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


 

Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews

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. Darkest Hour

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.

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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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.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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

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April 23, 2017:

JOE "BLUES" BUTLER:
Full Figured Woman (Nikkie Records) Four Stars **** Distinguished Debut By A New Southern Soul Artist.

You may dismiss FULL FIGURED WOMAN too quickly, as I did, on first listen. The lead vocals are obviously the product of a singer with limited resources, as evidenced by a "speaking" style farther simplified and accentuated by hanging onto single notes, sometimes for whole phrases. And when the melody calls for higher notes, you can practically see the singer's Adam's apple bobbing up and down, reaching for the note to avoid being flat. So southern soul fans should be warned that vocal power, passion and technique--the usual signs of a newcomer within the genre--don't apply here.

The artist, Joe "Blues" Butler, is not a newcomer, nor is he a young man. Born in 1944 in Sunflower, the tiniest of hamlets a little north of Indianola (northeast of Leland/Greenville on the famed east-west corridor of Highway #82 through the Mississippi Delta), birthplace of Willie Clayton and so many others, Butler is a seasoned blues practitioner who has recorded a number of CD's on a little-known label out of Memphis, Nikkie Records, apparently incorporated in Tennessee in 2010.

Like Jackson, Mississippi, Memphis is a musical hub with archaeological-like layers of blues and R&B which, the deeper you excavate, yield ever more obscure striations of talent and musical activity--performers and songs unfamiliar to even the most dedicated blues and soul lovers. And just like the first time you heard southern soul, there's a response of delight in something bubbling up from the "underground," where nothing was presumed to exist.

Morris J. Williams, a longtime associate of Memphis' flagship independent label, Ecko Records, and a specialist in ferreting out talent perhaps a little less ready for "prime time" than Ecko's showcase artists (O.B. Buchana, Ms. Jody, etc.), is the producer on this album (with Butler exec'ing). Williams assembled an all-live-instruments session at the Ecko studios with an impressive roster of musicians including one of the renowned Hodges brothers, Leroy, on bass, John Ward (Ecko CEO) on lead guitar, Reginald "Crow" Ectoy on drums, Morris Williams and Curtis Jones on keyboards, along with Beale Street's Dr. Robert "Feelgood" Potts (Sheba's father) on harmonica and no less than three brass-section specialists performing tunes by arguably the best songwriter of the current Memphis scene, John Cummings.

And it is the songs, if one is patient enough to given them time to resonate, that ultimately reveal the treasures of FULL FIGURED WOMAN. That, and the insouciance and humor (he never takes himself too seriously) that Joe "Blues" Butler brings to his otherwise one-dimensional vocal presentations.

The album's title tune, "Full Figured Woman," is a bluesy, eye-winking hymn to "big" women in which the artist extols making love to a "full-figured woman until the cows come home." Solid as it is, "Full Figured Woman" is actually my least favorite of the potential singles on this CD simply because it does mimic the familiar "Ecko sound."

The song that really surprised me--and renewed my interest in exploring the album in more depth--is the second offering, "Looking For My Woman." Here the wit hinted at in "Full Figured Woman" bursts into full flower. And once again, the "woman" has a "waist like a wall / And some big old hips".

Few if any young artists could pull off the "loosey-goosey" nonchalance with which the elder-statesman Butler navigates the funny verses of this account of a just-released ex-con calling up all the Memphis area deejays (Arkansas Red, Bobby O'Jay, etc...), asking if they've seen his woman. ("You wouldn't lie to me / Would'ya, Bobby?")

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

-------MARCH 2017-------

2. ”Looking For My Woman”----Joe “Blues” Butler

Fresh, rowdy take on the blues. The production is thin and his singing is undisciplined, but Butler’s lighthearted charisma carries the song. The humor is even more apparent in “Looking For My Woman” than in his also-charting “Full-Figured Woman,” the title cut of Butler’s fifth CD on Memphis’ Nikkie Records, and first to be distributed by Memphis’ “major” indie label, Ecko Records, marking his national-distribution debut.

Listen to Joe “Blues” Butler singing “Looking For My Woman” on YouTube.


