Denise LaSalle

Daddy B. Nice's #15 ranked Southern Soul Artist



Portrait of Denise LaSalle by Daddy B. Nice
 



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"Mississippi Woman"

Denise LaSalle



April 10, 2016: MAILBAG ALERT!

New Denise LaSalle-related correspondence. See Daddy B. Nice's Mailbag.

February 1, 2014: NEW ARTIST GUIDE ALERT!




Denise LaSalle is now the #11-ranking Southern Soul artist on Daddy B. Nice's new 21st Century Top 100 Countdown.

Go to Daddy B. Nice's new 21st-Century Artist Guide to Denise LaSalle.

************


January 23, 2011:

Denise LaSalle's "Older Woman (Looking For A Younger Man)" wins BEST SOUTHERN SOUL COVER SONG OF THE YEAR: See 4th Annual "Daddies," Southern Soul Music Awards

"Older Woman (Looking For A Younger Man)" reprises Pat Cooley's "Older Woman, Younger Man."

Daddy B. Nice wrote: "Older Man (Looking For a Younger Man)" may be Denise LaSalle's best-ever vocal. Her verse-singing has a firm, familiar sweetness leavened with dues-duly-paid wisdom, and her voice-over rant on men and aging is the best series of one-liners on the subject ever recorded."

Bargain-Priced 24 Hour Woman CD

**************

See "Tidbits" below for the latest updates on Denise LaSalle.

To automatically link to Denise LaSalle's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and other references, go to "LaSalle, Denise" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.

*************************

Daddy B. Nice's Original Critique:

Denise LaSalle's patch of territory in the community garden of Southern Soul has to do with the steamier side of sex and sexual relationships, and no one has done it better or longer. LaSalle has pretty much written the book on the kind of song that says to the girls, "It's a jungle out there, baby, and the big cats are coming to eat you up."

Those "cats" are the big-shouldered, big-talking, big-striding women who don't necessarily wear the dainty-sized high heels, if they wear heels at all. In fact, they might come to the party competing for your man smashing down a pair of flats like they were beach flip-flops.

When you hear Queen Isabella's "I Hear You Knocking (But You Can't Come In)," Barbara Carr's "Footprints On The Ceiling," or Shirley Brown's "Don't Go Looking For My Man," you're listening to examples of this sub-genre of Southern Soul that owes everything to Denise LaSalle's long career representing the tough-as-nails side of the gentler sex.

A mean-spirited man can hurt a LaSalle heroine, but embarrassing her is out of the question. In "You Should Have Kept It In The Bedroom" (from Still The Queen, Ecko, 2002), Denise tells a female friend that it's basically her own fault Denise stole her man.

"You made it sound so good,
I just had to get me some."

The arrangement is a little muddy, the vocal isn't overly impressive (LaSalle's usual casual style bordering on speech), but the song lingers in your mind long after you've heard it, the way Ann Rabson, LaVern Baker, Bertha Tillman and the early female singers of R&B stick to your R&B soul.

One of LaSalle's most affecting songs is the heartfelt "Five Below Zero (In My Bed)." From the Smokin' In Bed LP (Malaco, 1997), the self-penned, Ray Charles-like anthem captures the vindictiveness (mellowed into a kind of world-weariness) of the oft-spurned woman:

"You say you want to make love to me,
For old time's sake,
But it's five degrees below zero
In my bed."

It's a slow jam, and Denise knows how to hang her voice out there in space--not exactly in a bluesy vibrato, but something very close.
There's a whiff of freshness to her every syllable, and not an ounce of pretension. Old rock and rollers who never got over the demise of The Band and its idiosyncratic country rock hits will find echoes of "The Weight (Put The Weight On Me)" in "Five Below Zero."

In the nineties the indomitable LaSalle gave ground to the prolific and inspired Peggy Scott-Adams in the sweepstakes for the title of the first Lady of Soul. Scott-Adams had the benefit of the songwriter/producer Jimmy Lewis behind her, and their collaboration produced songs of a higher quality than LaSalle's over the same period. However, in the early years of the new century, as Scott-Adams' output has diminished, LaSalle has undertaken a renewed palace coup for Southern Soul's mythical diva throne.

