Detroit) Blues Festival and the 15th Annual Chi-town (Chicao) Blues Festival---were cancelled. National Public Radio's Morning Edition recognized a new book detailing southern soul's legendary Jackson, Mississippi record label, "The Last Soul Company: The Malaco Records Story" by Rob Bowman.

April commenced with more big concert cancellations, including the popular Spring Fling in Mobile, Alabama and the 14th Annual Shreveport, Atlanta and Indy Blues Festivals, but mid-level gigs continued to slowly rise, powered by Jeter Jones, Pokey Bear, Vick Allen, Terry Wright, Tucka, J'Wonn, Calvin Richardson, Big Yayo, Arthur Young, L.J. Echols and others. O.B. Buchana released his sixteenth album on Ecko Records, "Southern Soul Brother," but it would turn out to be his last with the venerable Memphis indie label.

May found O.B. Buchana atop the singles charts with Nellie "Tiger" Travis on the ballad, "My Baby," written and produced by Omar Cunningham, who also ushered in new artist Mr. Fredlo's debut single. Cunningham, fresh off his first solo album in years, "Certified," seemed to be involved in writing, singing or producing a major portion of the songs recorded in 2021. Meanwhile, the youngsters in the Jay Morris Group---Jay Morris, Zee Brownlow and KMonique---continued to gain acclaim with their hit song "Knee Deep" and their 2021 debut album, "Like Food For The Soul". The best news, however, was the concert scene. Mother's Day marked a turning point, with tour dates for that holiday proliferating across the South. By Memorial Day, southern soul artists had returned to stages in full force.

In June Avail Hollywood hit the road with musical sidekick DJ Trac, as did Wendell B, fresh off his album "Real Talk," with his new label-mate J'Cenae, whose single "I'll Be Down In A Minute" eclipsed anything done by southern soul women in the last two years. Bobby Rush returned to southern soul recording with a novelty hit by his booty-rolling, stage dancer Mizz Lowe. Also returning to the scene: Steve Perry, The Winstons, Mister Cotton, Willie B, Anita Love, and DeMond Crump, whose new ballad "Just Love Me" captured the #1 single spot. New artist Hisyde, fresh from his rousing duet with Avail Hollywood on the Beat Flippa-produced "Is It Ova," dropped his debut album. His new single, "For Your Love," was produced by Eric "Smidi" Smith, who was instrumental a few years earlier in transitioning Jeter Jones into southern soul. And Jeter Jones released his second album of the year, the 21-track "Trailride Certified Part 2".

By the 4th of July, the southern soul concert scene was as busy as ever. The "living legends" gig in Monroe, Lousiana brought together veterans Lenny Williams, Latimore, Bobby Rush, Carl Sims, Ricky White and Stephanie McDee. Ms. Jody put out her fifteenth album on Ecko Records entitled "Cowboy Style". A new artist stormed into the singles charts with a novelty dance jam called "Chicken Wang". His name: Klay Redd. Sir Charles Jones put out a potent new album and single titled, "The Chosen One". Stan Butler was active in the recording studio all year, but his best product might have been the mid-summer anthem "Down In The Kuntry" with talented, high-energy newcomer West Love.

August ushered in another new talent in the youth movement at SlackTraxx, T-Lyons (The Southern Soul Kid) with the aptly named single, "Young Thang". Dexter Allen, Bobby Rush's onetime guitarist, published a new album. The Jay Morris Group's YouTube video for "Knee Deep" hit the stratospheric number of twelve million views. Dee Dee Simon wrote and 2 Buck Chuck produced Karen Wolfe's most popular single of the year, "I'll Leave The Light On". Avail Hollywood dominated the month's singles chart with his mid-tempo jam, "Dukes And Boots". The Duchess Jureesa McBride returned with a new single, "All Men Ain't Bad," and P2K (formerly P2K Da Diddy) came back with a new album, "Pour It Up". Touring was torrid, with Tucka and Pokey Bear in greatest demand. Sadly, in a year with otherwise very little loss of life in the artist ranks, the genre lost Maurice Wynn, whose song "What She Don't Know (Won't Hurt Her)" became a southern soul classic.

September typified one of the hallmarks of the year: the emergence of the younger generation and its audience. "Young" not as in T.K. Soul or Sir Charles Jones (now the "mid-generation") but "young" as in twenty-or-early-thirty somethings (and T-Lyons may not even be that), a development that had been unthinkable a decade ago. So young, middle-aged and senior mingled as never before, and you had T.K. Soul sharing the bill with the Jay Morris Group, Karen Wolfe onstage with Dee Dee Simon, Bobby Rush live with Mississippi Hummin' Boy. One of the youngest performers, Ra'Shad The Blues Kid, delivered two new albums---one southern soul, one blues. And among the elders, Bigg Robb, Sir Charles Jones and T.K. Soul all put out fresh (read "young") new sets.

October marked the passing of Lexington/Tchula, Mississippi's WAGR disc jockey Big Money---a larger-than-life radio personality---who died in an unfortunate car accident on one of his familiar country roads. And Miss Portia, one of southern soul's youngest and brightest stars, passed away in the middle of the month from causes never made public. Ecko Records-affiliated singer/songwriter Gerod Rayborn released his first solo album in a decade and Miss Lady Blues went bluesy in her LP "Moe Better Blues".

November saw Dee Dee Simon's "Winter Is Coming:A Southern Soul And Blues Queens’ Christmas" sampler portend the holiday season. The album featured Simon and a host of young southern soul divas who took their music on the road. Roi "Chip" Anthony made the transition from the zydeco circuit to the chitlin' circuit with a new southern soul album, "Leo King".


December brought Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 Countdown: New Generation Artist Chart to a total of fifteen artist guides (so far), updating rankings for the new decade:

15 Ronnie Bell
14 Karen Wolfe
13 Bishop Bullwinkle
12 Jay Morris Group
11 Bigg Robb
10 Ms. Jody
9 Avail Hollywood
8 Jeter Jones
7 Wendell B
6 J-Wonn
5 Nellie "Tiger" Travis
4 T.K. Soul
3 Tucka
2 Sir Charles Jones
1 Big Pokey Bear
See the Chart.

...And, as if to add an exclamation point to the "year of the youngsters," the Jay Morris Group released their sophomore album, "Long Story Short," fulfilling the promise of their first. Soulful, original, seemingly without antecedent, this music sounds like nothing less than a new blues for the younger generation.

--Daddy B. Nice

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

--Daddy B. Nice



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