Much of the credit for this album's depth (beyond the obvious kudos to Joe "Blues" Butler himself) must go to songwriter John Cummings and producer Morris J. Although the songs are steeped in traditional blues, they sound fresh, and are executed with fine detail. Witness the captivating "Sinking In The Blues," in which what sounds like a subtle acoustic guitar, possibly a cymbal and even a piano add a shimmering texture to the velvety keyboard background even as the fiery lead guitar and lead vocal set off fireworks in the foreground. The payoff is great blues authenticity combined with great mood and atmosphere.

"You're My Gold" is, if anything, even more impressive. Again the melody seems like you've heard it before--but where? The background instrumentation sounds like an orchestral string section, and it works. There's a pop music accessibility even as the excellent rhythm section and John Ward guitar stress the sepia-steeped blues. Joe "Blues"' lead vocal, despite all its stated faults, emotes to perfection. If you're "into" the album at this point you're no longer even questioning Butler's vocals.

"Mojo Woman" is a killer of a riff, a mean little blues. The live band sounds like it's in a land of pure ecstasy. With exposure, it too could be a powerful single.

Butler pronounces "Ex Old Lady," another humorous--but bitter--track, "ex ol' lady," which comes off to my ear as "X/O lady" (commanding-officer lady).

"She wanna get back with me." (Joe "Blues" sings) "But that will never be." Which, having been through the marital wars, I find hilarious.

In a different vein, "Young Generation Blues" is a replay of the socially-conscious title track of a former Butler release on Nikkie, YOUNG GENERATION BLUES.

And mouth harp enthusiasts can find Dr. Feelgood Potts in prominence on "40 Acres And A Mule" and "Don't Rush Me," which close out the album. Also watch for the Dylanesque harmonica turn by Potts near the end of "Ex Old Lady."

There are twelve tracks in all, and the worst you can say about any of them is that they're common. The best you can say is that they're fantastic, full of surprises, predominately of the kind that make you smile.

FULL FIGURED WOMAN is blues even a strictly southern-soul fan can love. From the live, "black"-sounding instrumentation to the simultaneously laid-back and feisty lead vocals, the album rocks. So move over, Bishop Bullwinkle. There's a new 70-something "young gun" in town.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Joe "Blues" Butler's new FULL FIGURED WOMAN CD at Amazon.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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

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April 10, 2017:

O.B. BUCHANA: Swing On With O.B. (Ecko Records) Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here.

The "young guns" of southern soul from 15-20 years ago--Sir Charles Jones, T.K. Soul, O.B. Buchana--are now the veterans of the chitlin' circuit, the recognized headliners and role models for a new generation of southern blues artists. As such, they now find themselves in the unaccustomed role of having to re-invent themselves to remain relevant. No longer are they working in the scorched earth left by the passing of Bobby "Blue" Bland, Johnnie Taylor and Tyrone Davis. Competition is everywhere, with talented young artists streaming into southern soul from the worlds of hiphop and urban R&B.

In O.B. Buchana's case, the mid-career transition appeared to be in full progress. His last album, Mississippi Folks, was a showcase of innovation, with stylistic tweaks and turns in neck-bending tunes like "Tasty Girl," "Tip It Up" and "Rooster Rooster Guinea Guinea." There were some flops, too--notably "Ghetto Funk"--but when O.B. released the beguiling, zydeco-tinged single "Why Can't I Be Your Lover" in 2016, all signs pointed to a full-blown, mid-career renaissance.

See Daddy B. Nice's BEST OF 2016: Best Mid-Tempo Song: "Why Can't I Be Your Lover?" by O.B. Buchana.

"Southern Soul's premier stylist has done the near-impossible: re-invented himself and his vocal style. With its sweet soul energy, its country flavor, its button accordion phrasing and classic guitar coda, "Why Can't I Be Your Lover?" deserves to be #1 on every popular music platform in America."

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "Why Can't I Be Your Lover?" on YouTube.

So it is with surprise and disappointment I must report that O.B.'s new album, SWING ON WITH O.B., with "Why Can't I Be Your Lover?" buried in the middle of a bunch of yawn-inducing material, is a throw-back album in the worst sense of the word, a set in which O.B. turns his back on anything approaching renewal, experimentation or originality.

There is good music on this album-—but only about four tracks: the ballad “You’re The One, Baby,” an old-fashioned duet with Lomax...

...“It’s Booty Shaking Time” (O.B.’s “something-like” version of “Ms. Jody’s Thang”)...

Listen to O.B. Buchana singing "It's Booty Shaking Time" on YouTube.

