Daddy B. Nice's SouthernSoulRnB.com - Guide to Today's Top Chitlin' Circuit Rhythm and Blues Artists


 

Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews

October 13, 2017:

STAN BUTLER: The Blues In Me (Stantavio Butler / Stan Butler / CD Baby ) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort by a New Southern Soul Artist.

I heaped so much praise and excitement on the material Stan Butler released in 2016--a new and novel sound he's now brought together in The Blues In Me--it's hard to recapture the enthusiasm generated last year when the young singer/songwriter from Georgia tore up the southern soul charts with an unprecedented series of singles.

Here are the increments by which Stan Butler made your Daddy B. Nice a fan and believer.

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------JUNE 2016---------

…2. "Tootie Boot"------Stan Butler

Here's a choice cut from an unknown artist who's never contacted your Daddy B. Nice. Also check out his first official video: "I Took My Grandma To The Club."

Listen to Stan Butler singing "Tootie Boot" on YouTube.

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Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------JULY 2016---------

…5. "Third Of The Month"------Stan Butler

A rhythm guitarist's dream. Extraordinary confidence and expertise from such a neophyte singer/songwriter. Kinda weird, though, a young'un taking up the cause of the social-security crowd. Hope it's not patronization--and I don't think it is.

Listen to Stan Butler singing "Third Of The Month" on YouTube.

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Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------SEPTEMBER 2016---------

2. "Take Me To The Bootlegger"------Stan Butler

A true outsider (Georgia) as yet unfamiliar with southern soul's deejay circuit, this young man is the real thing, a writer/performer of great promise, and he's getting better with each new record. This is his third appearance here in four months. "Bootlegger" has the scope and lyricism of a classic.

Listen to Stan Butler singing "Take Me To The Bootlegger" on YouTube.

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Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------NOVEMBER 2016-------

1. ”Preacher Was A Home Wrecker”-----Stan Butler

Like the young Bob Dylan, like the young Sir Charles Jones, the young Stan Butler is on an artistic “roll” so pure and unstoppable it’s a joy to behold. I’m not comparing Stan to these greats, just drawing attention to his seemingly inexhaustible creativity, because when I say “on a roll” I mean a song a month, not a song a year. Only a handful of recording artists achieve this kind of sequential inspiration, and only for a brief period.

Listen to Stan Butler singing ”Preacher Was A Home Wrecker” on YouTube.

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The unheralded Butler grabbed just about every honor in sight in 2016. He won Daddy B. Nice’s Best Southern Soul Artist Debut of 2016. He placed not just one but two singles on Daddy B. Nice’s Top 25 Songs of 2016: “Bootlegger” and “Third Of The Month”. He was a 2016 nominee for Best Ballad (“Preacher Was A Home Wrecker”), Best Mid-Tempo Song (“Bootlegger”), Best Out-Of-Left-Field Song (“Took My Grandma To The Club”) and two Best Club Songs (“Tootie Boot” and “Third Of The Month”). He was also a 2016 nominee for Best Songwriter and Best Male Vocalist.

So, roughly a year later, the question to ask of The Blues In Me may be this. Do the songs hold up? And does Stan Butler, the artist, abide?

Actually, mid-way through 2017, Butler did send out some additional songs from the album-to-be, two of which, "I Let A Woman Take My Woman From Me" and "Whine It Up," charted here. And I'm not so sure those songs do hold up well.

But as uncertain as I am of their durability, I'm even more convinced that "Tootie Boot" (from the first album), "Bootlegger," "Third Of The Month" and "Preacher Was A Home Wrecker" are solid, hit-worthy records, and the latter three in particular, all from The Blues In Me, future southern soul classics.

And that doesn't even include another classic from the album, a remix of "I Took My Grandma To The Club," which never actually charted here but is without a doubt Butler's signature single and just the kind of crowd-pleasing, novelty hit that has started many an artist's' career.

As to the bigger question--does Butler the recording artist abide?--one has to admit there are flaws. The album's production is inconsistent. Even the sound itself fluctuates from track to track, so that if if you're automatically rolling the album through a second time, you'll be startled by the first bars of the opening track, "Third Of The Month," after the relative softness of the last track, "Took My Grandma To The Club (Remix)".

From a technical perspective, the vocals are rudimentary--Stan often resorts to talking--and even the songwriting (one of the artist's strengths) is raw, one step above your average, on-the-mall busker-with-a-guitar.

But, on another level, that's the point. Getting rid of all the producing artifice. Just a man and his guitar, speaking directly from the gut. You can visualize how each song begins, with Stan strumming some chords and rhythmic tempos. The finished product isn't much more.

That's the kind of simplicity that makes the original Floyd Hamberlin/Will T. version of "Mississippi Boy" better than any of its slicker remakes. In fact, in his plainness and rusticism, Butler resembles another humble backwoods fella from the southern soul world--not at all flashy--Nathaniel Kimble.

Stan flashes a more panoramic brilliance--a tease of what he's capable of--in the synthesized string section and accomplished lead guitar (with an Isley-inspired solo by Ron G.) of "Bootlegger" and the similarly emotive guitar and background singing in "Preacher Was A Home Breaker". These songs are lush by the standards of the bulk of the set.

The Blues In Me is all about elemental rhythms and simple hooks, the bread and butter of popular song. The album's ten songs go by way too fast. And "Third Of The Month," with lyrics about seniors, is the first, best and most representative track. Not because of its subject (although all those things apply), but because of its propulsive rhythm.

Listen to Stan Butler singing "Third Of The Month" on YouTube.

Right now your Daddy B. Nice is most fascinated by the only three tracks from the album I haven't heard, or hardly heard, before--"Juke Joint Shack," "I Left My Woman" and "Trust Me, Baby."

Listen to Stan Butler singing "I Left My Woman" on YouTube.

I still haven't bothered to figure out the lyrics to "I Left My Woman (But I Really Didn't Mean To). But no worries. It's the guitar riff and rhythm that has me hooked. Good Ron G. lead & rhythm guitar on this one, too. I'm getting that "new-song" buzz.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Stan Butler's THE BLUES IN ME CD at CD Baby.

Read Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Stan Butler.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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September 25, 2017:

NELLIE "TIGER" TRAVIS: Mr. Sexy Man: The Album (Wegonsee Records) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

The only unfortunate aspect of Nellie "Tiger" Travis' new, hit-laden MR. SEXY MAN: THE ALBUM is that it took so long to appear. The iconic single that lends its name to the title came out in 2013--yes, four long years ago--when it notched the #2 slot (2nd only to J-Wonn's "I Got This Record") on Daddy B. Nice's Top 25 Southern Soul Songs of the Year.

I thought I could never grow tired of this dance jam, but I must admit that while listening to the "Mr. Sexy Man" opening track I recalled the disco scene of the 80's, when just the opening bars to Kool & The Gang's "Celebration"--played as many as three or four times a night--would drive me from the dance floor groaning, "Enough! Enough!" And yet, a hit is a hit is a hit. Check out the link to "Celebration's" YouTube video and you'll find over 100 million (!) views, and "Mr. Sexy Man," although not as well-known (3 million views), is just as irresistible and club-addictive.

Listen to Nellie "Tiger" Travis singing "Mr. Sexy Man" on YouTube.

So why the delay? Because Chicago-based (like Nellie) Floyd Hamberlin, the writer and producer behind MR. SEXY MAN: THE ALBUM, is an unrepentant one-man show, eschewing almost any help in bringing his musical concoctions to fruition, and that takes time.

Hamberlin is a musical genius legendary in southern soul circles for composing and in many cases producing songs like Will T's "Mississippi Boy" (the original version), Artie "Blues Boy" White's "I Can't Afford To Be Broke," Earl Duke's "Salt In My Sugar Bowl," Stan Mosley's "Man Up" and Cicero Blake's "Waiting On You," not to mention the many hits ("If I Back It Up," etc.) he's penned for Ms. Travis. Indeed, when it comes to inspirational, career-building material, Floyd Hamberlin's done it for Nellie "Tiger" Travis in the same way the late Jimmy Lewis used to do it for Peggy Scott-Adams.