In particular, LaSalle has honed her "bad-mama" chops to near-perfection in dance floor anthems that display her attentiveness to the current scene. The title cut from the CD Still The Queen (Ecko, 2002) is a self-coronation similar to Little Milton's popular "Guitar Man," an ebullient blues that coincidentally also came out in 2002.

And in LaSalle's case the self-mythologizing is equally justified--and more importantly, carried off with just as much ease and authority. Over a bluesy dance hook (the song is written by Ecko Records' John Ward and Raymond Moore, in addition to longtime composer LaSalle) vaguely reminiscent of Aretha Franklin's "Chain Of Fools," LaSalle puts down the young competition like an old hen pecking at pullets.

"All of you soul blue mamas,
That thought the Queen was gone.
Well I'm back, check me out,
Sitting high on my throne."

Even LaSalle's fans, however, could not have foreseen the hit-the-bulls-eye success LaSalle achieved with her self-penned "Snap, Crackle And Pop" (from the CD Wanted, Ecko, 2004).

The song transcends its dance floor attributes by combining a better-than-average rhythm track and arrangement (the chords are from Theo Ealey's "Stand Up In It" by way of Clarence Carter's "Strokin'") with a delightful compendium of all of Southern Soul's sensual groove-masters, from stalwarts Clarence Carter, Marvin Sease, Bobby Rush and The Love Doctor to "those new kids on the block," Theodis Ealey and Dr. "Feelgood" Potts.

The song references "Candylicker," Sease's breakthrough hit from the 80's, and Ealey's "Stand Up In It" with equal glee, reminding fans old and new that, as Denise puts it on "I'm Still The Queen,"

"The Queen is back,
Kicking ass and taking names."

--Daddy B. Nice


About Denise LaSalle

Denise LaSalle (born Ora Denise Allen in 1939) was raised in Belzoni, Mississippi. Well-versed in gospel music as a child, she also picked up secular musical influences from early R&B, Grand Ole Opry, and local juke joint music. In her twenties she moved north to Chicago and pursued a songwriting career. A Chess Records executive, Billy "The Kid" Emerson, met LaSalle while she was working as a bar maid, and this gradually led her into recording and performing.

LaSalle's first hit record was 1971's "Trapped By A Thing Called Love" (Westbound Records), which crossed over to the pop charts and went gold. The follow-up, "Now Run Tell That," was a million-seller on the R&B charts. LaSalle moved to ABC Records and recorded three solid albums in the late seventies before ABC was bought out by MCA, and MCA dropped her in the eighties as, nationwide, R&B declined in popularity.

Malaco Records of Jackson, Ms. was just beginning to fill the vacuum, however, with artists such as Z.Z. Hill and Johnnie Taylor, and a LaSalle songwriting assignment for Hill led to a recording career that no one could have anticipated. More than a dozen albums--perhaps the greatest output of any rhythm and blues artist over the same roughly fifteen-year period--marched down the runway of Southern Soul from this oft-overlooked creative dynamo, beginning early on (1985) with LaSalle's signature zydeco track and concert favorite, "Don't Mess With My Tutu."

In recent years the graying LaSalle's recording activity has continued unabated, sustaining her title as Southern Soul's tell-it-like-it-is Everywoman. She has moved to Ecko Records for her latest LP's, reinvigorating her career and re-establishing her credentials as one of Southern Soul's top female draws in the process.


Song's Transcendent Moment

"I'm just a Mississippi woman.
Got that Mississippi mud on my shoes.
I'm just a Mississippi woman.
I want to get back to my roots."


Tidbits

1.

AUGUST, 2005. Denise LaSalle's "The Thrill Is On Again" is one of those copy-cat records (referencing B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone") that your Daddy B. Nice scoffed at on the first few listenings, only to succumb to its undeniable pleasures as time went on.