...and “Swing On (Remix),” a modest remake of the signature song from O.B.'s last CD. But with the exception of “Why Can’t I Be Your Lover?”, even these songs stand out only because the remainder of the album is so vanilla.

“Good And Grown Lovin'” is a prime example of everything that's wrong with this CD. The lyrics are fine, accessible and welcome; it’s the music that’s undeserving. The song has little if any melody, and what melody it has is cliché-ridden. O.B.’s already recorded dozens of songs in this vein, and you listen with increasing irritation as chorus follows stanza without an iota of anything new or novel.

“There’s A Right Way To Do Wrong” is more of the same. The lyrics are interesting-—at least for devotees of southern soul--and the tune features a stouter tempo, a more spirited rhythm section and an engaged vocal by O.B. But, like the sleep-inducing "I Like The Way You Swing," it's about as much fun to listen to as watching paint dry.

"They Were Gone," which the southern soul writer David Whiteis compared in a recent Mailbag letter to Dion's "Abraham, Martin, and John," is yet another in the getting-tiresome "tribute songs" to Johnnie Taylor et. al. Over time (and a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then), these "commemorations" take on--even if unintentionally--a subtle, self-congratulatory aspect: "My old friend Marvin..." My old friend "Mel...", etc.

So nonplussed was I by the mundane sounds on this album, I actually went back into my library and pulled out three O.B. albums at random from the past--I'M GONNA SLEEP, GOIN' BACK HOME and SOUTHERN SOUL COUNTRY BOY--to see if I could find evidence of this album's recycling. Then I played songs from the new album on one stereo system while simultaneously playing old songs on another (playing the 1's and 2's).

The three albums I picked, by the way, were of varying quality. Probably the worst, except for the iconic title tune, was GOIN' BACK HOME. The "middlin'" album, with durable tracks like "You're Just Playing With It" and "Just Because He's Good To You," was SOUTHERN SOUL COUNTRY BOY. And the best, a veritable masterpiece, was I'M GONNA SLEEP. This was the album that featured three Luther Lackey tunes, "You Can Be A Fool And Don't Know It," "Like My Woman" and "Clarksdale, Mississippi," in addition to the Aubles Buchana treat "Knock Three Times" and the John Cummings anthem, "I Owe Everybody" (which happens to be an exceptional "tribute" song).

Four of those tunes, incidentally, constitute the opening four tracks of I'M GONNA SLEEP, a brilliant sequence that would have helped make SWING ON WITH O.B. a better CD: that is, putting the four strongest tracks at the front end of the set for optimal momentum rather than interspersing and suffocating them in filler.

Sure enough, I found consistently similar rhythm tracks, time signatures, keys and melodies--in some cases, being able to play both tracks over one another. "I Was There For You" and "I'm Gonna Sleep With It In It" from I'M GONNA SLEEP matched "There's A Right Way To Do Wrong" and "The Last Dance" from SWING ON WITH O.B. "Sweet Memories" and "This Party Is A Mutha" from SOUTHERN SOUL COUNTRY BOY sounded like "Until Next Time" and "Freak In The Sheets" from SWING ON WITH O.B. And "Booty Mover" and "Come And Get It While He's Gone" (not to mention "Lollipop Man") from GOIN' BACK HOME were rough iterations of "There's A Right Way To Do Wrong" and "Good And Grown Loving" from the new set.

In a way, the lack of “fire” on this album can be seen as a referendum on some of Ecko Records' songwriters: that Henderson Thigpen, for example, has written a lot of “average” tunes, or that Raymond Moore, over a long and distinguished career, has exhausted just about every creative riff in his arsenal. But how much culpability for this album's mediocrity can be put upon the very same songwriters of whom I praised, in reviewing O.B.'s last album, MISSISSIPPI FOLKS:

"The production by John Ward is like a fresh breeze blowing through a still, sultry day, and I found myself going back to the liner credits to see if, in fact, the same Ecko house writers (John Ward, Raymond Moore, Henderson Thigpen, William Norris, Rick Lawson, John Cummings, etc.) who usually provide Buchana with his material had been replaced with a new batch of tune-smiths, but it's the same old gang, only with a new, not-afraid-to-be-experimental approach.