So many songs from MR. SEXY MAN: THE ALBUM, have charted at SouthernSoulRnB, it would be a crime not to give the CD a five-star rating. Stingy as I've been with five-stars this year (only Jeter Jones' TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED scored one) I can only find two possible objections to putting MR. SEXY MAN: THE ALBUM in similarly "southern soul heaven" status.

One possible criticism: the songs are so melodically accessible and pop-like that they may lack some of the depth fans associate with southern soul. The second possible criticism: the production, though panoramic in scope, is keyboard-synthesizer-based, which could deter some adherents of live-instruments-only productions. (See, for example, Sweet Angel's recent, all-live-instruments CD CAN'T WALK AWAY.)

But the latter criticism--synthesizer-based productions--has never discouraged avid southern soul music fans (nor disco fans before them) as long the music "swung," and the former criticism--too "pop"--is like calling out the homecoming queen for a freckle.

If you want to hear Nellie going deep-soul on this album, proceed directly to "Walking In The Rain In Memphis," a sober, stately-tempo-ed ballad with a Travis vocal that recalls Etta James in its emotional solidness.

The four songs that begin this CD, beginning with our beloved "What yo' name is? What yo' name is?," constitute a quartet of the most humm-able, dance-able, likable tunes you could wish to hear--a background soundtrack for an intimate party, for example. They've all charted, and here's what your Daddy B. Nice said:

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------DECEMBER 2016-------

…3. "All The Lovers In The House"-----Nellie "Tiger" Travis

If this song hadn't come from composer/producer Floyd Hamberlin, I might not have made it past the first few bars: flowery and flaccid, hinting of elevator music. Then Nellie starts singing. A Southern Soul vocal just doesn't get any better. She transforms it into an anthem so powerful you can visualize how it's going to play out in concert, with the fans all swaying slowly from side to side with their hands in the air. It's so positive--full of warmth, love and community. Check out the early Sir Charles Jones production effects.

Listen to Nellie "Tiger" Travis singing"All The Lovers In The House" on YouTube.


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Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------AUGUST 2017-------

...2. "Textual Harassment"-----Nellie "Tiger" Travis

Sure, the words are timely, funny and apropos, but it's the musical groove and horn section riff (courtesy of producer Floyd Hamberlin) that really hooks you. From Nellie's new MR. SEXY MAN: THE ALBUM CD.

Listen to Nellie "Tiger" Travis singing "Textual Harassment" on YouTube.

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Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------SEPTEMBER 2017-------

...4. "Spacey Love"-----Nellie "Tiger" Travis

"Ground control to Major Tom..." Nellie "Tiger" Travis storms the chart for the second month in a row with her romantic, synth-engulfed anthem, "Spacey Love". From her new CD, Mr. Sexy Man: The Album.

Listen to Nellie "Tiger" Travis singing "Spacey Love" on YouTube.


...To which I would only add now that the "timely, funny and apropos" lyrics in "Textual Harassment" are too good not to share. For instance:

"I met this man the other day.
Gave him my number.
Girl, he seemed okay.
But the minute we started talking on the phone,
I knew that he was Mr. Wrong.
Girl, the man wasn't talking about nothing at all,
So I just stopped taking his calls.
Then he started blowing up my line,
Kept on texting me like he lost his mind.
Textual harassment,
Textual harassment..."


And near the end of the song Nellie even gives out the guy's name...

"Tell the police
His name is Bobby MacAvee."


In stressing the quality of these four or five stand-out tracks from Nellie's new album, I don't mean to imply there are no other songs of note. "Tired Of Being Alone," with the delicate lyrical aside--

"We can lay in bed
Late on Saturday,
Or we can watch TV--
That would be okay."


--is another such microcosm of real life, rendered with both wisdom and romantic yearning.

Listen to Nellie "Tiger" Travis singing "Tired Of Being Alone" on YouTube.

Another tune, "Cold Feet," poses a riveting story of a woman who, tired of her lover's infidelity, lines up a tryst with an "old friend". She has a few drinks to "get up her courage" and they arrive at the motel, only for the woman to get "cold feet in a warm bed," and make apologies that she can't do it.

"Fix A Flat" is a mean double-entendre that, guaranteed, no man wants to have directed at him.

"Boy, you were doing real good
Until your tire went down.
You can't do nothing with that.
You need a can of Fix-A-Flat."


Great melodies, witty lyrics, powerful vocals, creative arrangements....There's not much more you can ask from a recording artist, unless it's my opening lament that it takes so many years to compile. MR. SEXY MAN: THE ALBUM is a CD for the ages, and one of Nellie "Tiger" Travis' best.

Sample/Buy Nellie "Tiger" Travis' MR. SEXY MAN: THE ALBUM at CD Baby.

Sample/Buy Nellie "Tiger" Travis' MR. SEXY MAN: THE ALBUM at iTunes.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Product, comments, information or questions for Daddy B. Nice?

Write to

daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com

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September 11, 2017:

Various Artists: Blues Mix 23: Ultimate Southern Soul (Ecko) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

I've come to believe that the titles John Ward and Larry Chambers of Ecko Records dream up for their popular "Blues Mix" sampler series could just as well be pulled out of a hat. Each set, whether it be called "ultimate southern soul" or something else, is just what the series says: a sprinkling of blues and southern soul and all the blurred middle ground between.

The long-running Memphis studio still has the most distinguished roster of southern soul artists signed to any single label--even more so when its vault of past signings and recordings is taken into account. Included here are two songs apiece by O.B. Buchana, Ms. Jody, and Mr. Sam, with solo selections by Jaye Hammer, Sheba Potts-Wright, Val McKnight and the late Quinn Golden. Also included are two tunes by a Roanoke, Virginian, Randolph Walker, who has never published an album at Ecko.

Of the album's cast of characters--and although Ms. Jody and O.B. Buchana fans might beg to differ--Mr. Sam has perhaps the best showing with two recent singles from Make Time For Her, his new CD.

"Broke As Hell" is currently getting airplay and just missed Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles the last two months running. The voice-over towards the end calling out specific artists and "broke as hell" southern soul musicians in general is funny.

Listen to Mr. Sam's new, nearly 7-minute, official video of "Broke As Hell," with cameos by O.B. Buchana, L.J. Echols, Karen Wolfe and Omar Cunningham.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sam's "She Don't Want Me No More" was a Daddy B. Nice #1 "Breaking" Southern Soul Single in March of this year (read the four-star CD review), also drawing praise from Southern Soul Blues author David Whiteis:

Absolutely 100% in agreement. Why Sam has never "crossed over" into the R&B "mainstream" is beyond me.

Listen to Mr. Sam singing "She Don't Want Me No More" on YouTube.

Ms. Jody fans will enjoy "Booty Strut," the #7-ranked tune in August '17's Top 10 "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles and a key track from the singer's just-released collection, Thunder Under Yonder. Also included is Ms. Jody's "I Ain't Gonna Lie This Time," from 2015's Talking 'Bout My Good Thang album.

The venerable O.B. Buchana is represented by the always welcome "This Party Is A Mutha" from 2008's Southern Soul Country Boy album and "I Got To Get Myself Together," which I would have sworn was also taken from an old O.B. record. Not so--it's a new song--which speaks to the point I made about O.B. in my last, less-than-enthusiastic CD review of Swing On With O.B.: namely, that O.B.'s new songs sound increasingly and eerily similar to his past songs.

Few people would disagree, I think, that most of the remainder of the compilation--work by Jaye Hammer, Sheba Potts-Wright, Quinn Golden and Val McKnight--qualifies as filler, B-sides at best, of interest only to the curious, specialized or archival. And although I wholeheartedly agree with newcomer Randolph Walker's assertion, made in a CD Baby bio that...

..."the mid-60's to early-70's--think the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Beach Boys--was the Golden Age of music when the highest creative achievement went hand in hand with record sales"...

...I don't see the artistry of that era and those greats reflected in his own work gathered here, "This Masquerade Is Over" or "Sunshine 98."