Remakes of fan-cherished classics are dicey, to say the least, and of any musical project probably the most subjective in terms of fan response.

One of the biggest knocks on rap music is sampling, and yet your Daddy B. Nice has often loved the "jolt" a fresh rendering of an "oldie" represents: for example, Puff Daddy's remake of The Police's "Every Breath You Take" entitled "I'll Be Missing You," which many Sting fans find sacrilegious, but which your Daddy B. Nice prefers due to the marvelous Faith Evans' vocal.

On the other hand, your Daddy B. Nice has never been able to forgive young artist Calvin Richardson's appropriation of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" in his hit, "Keep on Pushin'," nor ever been able to fully warm to young Jackson, Ms. recording artist Dave Mack's bad-acid-trip-like remake of Smokey Robinson's "The Tracks Of My Tears" in his highly-touted 2004 chitlin' circuit hit entitled "13 Days."

LaSalle's "The Thrill Is On Again" is in the same category. It will divide fans, enticing some, repelling others. The more you listen to it, however, the more it beguiles. It's one of Denise LaSalle's best vocals ever.

2.

April 20, 2006. Funny how time changes your responses to a song. Regarding Denise LaSalle's "The Thrill Is On Again" (written about above), it's been ages since I associated it with B. B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone." Now I just crave it--a lot. I love hearing it. (I've even grown "accustomed" to Dave Mack's "13 Days," especially the longer, slower version, which is very good.)

3.

April 28, 2007. Denise LaSalle has teamed up with John Ward and Ecko Records for her upcoming CD, Pay Before You Pump. The label is generating a lot of interest with its promo copy of what will undoubtedly become the first radio single: a new version of the Floyd Hamberlin-written, underground classic, "Mississippi Boy" by Will T. The LaSalle title: "Mississipi Woman." I like it! DBN.

4.

May 1, 2007. "Denise LaSalle debuts at #14 on Billboard Top Blues Albums chart: The new CD by Denise LaSalle Pay Before You Pump entered the Billboard chart on the first week of release." (From Ecko Records)

For those readers happily unfamiliar with the ways of the national commercial music charts--i.e. "Billboard" magazine, the industry bible--this is a signature accomplishment for a Southern Soul recording release. DBN.

5.

June 19, 2007. Denise LaSalle's "Mississippi Woman" has become a bona fide chitlin' circuit hit. And the hype surrounding the release has proven to be justified. The song is aging extremely well, and looks to become one of Denise's best-loved songs in recent memory. DBN.

6.

Update: 12/31/08


When I first published the artist guide for Denise LaSalle, my number-one recommended track was "I'm Still The Queen," the B-side "Snap, Crackle And Pop." They were both major juke-joint anthems, full of LaSalle's effortless fronting--"fronting" in the way that wrestlers from WWE, for instance, "front" and hold forth on the microphone before matches--with LaSalle references to having "been all over the world" and "still (being) the queen."

Ironically, LaSalle inserts these very phrases into the final stanza of her blistering, 2007, Ecko-produced "Mississippi Woman." (Bargain-priced Pay Before You Pump CD.)

Readers who have been following the "Tidbits" section of the LaSalle artist guide (below) are well aware of your Daddy B. Nice's fascination with this explosive addition to the LaSalle catalog, not to mention its antecedent: LaSalle's similarly derivative and interpretive rendition of B. B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone."

Truth be told, only the relative newness of the "Mississippi Woman" recording has kept it from taking over the number-one recommended-song spot until now. Ever vigilant for hype, I have always preferred letting a few years pass--letting the sound of a new hit "age"--before annointing it to an exalted position. Those qualms pale, however, in the face of the sheer power of "Mississippi Woman."

On this track (as, to a lesser extent, on the new B-side, "The Thrill Is On Again")( Bargain-priced Wanted CD) LaSalle's effortless, blues-steeped vocal charisma shines in a way that it never did on more middle-of-the-road Southern Soul rockers like "I'm Still The Queen" and "Snap, Crackle And Pop."