No. I put this disappointing effort squarely on O.B. His name’s on the cover, and he does more than his usual share of the songwriting. To reprise, there are a few good tracks (even if one is a remix) on SWING ON WITH O.B., and we ARE talking about O.B. singing throughout, so you know there's a lot to enjoy. However, the most disconcerting thing about SWING ON WITH O.B. for a Southern Soul fan and Buchana lover is that it gets you to thinking of the things you DON’T like about O.B.-—the relentless sameness, the limp tempos, the cookie-cutter melodies.

SWING ON WITH O.B. makes you forget all the larger-than-life O.B. moments, the great music, the great vocals. And if you played the music on this album for unversed friends, they’d probably say, “What’s all the fuss about?”, or just shrug their shoulders, and you’d know you’d be better off not telling them O.B.’s one of the great contemporary southern soul singers.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy O.B. Buchana's SWING ON WITH O.B. at iTunes.

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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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March 19, 2017:

JETER JONES & THE PERFECT BLEND: Trailride Certified (Jones Boyz Ent.) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

All you can ask of a practitioner of any art form is that he or she keeps getting better: honing craft, living in a way that facilitates inspiration, surrounding oneself with the best professional fellowship, forging ahead through adversity and disappointments. Jeter Jones' debut album, Sweet Jones Live @ Leroy's Chicken Shack, with its impressive debut single "Da Boot Scoot," was nevertheless flawed by its author's unfamiliarity with the southern soul canon, specifically the confusion resulting from some of its instrumental tracks by collaborator Eric "Smidi" Smith being previously used on songs by Chuck Roberson and Bobby Jones.

Jeter's second album, Da GQ Country Boy, with its equally deserving single, "Cold Pepsi And A Hot Man," steered clear of such outside influences, posing a handful of new singles tied together with voice-over interludes by a gritty-voiced "master of ceremonies" named Da Big Dawg, who goaded Jones into doing short, impromptu, acapella stints.

Such distractions often sabotage a long-playing record, and while the interplay avoided excess and seemed to energize and loosen up Jeter Jones, it did add a note of hubris that detracted at times from the music. There’s none of that emcee posturing on Jones' new CD, TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED. Songs--most in the three-minute range--roll out of the speakers in an unfurling carpet of sound, and just when you think the end is near, the carpet of tunes continues to unroll: fourteen original tracks in all, double the music of the average album.

You don’t go through TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED thinking every song is a hit single, although a surprising number of the tracks qualify. But you do go from song to song thinking, “This is from the heart," or, "This is yet another piece of Jeter’s heart.”

TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED displays a compulsion to sing, a compulsion to tell stories. Jones is all "in," without pretense or artifice, without self-doubt or self-congratulation.

Combining refreshing songwriting with top-notch, live-instrument execution (contributors include Pokey Bear, Beat Flippa, Crystal Thomas, David Jones, Damon J. Scruggs, Antonio Smith, Lil' Jabb, Tomi Gran, Tommy Granville, Jr. and Gifted Sounds), the set grabs your interest and covers a plethora of musical territory without cliché or repetition.

Nor is this music with a lot of specific, obvious musical antecedents. Southern soul and zydeco blend with dashes of hiphop, rock, country, funk, and New Orleans swing in a sound as sophisticated and unique as far-more-acclaimed, fellow Gulf-Coast performers like Pokey Bear and Tucka.

Take “Single Footin’,” featuring DJ Big Tony, an instant dance jam classic. You want to hug the percussionist, then do the same to the button accordionist. The piano line at the heart of the song--two long single notes with no frills on what sounds like an old-fashioned, stand-up piano--is so daring, so right. Never been done in southern soul.

Can’t make out the lyrics. I’m hearing, “Single-footing stallion / A single-footin’ mare.” But don't quote me. “Single Footin’”clocks in at six minutes. In this set of otherwise thankfully-short songs, it's an astonishing length of time for a chant on the order of Lil’ Jimmie’s “She Was Twerkin’,” yet every minute is a delight.

But every song on this album has exceptional merits--that's what's so surprising. The ballad "My Country Girl" is a veritable anthem, perfectly sung and produced, letting the message shine through:

"I got a country girl,
And she's all I need.
I got a real good woman,
I don't need no sidepiece."

And it's the best "Sidepiece" response song from the "fidelity side" yet. Every detail Jones sings about comes off as stone-cold, truthful observation. Meanwhile, the song's melody pulls at you like a full moon on the beach.