But due to the underlying professionalism of all the artists represented, even the lesser material has the blessed advantage of all such samplers in the Blues Mix chain: variety.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Blues Mix 23: Ultimate Southern Soul at Amazon

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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August 28, 2017:

Three CD's By Newcomers: 21/2 Stars, Somewhere Between "Dubious" And "Solid":

M0' B -- Toast It Up
ANGEL FAYE RUSSELL -- A Taste Of Angel
UNCLE WAYNE -- The Birth Of Hithm And Bluez Vol.1

What to do when an album by a new artist features admirable work ethic and talent, yet is sabotaged by lackluster execution and/or inexperience? That's a quandary in which your Daddy B. Nice frequently finds himself, especially when trying to evaluate young and aspiring recording artists.

On the one hand, to give the artist a "solid" (three-star, thumb-up) review only dooms the artist to mediocrity and false illusions, and agony over the wasted years down the line. On the other, to give the artist a "dubious" (two-star, thumb-down) review can deliver a crushing blow to the artist's psyche, and even convince an artist with otherwise great potential to quit.

The third option is not to review at all, which happens often, and may be the cruelest (in the artist's mind) of all. As Easy-E from NWA used to say in more flamboyant fashion, any publicity is good publicity.

Sharnette Hyter, the young artist whose Grown Folks Talkin' just received a rave, 4-star review here, would not have garnered that rating in 2010, when her actual debut was released. It, too, would have been somewhere between "dubious" and "solid"--and nowhere near the "distinguished" rating she gained after seven years of hard work and seasoning.

So let's look at three recent releases by new artists that have stumped and paralyzed me--two stars or three stars, "dubious" or "solid"--and say that they all rate somewhere between the two. What this means to you, the southern soul consumer, is that purchasing single mp3's rather than the full LP is the prudent way to buy.

UNCLE WAYNE, The Birth Of Hithm And Bluez Vol.1 (Dewayne Morris / The Hithm & Bluez Music Group)

Uncle Wayne hails from Ruston, Louisiana--which I once knew. I couldn't believe it when I saw it on the wrapper though, because Uncle Wayne (aka DeWayne Morris) sings and produces The Birth of Hithm & Bluez, Vol. 1 as if he's from Atlanta--or at least as if he thinks it's cooler to be from Atlanta. He loves the drum machine and extra helpings of bass in all its Bigg Robb, mid-America glory.

There's nothing wrong with that, but it's where you go with it, and when Uncle Wayne gets to the fork in the road where it's southern soul one way, hiphop the other, he invariably goes hiphop. And in the one southern soul homage on the set, Uncle Wayne embarrasses himself--a mistake of youth, easily overlooked--and yet, he doesn't come within shouting distance of the much fuller, finely-detailed and seductive Johnnie Taylor original of "Good Love."

Listen to Uncle Wayne singing "Good Luv" on YouTube.

Notice, also, Wayne picks the least southern soul-derived song in the Johnnie Taylor catalog, and it is this insistent preference on urban sounds--funk grooves, hiphop and/or urban production--throughout the bulk of the album that'll deter the true-blue southern soul enthusiast who prefers things grittier.

Yet, at times Uncle Wayne comes tantalizingly close to being a southern soul artist. His vocals possess a rare, undefinable, country twang (think Clarence Carter, David Brinston, or more recently, King Fred Hicks) which if properly harnessed could make sweet southern soul music. The potential is there if the will is lacking.

Listen to Uncle Wayne singing "Coming Threw" (sic) on YouTube.

"Coming Through" features Uncle Wayne's vocal quality (including voice-overs) in more rustic guise. Louisiana comes bubbling through the vocals, reminiscent of "Red House," one of your Daddy B. Nice's early Uncle Wayne favorites, included here in an impressive seven-minute treatise. And you can see why, long ago, I saw so much potential in the singer/songwriter.

Listen to Uncle Wayne singing "Red House" on YouTube.

But most of the album--and most of the newer tunes--hew to urban/hiphop/techno forms, an unfortunate and "dubious" artistic choice at a time when so many Gulf-Coast hiphoppers (Pokey, Beat Flippa, et.al.) have transitioned so successfully to the southern soul genre.

ANGEL FAYE RUSSELL, A Taste Of Angel (Music Access)

Two of the songs on Montgomery, Alabama songstress Angel Faye Russell's debut album, A Taste Of Angel, outshine anything on the Uncle Wayne CD. Both were featured singles on the late Robert Henderson Jr.'s Hot Spot Records' (also originating in Montgomery) Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 compilations. They are "New Pair Of Shoes" and "Helluva Woman," both of which have charted here.

Listen to Angel Faye Russell singing "New Pair Of Shoes" on YouTube.

Listen to Angel Faye Russell singing "I'm A Helluva Woman" on YouTube.

With memorable melodies, solid if modest production and winning lead vocals, these are southern soul songs which should take Angel Faye far. "Helluva Woman" reaped Russell a Best Female Vocalist nomination in 2014.

A Taste Of Angel brings together these gems and other Russell recordings dating back to around 2014, including the less enjoyable funk groove "I'm Going Back To Cheatin," by another Russell aggregation called FunkNation which also included former Hep'Me Records recording artist Little Kim Stewart.

What's "dubious" about A Taste Of Angel is the lack of consistency throughout, beginning with "Cheatin'". The quality of the rest of the set drops precipitously, including the title tune, "Trail Ride Slide," a stepping/line-dance exercise whose "to the left, to the right" riff is simply too generic and timeworn to justify the new-single hopes Angel Faye has obviously invested in it.

Also typifying the set's collapse of inspiration is "My Baby Boo," the umpteenth recycling of the old Rascals' "Groovin'" hook that Betty Wright used for "Tonight Is The Night." Too much of A Taste Of Angel simply does not rise to the level of excellence Angel displays in "Helluva Woman" and "New Shoes". She's on the right track, however, and should only get better. Of the three CD's under review, this one has the most southern soul for your buck.

MO' B, Toast It Up (CD Baby / Marrisee L. Boyd)

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas and transplanted to southern soul's epi-center, Jackson, Mississippi, Mo' B (the performing name of Marrisee Boyd) is the most "music-wise" of the trio under review. You only have to listen to the fullness and scope of the production in the first few bars of any song from his debut album Toast It Up.

Listen to Mo' B singing "Beautiful" on YouTube.

Moreover, Mo' B is showing up on the southern soul tour circuit, which makes it even more important that the southern soul police pull him over--not for "driving while black"--but "impersonating a southern soul singer". We probably haven't seen an aspiring producer this gifted, this simultaneously urban-sounding yet southern-soul-obsessed, since Simeo Overall's musically bi-polar emergence a decade ago.

In Mo' B's defense, he bills himself as "The Prince Of Urban Soul." And yet, the irony of him onstage in front of a southern soul demographic singing the light-jazz/pop-sounding title track, "Toast It Up," can't be exaggerated. Mo' B sings about "all the deejay's playing southern soul" and "this one's for the grown and sexy" in the middle of a song that sounds like a show tune.

Toast It Up begins with a couple of impressive songs, "True Love" and "Beautiful". "True Love" is a phenomenal piece of synthesized production for a debut artist. Think Avail Hollywood. But even more to the point, "True Love" comes tantalizingly close to being a southern soul anthem in the grand tradition of romantic southern soul: Ollie Nightingale's "She's In A Midnight Mood In The Middle Of The Day," Jesse Graham's "Mr. Mailman" or "Jeff Floyd's "I Found Love On A Lonely Highway".

Listen to Mo' B singing "True Love" on YouTube.

The ballad "Beautiful," with a seductive melody and tempo, straddles the fence between hiphop/urban and southern soul, while "Old And Grey" reminds me of the contemplative ambience of Goodie Mob's hiphop classic, "Beautiful Skin," both of which come closer to pure southern soul than most of the rest of Mo' B's album.

If he's gigging up the I-20, I-10 and I-55 corridors, Mo' B has to be absorbing southern soul in more than conceptual ways, and that bodes well. He needs to narrow the musical gap between his instrumental backgrounds and his lyrical content. Then songs with southern soul aspirations like "Jody Got His Ass Whooped" will resound with the audience in ways he can only dream of with this inaugural effort.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Uncle Wayne's The Birth of Hithm & Bluez, Vol. 1 at CD Baby.

Sample/Buy Angel Faye Russell's A Taste Of Angel at Amazon.

Sample/Buy Mo' B's Toast It Up at CD Baby.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Product, comments, information or questions for Daddy B. Nice?