As Bobby "Blue" Bland and Little Milton discovered before her, the contrast between more pop-based material (i.e. "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Mississippi Boy," even given their Southern Soul roots) provides a platform for even greater artistic triumphs. When LaSalle sings the stanza below, her entire, worthy career telescopes into a conquering stroke of genius.

"I've been all over the world.
I've seen almost everything.
I've seen all kinds of places.
People call me the Queen.

But no matter where I go,
I give them something real.
People all over the world
Need that Mississippi feel."

Readers who want to learn more about the fascinating evolution of the Floyd Hamberlin-written song "Mississippi Boy" (now "LaSalle's "Mississippi Woman") should go to Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Charles Wilson. DBN.

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7.

NEW ALBUM ALERT 11/1/10: 24 Hour Woman (Malaco)

Bargain-Priced 24 Hour Woman CD

Comparison-Priced 24 Hour Woman CD

Arranger: Gary Wolfe. Personnel: Stevie J. Johnson, Michael Toles (guitar); Harrison Calloway (acoustic guitar, strings, horns, electric piano, Hammond b-3 organ, Wurlitzer organ); Gary Wolfe (strings,horns, keyboards); Al Wilder (bass guitar); James Robertson (drums); Tonya Youngblood, Vick Allen (background vocals).
Malaco Studios, Jackson, MS; Royal Studio, Memphis, TN.

See Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles for October 2010: "Older Woman (Looking For A Younger Man)"

*******************


If You Liked. . . You'll Love

If you loved Patti Labelle's "Lady Marmelade (Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi)," you'll love Denise LaSalle's "Mississippi Woman."


Honorary "B" Side

"The Thrill Is On Again"



5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Mississippi Woman by Denise LaSalle
Mississippi Woman


CD: Pay Before You Pump
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Pay Before You Pump


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy The Thrill Is On Again by Denise LaSalle
The Thrill Is On Again


CD: Wanted
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Wanted


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy I'm Still The Queen by Denise LaSalle
I'm Still The Queen


CD: Still The Queen
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
I'm Still The Queen


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Snap, Crackle & Pop by Denise LaSalle
Snap, Crackle & Pop


CD: Wanted
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Wanted


5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 5 Stars 
Sample or Buy Trapped By A Thing Called Love by Denise LaSalle
Trapped By A Thing Called Love


CD: Trapped
Label: 601

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Trapped


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy (Don't Mess With) My Tu-Tu by Denise LaSalle
(Don't Mess With) My Tu-Tu


CD: Love Talkin' (2004)
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
Love Talkin'(2004)


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Five Below Zero by Denise LaSalle
Five Below Zero


CD: Smokin' In Bed
Label: Malaco

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Smokin' In Bed


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy Older Woman (Looking For A Younger Man) by Denise LaSalle
Older Woman (Looking For A Younger Man)


CD: 24 Hour Woman
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
24 Hour Woman


4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 4 Stars 
Sample or Buy You Should Have Kept It In The Bedroom by Denise LaSalle
You Should Have Kept It In The Bedroom


CD: Still The Queen
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
I'm Still The Queen


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Cheat Receipt by Denise LaSalle
Cheat Receipt


CD: 24 Hour Woman
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
24 Hour Woman


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Funky Blues Kinda Mood by Denise LaSalle
Funky Blues Kinda Mood


CD: This Real Woman
Label: Ordena

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This Real Woman


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy It's Going Down by Denise LaSalle
It's Going Down


CD: Pay Before You Pump
Label: Ecko

Sample or Buy
Pay Before You Pump


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Lick It Before You Stick It by Denise LaSalle
Lick It Before You Stick It


CD: This Real Woman
Label: Ordena

Sample or Buy
This Real Woman


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy The Love You Threw Away by Denise LaSalle
The Love You Threw Away


CD: Wanted
Label: Evidence

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Wanted


3 Stars 3 Stars 3 Stars 
Sample or Buy Too Many Women by Denise LaSalle
Too Many Women


CD: 24 Hour Woman
Label: Malaco

Sample or Buy
24 Hour Woman


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