Unlike "Single Footin'" and "My Country Girl," “She's Ratchet,” the opening track, is taciturn in mood, with a minor chord-like feel, and one of at least two Beat Flippa contributions to the set (the other being the Jeter/Crystal Thomas collaboration “Them Country Girls”). Sounding more Argentinean than Cajun, Flippa’s moody organ dominates, and since the tango isn’t a staple of the South, my guess is the ambience defaults to hiphop. This is also the track featuring Big Pokey Bear.

Even a “minefield” of a theme for southern soul singers like “haters” is given a tender, almost affectionate spin. "Haters Gone Hate" has some of the best detail on the album to go with its lilting, pleasant melody, although I admit to thinking, every time Jones sings, "I just want to go / Where the rain don't fall," that he's going to say, "I just want to go / Where the sun don't shine."

"Haters Gone Hate" actually segues into another song about rain, namely "Something About The Rain," featuring David Jones. If you moved and presently live in a dry climate, this song will remind you of what it's like to be intimate on rainy days.

The successful sound that runs through all the songs on the set (one review can't do them all justice) does make occasional genre digressions: the pure zydeco of the title tune, "Trailride Certified," with Crystale rapping, the funk of "Cat Killa" and the hypnotic "Watch My Boots," and--most markedly--the classic R&B and hiphop of "Ghetto Woman," another strong candidate for hit single.

Even songs that seem light or transitional on the first or second listens reveal uncommon depth the more you hear them, for example the winsome "Thank You," with another spate of authentic, personally-detailed lyrics to its credit. Then there's the New Orleans street jazz of "Come Out Of Them Bushes," whose lyrics bring Jeter around to the same home-sweet-home he described in "My Country Girl," this time with a different agenda, rousting a neighborhood "Jody".

I said it at the outset and I'll say it again. This album is original. From the heart. And fun to listen to. This is Jeter Jones’ RUBBER SOUL (Beatles), his OFF THE WALL (Michael Jackson), or closer to home, his MISSISSIPPI MOTOWN (LaMorris Williams). TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED is one of those rare albums that's all of a piece: a perfect portrait of a rising star at the moment when it all comes together. My estimation of Jeter Jones’ talent-—his “gift”-—just shot through the ceiling.

My only picky issue with this CD is I can't credit the wonderful musicians that actually make up the Perfect Blend, who to Jones' credit he bills equally in the album title. But I'll get that worked out with Jeter and add a postscript.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Jeter Jones' TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED CD at CD Baby.

P.S. "My band members (are) Julius Walton, Brandon Campbell, Ricco Atkins, & Davante Youngblood. (Thanks) for all their hard work playing real music for the project." --Jeter Jones

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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March 5, 2017:

MR. SAM: Make Time For Her (Ecko) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

In a “New Album Alert” posted a month ago in Mr. Sam’s Southern Soul Artist Guide, your Daddy B. Nice noted:

Three of the tracks from Mr. Sam's new MAKE TIME FOR HER CD have already charted on the Top 10 "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles.

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

-------APRIL 2016---------

7. "Stand By Man"------ Mr. Sam

A very welcome, mid-tempo offering from Mr. Sam on the Ecko label. It will remind his fans of the lush, lyrical quality of his early work (“12 Steps 4 Cheaters,” “Work Yo Body,” “Since You’ve Been Gone”).


Listen to Mr. Sam singing "Stand By Man" on YouTube.

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

-------JANUARY 2017-------

7. "Make Time (For Her)"------

An unabashed throwback to old-school romance by the melodic troubadour, Mr. Sam, and the title track of his new CD.

Listen to Mr. Sam singing "Make Time For Her" on YouTube.


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

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

"I Tiptoed In It"-----Mr. Sam featuring O.B. Buchana

Has it really been that long? A take-off, of course, on 2009's "Put Your Foot In It" by the same two parties. Indeed, it actually makes "Put Your Foot In It" a little more understandable. O.B., by the way, was born to sing this song, and kudos to Mr. Sam for not only realizing it but taking advantage of it.

Listen to Mr. Sam & O.B. Buchana singing “I Tiptoed In It” on YouTube.

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What surprised your Daddy B. Nice most while pulling out the promotional material for MAKE TIME, however, was that despite the many dozens of songs written by Sam (under the name Sam Fallie), an extensive catalog by any measure, this is only Mr. Sam’s second album on Ecko Records. JUST LIKE DAT was published by Ecko in 2012. The rest--VOICE MAIL, LOVE ATTACK, LOOKIN’ 4 LOVE, EP’s and singles-—have been essentially self-produced (even as is this one) on Jazzi A.'s MiLaJa and other small-indie labels.