Write to

daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com

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August 12, 2017:

JAYE HAMMER: Last Man Standing (Ecko Records) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

Jaye Hammer's new album, LAST MAN STANDING, features his zydeco-flavored hit single of last year, "Trail Ride," which--along with O.B. Buchana's "Why Can't I Be Your Lover?"-- marked Ecko Records' dual entry into the hot southern soul/zydeco market in 2016. With an infectious, mid-tempo rhythm track and a sweet-sounding, button-accordion hook, "Trail Ride" won Daddy B. Nice's Best Out-Of-Left-Field Song of 2016.

"Tell Aunt Sally,
Call Uncle Luke..."


Hammer sings,

"We're headed for Texas,
Down along the Louisiana line...
We're kicking off in Beaumont,
Down to Abilene..."


Trail rides have become cultural mainstays in southern Louisiana and southeast Texas. From spring through fall, not a weekend goes by without devotees gathering at stables for Friday and Saturday afternoon horse rides followed by nightly entertainment featuring zydeco, southern soul and blues. On Sunday mornings, the sleepy and satiated participants return to their work weeks, refreshed physically, mentally and musically. Hammer's "Trail Ride" anthem, written by the prolific John Cummings and John Ward, celebrates it all, capturing both the euphoria and the powerful sense of place.

Arguably one of the most talented and influential of current Ecko Records/Memphis-area songwriters, John Cummings contributes the bulk of the album's material, and the first three songs on this set are especially noteworthy. "Last Man Standing Up In It," readers will instantly notice, incorporates a few more words than the truncated title of the CD, "Last Man Standing." That's a tribute to Theodis Ealey's "Stand Up In It".

Jaye's "Last Man Standing Up In It" is a direct boast of male sexual prowess and, by extension, the ability of the man to please, provide, and protect the opposite sex. And to Cummings' and Hammer's credit, this theme permeates the album with admirable consistency, a perfect vehicle for Hammer's pleading but steely, country-boy voice. In fact, the only false note on the CD comes when Jaye says, in "Last Man Standing Up In It," he'll "be there in a New York minute."

The mid-tempo "Party At Home" has an alluring melody, and it's bolstered immeasurably by the addition of background singer LaToya Malone. For context on "Party At Home," go to David Brinston's "Kick It," which perfectly conveys the peer-pressure pull to go party with one's friends. "Party At Home," on the other hand, elucidates the delights of "partying" at home with one's spouse, and the subject has seldom been done better.

"Mississippi Style," currently (August '17) Daddy B. Nice's #4 "Breaking" Southern Soul Single, is another boasting, fronting, I'm-a-man-styled tune. It delivers a driving rhythm track, a nicely-nuanced, organ-tinged, John Ward arrangement, more great female background, and a fine, wailing lead vocal by Hammer with lyrics that cry out for politically-correct double-takes...

"Drinking corn whiskey,
Wine and gin.
Pull to the side of the road,
Pick up some friends.
If I get a little drunk,
That is just fine.
The judge and the county sheriff
Are cousins of mine."


And...

"Got kids in eleven counties,
Calling me 'Dad'..."


And...

"Drinking whiskey with my uncle,
Went to church with my aunt."


Even the chorus line is enchanting:

"I'm doing it Mississippi style.
Been doing it for awhile."


Visions of Chuck Berry singing "Johnny B. Goode" dance across your vision when Hammer's at his best--as he is here--a big-chested, Delta country boy full of piss and vinegar. You can imagine his ideal fan, a lonely woman, listening to Jaye's begging and bragging just for the vicarious satisfaction.

These songs followed by "Trail Ride" form an impressive--totally seductive--opening to the album and any first-timers' introduction to Jaye Hammer, but the middle half of the CD drops off. The uptempo "Let's Do It," the ballad, "It's Real," the mid-tempo "When I Can Give Her Something You Can't," the slow-blues "I'm A Package Handler" and "Big Booty Women" can't be faulted for execution, but lack the incandescence and originality of "Last Man Standing Up In It," "Party At Home" and "Mississippi Style".

The album trends up again towards the end with a remix of "Trail Ride," accompanied by "Good Old Country Boy," yet another remake of the most-covered tune in contemporary southern soul, "Mississippi Boy" by Will T.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Jaye Hammer's "Last Man Standing" CD at iTunes.

Read Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Jaye Hammer.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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August 1, 2017:

SHARNETTE HYTER: Grown Folks Talkin' (Lockdowne Records) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort by a New Southern Soul Artist.

I stumbled upon Sharnette Hyter only a few months ago on YouTube while tracking down videos of another southern soul artist. The song that caught my attention was "I'm Classy," which debuted on the Southern Soul charts at #5 in December of 2016, and which I duly noted was "another find for Daniel Ross (Beat Flippa) and the Baton Rouge-based Ross Music Group". The tune featured a female singer with an Adrena-like vocal register and an atmospheric, Beat Flippa arrangement heavy on bass and keyboard/organ.

Interest piqued by "I'm Classy," I moved on via YouTube to the Hyter song, "Hold On (To What You Got)," with a full-fledged video starring Sharnette and co-singer Joe Tex II, which charted here at #6 in January of 2017.

Listen to Sharnette Hyter & Joe Tex II singing "Hold On" on YouTube.

Then, over the next few months, in spite of two events that should have nudged your Daddy B. Nice into full, five-alarm attentiveness, I unaccountably lost interest in Ms. Hyter. The first event was a huge package from Sharnette from Desoto, a southern suburb of Dallas, where she was born. The mailing, which included a half-dozen (!) hard copies of records previously published by Sharnette, sat unopened on my slush pile, a mini-mountain of still-sealed product, while I slogged through a backlog of previously-received material.

The second event was an e-mail from Heikki Suosalo alerting me to an exhaustive interview he'd completed with the Dallas singer at Soul Express, a European website specializing in soul music. "Please get acquainted with a flat-footed country girl singing soul," said the e-mail from Suosalo, who incidentally was just honored this summer by the Italian Poretta Soul Festival for his long-tenured commentary and interviews with southern soul artists from America's Deep South.

Read the Sharnette Hyter interview at Soul Express.

But once again, your Daddy B. Nice was too occupied with other responsibilities to follow up. So it wasn't until earlier this month (July!) that I finally opened the bulky package from Texas and was stunned by the volume and variety of the workaholic Ms. Hyter's catalog: a duet/single-cover with Patrick Green of "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing"; a gospel album titled Keep The Faith; a 2014 single called "Military Man"; a 2010 (!) album named Southern Soul Party Every Night; and her latest CD, 2016's Grown Folks Talkin', which contains "I'm Classy" and "Hold On." She's even tried her hand at jazz.

Nor am I going to mislead readers that I subsequently went through all of these recordings. But I have listened with rapt attention and growing interest to last year's Grown Folks Talkin', which--had I known at the time how good it was--would have garnered many more citations and awards in Daddy B. Nice's Best Of 2016. But better late than never.

The first two tracks of the GROWN FOLKS TALKIN' album, "I've Got A Love" and "I'm Not Her," were what I expected they would be: that is, urban r&b-flavored, borderline southern soul of the smooth persuasion, performed by a singer who--despite some hints of power--hews to the finesse of urban radio.

Then came the freight-train like impact of "Put It On Paper," the third track--yes, the old Ann Nesby classic (with Al Green). Patrick Henry takes Green's place, and the cut scorches the earth. Before your very ears, in the space of one song, Sharnette Hyter transforms herself into a southern soul singer.

Suddenly her voice incorporates lower-octave tones, like flecks of light on an outdoors photo. Her delivery takes on the succinctness of a whip, with implied and applied power flowing through each and every note. With "Put It On Paper," the album shifts into something important--something genuine. You know that Sharnette knows, too. It's--as they say--a defining moment. Her level of confidence soars.

Listen to Sharnette Hyter & Patrick Henry singing "Put It On Paper" on YouTube.

Next comes the slowly-swinging "Hold On," with Sharnette's Adrena-like vocal trading lines with Tex. As it turns out, GROWN FOLKS TALKIN' is flush with such guest stars, and "Need a Mr. Do Right," (featuring the late Big Cynthia) grounds the album once and for all. Beat Flippa produces, and it's one of his most creative. This is a hard-pounding, melody-less, dance-floor jam relying totally on its groove and the nasty-tough singing of Big Cynthia and Sharnette, who slips into the tough-girl mode with effortless ease--something Adrena does not.

"So Much Better" features Jeter Jones, whose TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED CD won a five-star review on this page earlier this year. This track is a somber ballad with a great, Peter Gabriel-like arrangement. Just as in the Big Cynthia cut, Sharnette feels no compulsion to dominate the track, giving Jeter the freedom to contribute a "Roommate"-like facet to the growing variety of the set.

Then came the album's epiphany. I still hadn't (but I soon would) read the Suosalo interview, which documents Hyter's history as an energetic, constantly striving, human dynamo, when out of my speakers came Sharnette's "Stilettos And Jeans". Featuring cajun artist J.J. Callier, "Stilettos and Jeans" may be the the most easy-going, organic cloning of a southern soul verse/chorus/melody with a zydeco beat/arrangement yet made.

Listen to Sharnette Hyter featuring J.J. Callier singing "Stilettos And Jeans" on YouTube.

The song is perfectly performed--easy-going, never bombastic--so much so you just want to keep reeling it round and round. "I'm the bomb," Shar' brags euphorically towards the end, and she is. How this song failed to show up on my radar for so long I'll never know, but now that it has, you can be sure it will be Daddy B. Nice's #1 "Breaking" Southern Soul Single for August 2017.

I'll just add that you don't have to do the line dance to dance to "Stilettos and Jeans," as the little girl in the Mardi Gras dress in the video proves. And after dancing around the room to "Stilettos And Jeans" a few times, I was satiated. Cowgirl Sharnette could have wrapped me in rope for the rest of the set. Your Daddy B. Nice was a captive audience.

And Sharnette did not disappoint. The album closed with two Charles Lewis (Heavy)-produced dance jams and a Mike Lockett-produced ballad that can best be described as a mixture of the urban-inflected, Ves-produced "I've Got A Love" and the southern soul-purified "Put It On Paper". The more you listen to it, the more the cut impresses.

Listen to Sharnette Hyter singing "Got Me Going In Circles" on YouTube.

Heavy (Charles Lewis) is the Baton Rouge-based maestro behind Pokey's big hit song, "My Sidepiece," and Cold Drank's follow-up, "Three," both of which have monopolized much space and commentary here. "Three," the lesser-known of the two, was Daddy B. Nice's #1 Single of 2016.

Dominated by Lewis's trademark percussion and organ-heavy arrangements (and refreshingly potent horn riffs), both "Hit My Spot Right" and "You Ain't Getting It (Without No Rubber)" add a grit and toughness hard to come by in most female-oriented projects.

Indeed, the bounty of fine producers is a major factor in the success of GROWN FOLKS TALKIN'. In addition to Heavy and Beat Flippa and Jeter Jones, Ves Garrett (of "We Do We" fame) does the honors on the aforementioned "I"ve Got A Love," his pop/urban mannerisms especially evident on the choruses and bridge. And Mike Lockett, the most urban r&b-influenced of the arrangers ("Hold On," "I'm Not Her," and "Still Don't Pay My Bills"), nevertheless takes his production to southern soul heaven with the smashing arrangement on "Stilettos and Jeans".

In an age when divas come and go like commuters through turnstiles, and one-hit wonders like Anita Love "Keep Knockin' (But You Can't Come In)" and Lina ("I Won't Let My Baby Down (My Man)") wow us with spectacular singles only to disappear along with their short-lived triumphs, Sharnette Hyter appears to be that rare commodity with all the tools, motivation and support to be a "keeper". With GROWN FOLKS TALKIN', she puts the southern soul audience on notice that a new and authentic southern soul singer has arrived.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Sharnette Hyter's GROWN FOLKS TALKIN' CD at CD Baby.

Sample/Buy Sharnette Hyter's GROWN FOLKS TALKIN' CD at iTunes.

See Daddy B. Nice's new Artist Guide to Sharnette Hyter.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Send CD's to Daddy B. Nice, P. O. Box 19574, Boulder, Colorado, 80308 to be eligible for review on this page.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Stan Butler, The Blues In Me, 10-13-17

Nellie "Tiger" Travis, Mr. Sexy Man: The Album, 9-25-17

Various Artists (Ecko), Blues Mix 23: Ultimate Southern Soul 9-11-17

Mo' B, Toast It Up, 8-28-17

Angel Faye Russell, A Taste Of Angel, 8-28-17

Uncle Wayne, The Birth of Hithm & Bluez Vol. 1, 8-28-17

Jaye Hammer, Last Man Standing, 8-12-17

Sharnette Hyter, Grown Folks Talkin', 8-1-17

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Send CD's to Daddy B. Nice, P. O. Box 19574, Boulder, Colorado, 80308 to be eligible for review on this page.

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RECENTLY REVIEWED:

Sweet Angel, Can't Walk Away, 7-16-17 (Scroll down this column.)

El' Willie, The Game Changer, 7-1-17 (Scroll down this column.)

Big G, Darkest Hour, 6-7-17 (Scroll down this column.)

David Brinston, Sidepiece Motel, 5-22-17 (Scroll down this column.)

Lady Di, Three Way Love Affair, 5-7-17 (Scroll down this column.)

Joe "Blues" Butler, Full Figured Woman, 4-21-17 (Contained in the Joe "Blues" Butler Artist Guide. Click link.)

O.B. Buchana, Swing On With O.B., 4-10-17 (Contained in the O.B. Buchana Artist Guide. Click link.)

Jeter Jones & The Perfect Blend, Trailride Certified, 3-19-17 (Contained in the Jeter Jones Artist Guide. Click link.)

Mr. Sam, Make Time For Her, 3-5-17 (Contained in the Mr. Sam Artist Guide. Click link.)

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Rating Guide:

Five Stars ***** Can't miss. Pure Southern Soul heaven.

Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here.

One Star * A disappointment. Avoid.


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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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July 16, 2017:

SWEET ANGEL: Can't Walk Away (SA / Sweet Angel Records)
Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.


After an LP-recording hiatus of five years, Sweet Angel returns with an outstanding collection: CAN'T WALK AWAY. The singer from Memphis wrote all of the tunes (excepting “Steps To Love”), and the time spent away from the studio shows in the songs. They have the depth of real life and the verisimilitude of a debut album.

Not that there aren’t derivative exercises. The negligible “How Low Can You Go” (zydeco's "my tu-tu") and the superb “Thrill Is Real” (via B.B. King, of course) are obvious riffs on classic templates, and the two “obligatory” warm-up numbers that kick off the album, “Take A Look” and “Hold Back The Booga Bear,” hardly hint at the wealth and originality of southern soul material to come.

However, by the time Sweet Angel is halfway through the bar-bluesy “Booga Bear,” with the lead guitar (great throughout) blazing and with her background singers kicking in on choruses, she's ready to take you into the good stuff, some of which has charted here in the last three months.

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------MAY 2017-------

...5.

"I Wanna Ride It" / "Actions Speak Louder Than Words"-----Sweet Angel

CAN'T WALK AWAY is Sweet Angel's first album in five years--since her deep and mysterious "Mr. Wrong's Gonna Get This Love Tonight."

Listen to Sweet Angel singing " Ride It" on YouTube.

Listen to Sweet Angel singing "Actions Speak Louder Than Words" on YouTube.

And, a month after....


Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------JUNE 2017-------

...5.

"The Thrill Is Real"-----Sweet Angel

"The Thrill Is Real" reminds me of "The Thrill Is Gone Again," Denise LaSalle's evocative reworking of the B.B. King classic in 2005. These ladies know how to sing the Boss. Sweet Angel's abrupt transition to a reggae interlude, complete with her staccato-flourished saxophone solo, also works to perfection.


Listen to Sweet Angel singing "The Thrill Is Real" on YouTube

As mentioned, this album's true identity doesn't really kick into full gear until its third track, the head-turning "I Need A Real Love," but from then on it continues unabated with nary a lapse in material or execution through the better part of a dozen tunes: a veritable, all-you-can-eat feast of southern soul. My only reservations: I'm not enamored of the title cut, "Can't Walk Away," done twice, nor the double serving of "Still Crazy For You". These cuts aren't duds, though, and they may win over their own adherents among Sweet Angel fans.