Besides the notable songs from the album that have already charted here (above), Mr. Sam just "crushed" the #1 spot on this month’s Top 10 “Breaking” Singles:

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

-------MARCH 2017-------

1. ”She Don’t Want Me No More”----------Mr. Sam

This is a song of majesty--not the usual chant--signified by, among other things, the stark and exhilarating contrast between its percussion “bottom" and its soaring vocal and lead-guitar fills. And if these are programmed drums, they sound as good as the real thing, as does the refreshing piano and deep-soul organ. Sam’s vocal is on fire emotionally and perfectly calibrated technically. The subtle, raised-a-chord “move on” at the end of each chorus soars into “southern soul heaven”.


Listen to Mr. Sam singing ”She Don’t Want Me No More” on YouTube.

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Regarding the terrific percussion on “She Don’t Want Me No More,’ the credits list (in addition to the usual John Ward rhythm-track programming) Eze Rock and Nil Jones. Jones also mixed some of the tracks, along with Mike D and the customary Till Palmer. Tony Gentry is another new name in the Ecko studio, sharing guitar duties with John Ward.

I have to confess that I discreetly hopped off the Mr. Sam bandwagon during the heyday of the Mr. Sam/Gentry-Jones collaboration, “Roll It.” The fast jam was popular both on radio and in the clubs, and I know I disappointed Gentry-Jones when I met him. The truth is, however, that “Roll It” isn’t really southern soul, and it made me uncomfortable that Sam received so much praise for a song that wasn’t representative of HIS music. Like a few other tunes in southern soul’s last decade and a half (think “The Wobble” and “The Cupid Shuffle” and even the recent Ves/Kenne' Wayne collaboration "We Do We") “Roll It” has a hard, straight-on, almost-military beat that springs from a very different source than essential southern soul music.

But not long ago, while watching Mr. Sam simultaneously singing and dancing to “Roll It” on a crowded dance floor in the Delta, I had a minor epiphany. I suddenly realized that southern soul, with its middling tempo and cradle-rocking depth, doesn’t lend itself to what you might call “outright” dancing. Thus, songs like “Roll It,” “The Cupid Shuffle,” V.I.C.'s “The Wobble” and even T.K. Soul’s “Zydeco Bounce” cross over into southern soul because they’re “dancers’ dreams,” line-dancing work-outs designed to let off serious, club-dancing steam, the Dirty South equivalent of percussion-dominated "house music" in the clubs of New York City and the North.

And incidentally, there is a “Wobble”-style dance chant on this new CD. "I Go To Work” chugs along complete with an amusing and inspired “Wizard Of Oz” chorus fill--the "Ohhh-Eeeee-Ohhhhhh" of the Wizard's marching minions--and the fact that Sam reprises "I Go To Work" again in the final track (besides having actually recorded a “Wobble” of his own in the past) indicates that the hard-dance formula of "Roll It" has been and continues to be a part of Fallie's musical palette.

“Zydeco Some Mo” left me--a zydeco lover--unmoved. Neither the basic hook or the cajun accordion is particularly original. Yet—-oh, boy-—Sam also reprises it. And the fact that both “Go To Work” and “Zydeco Some Mo” are done twice, for a total of four tracks, does, I think, diminish the overall quality of the set.

Of the three remaining songs, the inclusion of Ms. Genii’s “Baby I’m Scared Of You” is the most puzzling. It’s a showcase for Ms. Genii, Mr. Sam’s real-life wife, but the song is pure “pop” with jazz and show-tune pretensions, and seems as out of place as a radish in bowl of corn flakes. Ms. Genii can sing southern soul-—I’ve seen her in performance—-so I’m scratching my head on this one. A wedding present, maybe?