Listen to Sweet Angel singing "I Can't Walk Away From Mr. Good Thang" on YouTube.

"Still Crazy For You" derives from a little-known single release on CD Baby in 2013, while "Juking At The Hole In The Wall," another remix, first appeared on Angel's last CD, Mr. Wrong Gonna Get This Love Tonight.

Although I was drawn to the southern soul purity of "Actions Speak Louder Than Words" from the start, "I Wanna Ride It" was the first track to really grab my attention. Initially put off by its funk edge, as I listened to it more and more I was pulled into its fascinating matrix of voice-over story-telling and musical groove. As in Sweet Angel's tribute to being a would-be back-up singer for Bobby Rush in "A Girl Like Me," Sweet Angel can spin a narrative with the best of them, and in "Ride It" she progresses by stages from riding a little pink bicycle to riding a full-grown man--"this leg in the east/this leg in the west"--and when Sweet Angel trades "Ride it's" with her background singers, sex rises like steam from sweet corn in a pot of boiling water.

"Ride It” and “Steps To Love” were released, with little fanfare, as singles through CD Baby in 2015. I had heard "Steps To Love" played around a little, but not "Ride It." "Steps To Love" is another example of Sweet Angel's songwriting acumen, this one laid out like a speaker's power point presentation. "How To Keep Your Man: 101." Not only does Sweet Angel sing the song with feeling and technique--she outlines it for the ladies in four easy steps.

Listen to Sweet Angel singing "Steps To Love" on YouTube.

Adding immeasurably to the pit-stop pleasures of this album are the pop-sounding background choruses (with obvious gospel roots) in songs like "Steps To Love," "Ride It," and even the gospel number, "If It's For Me." This ballad-slash-prayer is not only musically compelling but conceptually fascinating, posing the humble premise that one may not know the best path or thing for oneself:

If it's for me,
Give it to me.
If it's not for me,
Take it away.


The ending is a climax of gospel-based pop, in other words true southern soul. The mid-tempo "I Got Your Back," on the other hand, is unexpurgated man-woman talk, and again Sweet Angel benefits greatly by contrasting her lead vocal against the background singing of Jacquelyn Ingram and Mattie Hester. (Not to mention the solid guitar-picking of Wayne Whitmore.) The merging of voices recalls the wildly popular girl-group anthems of yesteryear.

Listen to Sweet Angel singing "I Got Your Back" on YouTube.

Finally, the musicianship is first-rate, with Randy Goodlow on drums, Donald Taylor on bass, Michael O. Cole (co-writer of "Steps To Love") on keyboard/organ in addition to Whitmore on guitar. The contrast in styles with the "John Ward" (CEO of Ecko) "sound"--which I assumed emanated from the very walls of the studio in Memphis, where CAN'T WALK AWAY was recorded--is refreshing and illuminating, not to mention a credit to the musicians themselves. The majority of Sweet Angel's CD's have been produced by Ecko.

Most of all, I'm amazed by Sweet Angel's nose for the overall sound she achieves with her background singers, a production "hunch" undoubtedly won from dues-paying gigs with background singers over the years. How many female singers doom their efforts for wider acceptance not only by their budgets, but their competitive fear of adding background singers of their own gender?

Not Sweet Angel. She is far too comfortable in her own persona and ability to compose songs of substance. The roots of those songs are planted firmly in southern soul soil, with their stems and flowers straining mightily for mainstream pop heaven. And that's why your Daddy B. Nice prefers to take the "can't-walk-away" title of this CD to be a message from Sweet Angel herself that she "can't walk away" from the southern soul scene.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Sweet Angel's CAN'T WALK AWAY CD at CD Baby.

Read Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Sweet Angel.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

July 1, 2017:

EL' WILLIE: The Game Changer (William Travis Jr. & El' Willie / Twilight Records)
Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.


If you're burned out from listening to too much Pokey Bear, I have just the album for you: El' Willie's new The Game Changer. The first time I put this disc in the machine, I was blown away. I had been stressed, and even when I wasn't feeling the stress, I had been listening to pretty much exclusively, admittedly terrific, fast-jumping music like Jeter Jones' jam, "Single Footin', music--in other words--that chafed my butt if I was sitting down on it. El' Willie's slow-jam set was like nothing I had heard in a long time: slow, peaceful, lounging music, meditative and soothing, like an aural hot-tub and massage.

And I wasn't just blown away by the peacefulness of the music. I was staggered by the fact it was El' Willie. In my years of reviewing southern soul, this artist had been all over the map, up and down in ways that made "erratic" an understatement. I didn't even remember the extremes of his fluctuations. If anyone had told me I'd once awarded El' Willie Best Male Vocalist of the year, I'd have said, "Nahhh," but I had, and I did--in 2007 for his vocal on "You Got Me Where You Want Me." (Sorry, but the YouTube link isn't the much better original version.) And if anyone had reminded me that I once gave an artist a one-star review ("A Disappointment. Avoid."), I'd have said, "Nahhh. Never." But I had and I did, for El' Willie's The Anthem, which--subsequently--El' never distributed as a full album.

There was, however, a harbinger, of what was to come: the song "Nobody," or, "Ain't Never Had Nobody To Love Me Like You Do" in....

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------DECEMBER 2016-------

4.

"Nobody"-----El' Willie

Ever wonder what Willie would sound like on a professionally-produced record? Pretty impressive, as it turns out. Willie told me he sent me the wrong mix, and I said, "No, you didn't." A long, leisurely, Herbie Hancock-ish, instrumental intro leads into El's intimate, velvet-baritone vocal, and it's worth the wait--justified in the way you would wait to be ushered into a bishop's inner chambers. Reminiscent of the jazz/blues of Charles Brown.

Listen to El' Willie singing "Nobody" on YouTube.


What first impressed me about "Nobody" was the audacious length of the instrumental introduction, a "Summer Madness"-like keyboard-synth solo that only a very confident recording artist would dare foist on the listener. And when the solo segued into the vocal, El's intimate voice--double-tracked on the chorus--more than justified the leisurely preamble, coalescing in one sweet and successful catharsis.

What I didn't know at the time the "Nobody" single launched was that El' produced it all. And what I had taken to be a more professional producer's "help" was that darned Willie just doing his thing--writing, arranging, producing and almost everything else short of standing on his head--only at a much higher and consistent level than in the past.

Yes, the arrangements are what mainstream critics call "sparsely produced," and those dreaded synthetic horns rear their "Dollar General" (I was going to say "nickel and dime" but I guess that term is outdated) heads once in awhile. And yet, in its simplistic way, each song is flawless, a distinct identity--genuine and self-contained--and El' Willie communicates each with aplomb, with the dominant sound a meditative organ that perfectly fits the contemplative tone. The scope of the album is panoramic (the Willie has been busy) and the tunes float into one another like ripples in a quiet lily pond.

I'm especially impressed by Willie's delivery--how he sets up a song. I don't know how to describe it other than El' Willie now sounds natural. That is, there are no misguided song choices, no blips, no failures of nerve or execution.

In the past, a voice-over like the one that starts and intermittently emerges in "Sexy Lady (Remix)" would strike a false note, a flaw that might originate in the arrangement as much as in the words--it was hard to tell. The whistling in "Sexy Lady," for instance, might seem like a mis-step. But either I'm getting awfully used to The Willie or the whistling--simple and crude as it is--works to perfection, meaning I like hearing it again and again. The addition of the striking Clinton Powell guitar solo on "Sexy Lady" also tells you how much you've missed in the form of embellishment from Willie's historically routine fare.

Another stand-out track is "Caller I.D.," in which Willie sings--

"Strange as it seems,
That's the wrong number.
It was the right number
For me."

--over a melody so precious you want to put a tiara on it. Accomplished vocalists like O.B. Buchana or Tre' Williams or Nelson Curry--perennially starved for first-rate material--could transform "Caller I.D." or other of the songs on the set into southern soul blockbusters.

The mid-tempo "Dance" is the most brisk of the CD's tunes, along with the mid-tempo title track, "The Game Changer," perhaps my least favorite of the album's eleven distinct songs. Everything else is balladeering. (The compelling and durable "Feel Real Good" is done twice--an original and a remix.) The touching "Love Story" and "My Baby" (with a nod to the Temps' "My Girl") are drenched in a sincerity neither overblown nor sophomoric.

These songs are so good, many of the tunes don't even utilize the hooks available to be improvised within their structures. Take, for example, the barely-audible guitar riff/progression on "Feel Real Good," which would transform the song entirely if accentuated. Like many of the songs on the CD, the tune exists like an unopened treasure chest of musical possibilities.

Willie has recorded songs like "Love Land," with its story line of a woman calling him up at two a.m. in the morning, in the past and they've more often than not come across awkwardly and somewhat self-serving. Here, in the seamless context of this essentially flawless set centered on love and friendship, it comes across as genuine.

Listening to "You Were Always On My Mind," I couldn't help wondering, "Isn't that a Willie Nelson song?" And sure enough, El' gives credit to Willie Nelson in the credits. The selection fits, too. El' writes ballads with the same kind of affection and proprietariness the legendary country singer/songwriter does. I also note a resemblance in the synthetic strings to some of Sir Charles Jone's early slow jams.

The Game Changer is a tapestry of refined mood--an anomaly in the last decade of southern soul music. You can almost go back to the reasons you once loved Dave Brubeck's and Paul Desmond's "Take Five"--and the way that sound influenced the soft jazz of the seventies--in the "peace" this music emanates. What this means is that you can put on this album for the same reason the "grown folks" used to put on Johnny Mathis or Nat King Cole: for dim-light, wine-and-dine romantic background that never falters in its steady gushing of intimate ambience. And yet, it's southern soul, it's still El' Willie, southern soul's iconic version of smooth.

One note of caution. The two gospel songs that close out the set--although solid on their own merits--do break the romantic ambience, and the more invested you are in that mood, the more compelled you'll be to skip them.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy El' Willie's THE GAME CHANGER album at CD Baby.

Read Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to El' Willie.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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June 7, 2017:

BIG G: Darkest Hour (Stone River Records) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

I've described Richmond, Virginia's Big G as "built like a hundred-year-old tree stump" and "a cross between soul singers like Joe Simon and Clarence Carter and folksingers like Burl Ives, Jimmy Dean and Tennessee Ernie Ford." He's published, by my count, some nineteen albums--twenty including his newest release, Darkest Hour--since his debut Steppin' Out in 1999. That's an average of an album a year over two decades, long enough for the prolific Big G to start recycling titles (see the first track, "Steppen,") and more than long enough to be given some genuine respect.

Big G's southern soulfulness is most in evidence on DARKEST HOUR'S slow numbers. He dives deep--deeper than most--into emotional love situations like those described vividly in "Down On My Knees" and "Darkest Hour," the latter a Top Ten Single in May '17.

Listen to Big G singing "The Darkest Hour" on YouTube.

The song is deep and passionate--think James Carr --and "Down On My Knees" delivers the same merger of melodic quality and physical-turned-spiritual ardor.

Listen to Big G singing "Down On My Knees" on YouTube.

The remix of "Can't Stop Thinking About You," is also a standout, with its sparkling female chorus. Big G uses his female background singer (Lady TJ) as a a bracing contrast, reminding us of the uniqueness of his own voice. Listen to the back and forth vocals in "Can You Hear Me?" The same, lovely female chorus graces the aforementioned "The Darkest Hour."

The rest of the CD, including songs like "Shake That Thang" and "Ladies' Man," will be familiar as an old rag rug to Big G addicts. "Ladies' Man" boasts the best Big G vocal, with the big man throwing out words like a bullwhip in a Clint Eastwood Western. Typical uptempo tracks like "Steppen" and "Backyard Barbeque," a remix of "Two Steps In The Name Of Love," (always a charm to listen to) and an instrumental version of "Backyard Barbeque" close out the album.

This release features all "live" instruments. The drums are credited to Glenn Jones. Could that be THE Glenn Jones, of "Baby, Come Home" fame? It seems unlikely, but I've never seen another "Glenn" with two "n's". Sir Jonathan Burton plays bass and collaborated with Big G on the arrangements, which are stellar.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Big G's DARKEST HOUR at CD Baby.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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

May 22, 2017: DAVID BRINSTON: Sidepiece Motel (Ecko) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

David Brinston sounds refreshed and energized from the opening bars of his new CD, SIDEPIECE MOTEL. Faithful readers have become familiar with the less than stellar pattern of recent Brinston CD's and the Daddy B. Nice reviews which--in response--have hopscotched between present-day disappointment and rousing memorials to Brinston's early achievements.

Marking David's first original album on Ecko Records since 2010's Beat It Up, SIDEPIECE MOTEL will quickly remind die-hard Brinston fans of one of his more fondly-remembered, mid-career albums, the self-published MISSISSIPPI BOY, in its attention to and celebration of Delta blues and chitlin' circuit culture.

The first single from the album to chart here (May 2017) is a smashing return to artistic form and evocation of Deep South ennui and coping entitled "I Drinks (sic) My Whiskey":

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------MAY 2017-------

3.

"I Drinks My Whiskey"-----David Brinston.

Ohhh, David. My-oh-myyy. You haven't sounded this "wasted" in years, and it is a beautiful thing to hear. And just so readers don't get the wrong impression...It takes supreme alertness and the technique of a star to pull off this kind of authentic "oneness" with a song. From Brinston's new album, SIDEPIECE MOTEL.

Listen to David Brinston singing "I Drinks My Whiskey" on YouTube.


"I Drinks My Whiskey" may be the finest and "bluesiest" ballad Brinston has recorded since the durable "Somebody's Cutting My Cake". Written by James Jackson, one of the most inspired composers to come out of the Memphis area in recent years, "I Drinks My Whiskey" is a heart-breaking piece of T.R.U.T.H. any man can relate to. After a litany of miseries including "they turned my cell phone off," David sings:

"Whenever my life gets rough,
I get into my pickup truck,
And turn the radio on,
And hear me some blues.

And I drinks my whiskey.
Everything's going to be all right,
...For a little while."

It's the "for a little while"--and the pregnant pause that precedes it--that sinks like a hook in the vulnerable soul of any self-medicating man, fearful of substance abuse yet desperate for inner peace. It's the "for awhile" that hurts--that gives the song "bite".

"My Outside Woman," on the other hand, is one of those familiar-sounding, mid-tempo, Ecko records that a southern soul devotee instantly associates with Brinston, O.B. Buchana or Ms. Jody. Written by Raymond Moore and John Ward, who have penned hundreds of like-sounding songs, it nevertheless detours around outright cliche by virtue of its impeccable execution and Brinston's inspired vocal, putting the same listener on notice that even the borderline-trite content on this LP is rendered with fortitude and commitment. That belief in executing detail informs the entire CD. And when David sings--

"Now I'm married to a woman
Who put my love on a shelf.
I didn't want to
But I had to
Find me somebody else..."

--you have the perfect explanation--and the best I've encountered in recent lyrics--why a man is driven to finding a "sidepiece."

SIDEPIECE MOTEL neither avoids the historical David Brinston catalog nor retreads it in banal re-do's. But it does till up familiar ground, so that to a cynically-inclined, onetime Brinston fan, a song like "Southern Soul Party" from the new set can be seen as yet another attempt to bask in the nostalgia of David's justifiably celebrated "Party 'Til The Lights Go Out." But I believe fans will keep returning to "Southern Soul Party," as I did, once the aforesaid commitment to excellence sinks in.

"Southern Soul Party" is self-contained and simple, with an insistent little hook minimized from the old "Party" by composer John Ward, and Brinston brings it off with such insouciance and
southern-soul-insider wit that any thought of "Party" becomes secondary to the "southern soul party" going on right here and right now.

"Sidepiece Motel," the title tune, is fascinating in spite of its melodic familiarity as well. Brinston lets out a "Wooooooo..." near the end of the song that is so intimate it may raise a couple of hairs on your neck.