“Baby I Changed My Mind” and “Broke As Hell” (in which L.J. Echols and Omar Cunningham provide cameos) are solid tracks but not especially memorable, filling out the balance of this CD packaged in pretty, Valentine Day pink. Bottom line. While the half-dozen or so classic additions to the Sam Fallie oeuvre make this a worthy and even distinguished album, MAKE TIME FOR HER will ultimately hinge on one's satisfaction or disappointment with the hefty third of the album taken up by the four iterations of “Go To Work”/“Zydeco Some Mo”. Fence-straddling consumers are advised to carefully sample the twice-done club jams.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Mr. Sam’s MAKE TIME FOR HER CD at Amazon.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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

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daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com

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

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daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Big G, Darkest Hour, 6-7-17

David Brinston, Sidepiece Motel, 5-22-17

Lady Di, Three Way Love Affair, 5-7-17

Joe "Blues" Butler, Full Figured Woman, 4-21-17

O.B. Buchana, Swing On With O.B., 4-10-17

Jeter Jones & The Perfect Blend, Trailride Certified, 3-19-17

Mr. Sam, Make Time For Her, 3-5-17

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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:

Stevie J Blues, Back 2 Blues, 2-20-17 (Scroll down this column.)

Various Artists (Ecko), Blues Mix 22 Down South Soul, 2-5-17 (Scroll down this column.)

Stan Butler: Back To Basics, 1-24-17 (Scroll down this column.)

J-Wonn: The Legacy Begins, 12-13-16 (Scroll down this column.)

Various Artists (Ross Music Group), Beat Flippa: I Got The Blues Vol. 2, 11-17-16 (Scroll down this column.)

Napoleon Demps Presents...Various Artists: Southern Soul Vol. 1, 10-12-16 (Contained in the Napoleon Demps 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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February 20, 2017:

STEVIE J. BLUES: Back 2 Blues (Mississippi Delta Records / Stevie J Blues) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.



We lived on a hill when I was a little kid. Across the street was a “basement house,” a bare concrete-block foundation rising three feet above-ground, with a front door entryway protruding like a submarine periscope and a flat shingled roof lending the whole an air of fractured permanence. Many years later, when I returned, the "basement house" was gone, replaced by a full two-story house, but the house I remember will always be the semi-realized, caught-in-time structure from my childhood, with friends I played with bounding up and out of the underground stairs.

These thoughts came to mind while listening to Back 2 Blues, the new album by Jackson, Mississippi's Stevie Johnson. Actually, there have been 3 artist-name increments since 2008—Stevie Jay (2 Sides Of A Man CD), Stevie J (Diversity Project & Unstoppable CD’s), and now Stevie J Blues (Back 2 Blues).

Although he still answers to Stevie J, as he's done his whole life, Stevie now performs as Stevie J Blues so that his fans can distinguish him from Atlanta-based Stevie J (Steven Jordan) of the reality show "Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta." "It's so funny because before 'Love and Hip Hop Atlanta' came out, if you googled 'Stevie J,' my picture would come up," Johnson says. (Now) "Every now and then, somebody will hit me on Facebook and ask me what Joseline (Hernandez) (Jordan's wife) is doing, and I'm like, 'Man, you got the wrong person.'"

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Stevie J.

Stevie J’s foundation is his guitar playing. Only listen to the new album's instrumental encore, "Blues By The Bay." He’s considered one of the Delta’s top contemporary pickers--in constant demand for studio work and winner of many regional accolades--but, like that “basement house” of my childhood, Stevie J's “periscope” door to the fans, his claim to “fame,” has been his infrequent--almost accidental--southern soul charting with songs like "Because Of Me” (his best), "Married Girlfriend," “Come Here Party” and “Miss Apple Cheeks.”

I was in a club in the Delta once, listening to a series of conventional southern soul tunes sung live by other artists, unmoved from my chair, when Stevie J started singing the New Orleans-flavored “Miss Apple Cheeks.” I could not stay in my seat. The urge was irresistable. I lept up, drifted onto the floor (around Stevie, who was dancing with a woman from the audience) and started dancing by myself, something I hadn’t done in twenty years, and was soon joined by a female stranger and a floor full of couples. So I can attest first-hand to the seductiveness of Stevie's southern soul.

The title Back 2 Blues indicates it's a blues album, but that's not strictly the case. In fact, the set begins with a song, “Lil’ Mo Love,” that harks back to the social consciousness of Marvin Gaye's landmark "What's Going On" album. Excepting "Lil' Mo Love," however, BACK 2 BLUES is an album tailored to the traditional blues fans more than southern soul fans and chitlin’ circuit clubbers.

His website justifiably touts Stevie's unique ability to both "play the Blues and Southern Soul music authentically and accurately," and goes on to say "his eclectic ability to systematically play two different genres of music has morphed into the ‘Stevie J Sound.’”