The album cover art shows a sign emblazoned with "SIDEPIECE MOTEL ("Low Hourly Rate")". Who would come to such suspiciously-named lodgings? Brinston stands underneath, leaning against the motel's front facade. Now where did they shoot that picture? Was it the home of the Louisiana Blues Brothas (and Big Pokey Bear), or was it Adobe photo-shopped? In any case the lyrics remind you of those abortive tourist stays in motels from hell, and let's not even mention the condition of the coverlets.

"You may not have a working TV." (David warns.)
"This ain't no five-star."

David, however, is preoccupied with explaining the "why's" and "where-for's" of one or two-hour trysts at places where--

"If you got your money right
No words will be exchanged."

"She's A Freak" is a re-tuned version of "You're So Freak, Girl" from the classic Brinston album, FLY RIGHT, with "Party 'Til The Lights Go Out (Nothing But A Party)" and "Kick It").

Similarly, this album's "echo" of Brinston's iconic "Kick It," a tune called "I Ain't Goin' Anywhere Tonight," stands on its (modest) own while still relating to the former via its contrarian message. Brinston's vocal here and throughout is inspired. Other songs from the set, like the splendid ballad "I Got You" and the slow-but-steady-rocking "Dance With Me," fit in well.

Who sings like this? Nobody. Strike that. A handful... Robert "The Duke" Tillman. LaMorris Williams, at times. Also young disciple "King" Fred Hicks. Speaking of which, Robert "The Duke" Tillman and David Brinston were peers in the late 90's and early 00's; David's career has been much more productive since then. But if you want to hear David sounding so much like Tillman you'd think it was Tillman (and even more so since we associate Tillman with ballads), listen to "Give Me All Your Love" from this new set by Brinston.

Ecko's track record with publishing David Brinston (approximately 2007-2010) has been mixed. Surely, it never achieved the kind of success both parties envisioned, resulting in a sequence of CD's we associate in retrospect with lone singles (good singles)--"Too Many Women," "Dirty Woman," "Beat It Up," "I Just Love Women"--nevertheless surrounded by a lot of "here-today, gone-tomorrow" material.

SIDEPIECE MOTEL defies all those expectations. Instead of delivering a "knock-out" single and little else--as did past albums--it offers a real, album-like tapestry of music to be enjoyed from beginning to end, a slice-of-life in which no one cut stands head-and-shoulders above the rest (with the possible exception of "I Drinks My Whiskey"), and all are produced to their ultimate fulfillment, with David's vocals providing the crucial fulcrum.

In a very real sense, this new album on Ecko restores Brinston's reputation and unique niche among contemporary southern soul singers as a countrified version of the legendary Al Green. It's one of the highest compliments one can give a southern soul vocalist, but one Brinston richly deserves as he reminds us in track after track what a laser-precise and poignantly-pirouetting vocal instrument can do.

Strong contributors to the CD include Big John Cummings, who did much of the songwriting, and stalwart partners with long Brinston histories, Morris J. Williams and Marshall Jones. Longtime Brinston writer/background singer Linda Stokes isn't listed in the credits, but her background singing--or right-on approximations of it by the Ecko crew of Ward, Cummings, Williams & Terry "Smooth" Johnson--can be heard in "Dance With Me and "She's A Freak".

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy David Brinston's new SIDEPIECE MOTEL CD at Amazon.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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May 7, 2017:LADY DI: Three Way Love Affair (Willie Ray Russell / Hittman Records) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

A little over a year ago, in a review titled "LADY DI: Love Don't Owe Me Nothing (Hittman) Three Stars *** Solid Debut by a New Female Vocalist," I wrote:

...And it might behoove Russell and Caver (Lady Di) at this point in her career to pull together Lady Di's best work--not a "best of" yet, just best--along with two or three strong new tracks for her next collection, hopefully coming in 2016, and really make a definitive statement.

Well, I'll be damned if she and her husband/producer Willie Ray Russell didn't take your Daddy B. Nice's advice. THREE WAY LOVE AFFAIR pulls together everything of worth Lady Di's ever recorded. In spite of publishing four solo albums, Lady Di's gotten “nil” interest in the meantime. Googling her gets you the late Princess Dianna of England, and even southern soul insiders confuse her with Hot Spot Record's Angel Faye Russell, a more technically-powerful singer.

But in a month (May 2017) when I was inundated with good music and could have easily put out two quality Top 10 "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles charts, I derived so much enjoyment from Lady Di's work that I was compelled to make a "statement":

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------MAY 2017-------

....2.

"All The Time Grooving" / "Love On The Dance Floor"----Lady Di

Now this is a strain of southern soul (Bobbye Johnson, Gina Brown, Renea Mitchell, Lina) we must not lose. Romantic melodies, pop-friendly arrangements, caressing female vocals. It's so hard to get it just right as "southern soul," but Lady Di does here. From her creatively-produced new album, THREE WAY LOVE AFFAIR.


Di doesn't impress you with her technique, the way--say--similarly young and upcoming singers like Jureesa McBride and Val McKnight do. Instead, she relies on sincerity, emotion and a discerning sense of what appeals.

"All The Time Grooving," first recorded in 2012, is her self-effacing masterpiece and signature anthem. Bolstered by a memorable acoustic guitar riff and a wonderfully-nuanced melody and chorus, the song ages like a choice wine.

Listen to Lady Di singing "All The Time Grooving" on YouTube.

The enthralling "Love Overdrive" also appeared in 2012, on Di's amazing (and completely overlooked) album, GOOD TIME TONIGHT. What impresses is the simplicity and affection conveyed. Both songs are braised in the ambience of good times and love that has never known paranoia.

Listen to Lady Di singing "Love Overdrive" on YouTube.

There are some derivative exercises. “Roll It,” with its Rascals-inspired rhythm track and keyboards, sounds like Quinn Golden’s “Bottoms Up" (which also borrowed from "Groovin'"). "I Came To Party" recycles the Staples Singers' "I'll Take You There," with an overt acknowledgement in the lyrics.

And "Put It All On The Line" reminds me of an old Lynn White song I can't put my finger on. "Where The Party At?"--delivered in an eighty's jock-jam, techno style--is the only song in the set that may cross a "musical" line for typical fans.

But for the most part, the songs roll out with refreshing musculature and variety. Producer Willie Ray Russell is no stranger to hiphop; see the Timbaland-influenced "Love On The Dance Floor". But he also uses his knowledge of R&B--like Ann Peeble's "Can't Stand The Rain"--to make "Love On The Dance Floor" work as southern soul. Listening to the lyrics, you really do remember what it's like to "make love" on the dance floor, or--as is sometimes even better--"lead up to making love" on the dance floor.

And, more often, Di mines a classic riff you can’t readily associate with any particular oldie. The arrangement subsequently kicks in like a booster rocket--for example, the "Summer Madness"-like synthesizer throughout "(It Ain't Easy) Getting Over You."

Listen to Lady Di singing "Getting Over You" on YouTube.

"My Side Of The Bed" and "Three Way Love Affair," the title tune, mine the same, mid-tempo, sweet-spot of southern soul, never intimidating you with histrionics, just insinuating themselves subtly into your memory bank. And there are many more tracks: fourteen in all.

In the end, Lady Di may remind you of so many of the fascinating, mostly one-and-done songstresses of modern southern soul--the Keri's, the Coco's, the Judi Brown Eyes', the Queen Isabella's--who have captured, albeit briefly, the southern soul imagination. The difference with Lady Di is that, like the great Peggy Scott-Adams, who owes her lofty status in the southern soul canon to her collaborator, the legendary writer/producer Jimmy Lewis, Lady Di has her "enabler" in Willie Ray Russell. He brings a lot of mainstream hiphop to these songs, but he also knows and loves his southern soul.

One of the quirks of this album is an elongated silence between tracks; just a second or two of dead space seems like an eternity. But after listening to THREE WAY LOVE AFFAIR a few times, I like the way the long pause “brings down a curtain” and “makes it rise again.” The songs on this album deserve the space, like artworks in a gallery.

It's high time Lady Di copped a "listen". Not technically accomplished per se, THREE WAY LOVE AFFAIR is nevertheless full of great material delivered with conviction and--even harder to find these days--a prevailing flair for romance.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Lady Di's THREE WAY LOVE AFFAIR CD at CD Baby.

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