That, I think, goes a little too far. A full-blown, successful ‘Stevie J sound’ would imply, for example, a berth on the currently ongoing “big-boys” Blues Is Alright Tour, alongside Theodis Ealey and Sir Charles Jones and T.K. Soul, not to mention relative newcomers like Tucka, Big Pokey Bear and Bishop Bullwinkle. It would imply a "full-house" booking and touring schedule.

Which raises the question. By being “eclectic,” is Stevie J hampering his own brand as a southern soul performer? Why, for example, would Stevie emasculate the most powerful song on this set, a tightly-wound bar blues called “I Ain’t Getting That,” by leaving off the word “Shit”? The omission deprives the song of meaning and power. Nor has Stevie promoted it as a single. Why record it, only to disown it?

Yes, in some circles, the four-letter word is contemptible. But it’s also the kind of thing that makes a brand. Ask Pokey or Bullwinkle or Bigg Robb. In retrospect your Daddy B. Nice was clearly out of tune with the intent and nature of the album (which I hadn't yet heard) when I printed the four letter word in my...

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

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

7. "I Ain't Gettin' That Shit"-----Stevie J. Blues

Welcome to southern soul punk rock. I can't imagine fans NOT dancing to this steamrolling slice of blues. From Stevie J's newest, Back 2 Blues.

Listen to Stevie J. singing "I Ain't Gettin' That" on YouTube


Stevie didn't reply when asked if the word, hard to make out even on the recording, was "shit." It’s well-known (locally) that Stevie is the son of a preacher, the brother of a preacher, and a man of character--a man, in other words, unlike the good-for-nothing, responsibility-shirking narrator of Stevie's most memorable hit, "Because Of Me.” And isn't that the way it's always been for southern soul musicians--that kind of yin and yang?

In “Stranger In The City,” a gospel track from Stevie’s new album, Dr. M.J. Johnson (Stevie's brother, in fact) begins sanctifying with the intro: “I don’t know who’s listening to this…” and I wonder, likewise, who is listening to this CD—-or more to the point—-who's the intended audience? The gospel fans? The traditional blues fans? The southern soul fans? By trying to appeal to so many bases, does Stevie J risk failing to capture any?

Although Bobby Rush-—Stevie’s mentor-—has done just that. Doing blues one album, doing southern soul the next. Also, Theodis Ealey. But Rush and Ealey climbed the rungs of fame by being outrageous, and Stevie hasn’t shown the stomach for that. Fear of ostracism--the ordinary man's kryptonite--the potential real-life shunning by church-going family and peers--may have stranded Stevie J in a kind of southern-soul, bad-boy, career paralysis. (One every southern soul star has had to deal with.)

Listen to Marvin Sease singing "I'm Mr. Jody" on YouTube.

The preparation for this album began in early 2015, possibly triggered by the album's then-and-still best track, a B.B. King-styled ballad written by Omar Cunnningham, who also contributed background vocals. "Another Jody Song" charted here in April of 2015. Thoroughly traditional, the song nevertheless has its own peculiar originality.

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

-------APRIL 2015---------

7. "Another Jody Song"-----Stevie J.

More great blues from Jackson, Mississippi's own Stevie Johnson. Written and co-produced (along with Stevie) by the ubiquitous Omar Cunningham, and promoted by Pete Peterson (Bobby Jonz, Chuck Roberson, etc.).


"Son Of A Sanctified Preacher" is a Hooker-like talking blues, and talk Stevie does for six minutes, relating a detailed and fascinating account of connecting with his father over a blues guitar. Only time will tell whether the six-minute "story" wears well.

"Lights Out" is another notable cut, although it's easy to overlook. The ballad showcases Stevie singing with the raspy, vulnerable quality that made "Because Of Me" memorable, and has a similarly atmospheric instrumental wash. It reminds you of where Stevie could go if he wanted to pursue more of a southern soul trajectory. His vocals do seem to emote better over slow tempos.

But there are no signature cuts you'd expect from a southern soul album, and excluding Omar Cunningham's "That Jody Song" and Stevie's "I Ain't Getting That--", not even any original compositions of note. You're either appreciative of the execution of the "eclectic" blues exercises therein or you aren't.

Without a doubt, Stevie J does the best with the material at hand, and the homegrown family talent is plentiful. "Stranger In The City" features gospel singer Dwayne Watkins and the preaching of Dr. M.J. Johnson. "Come See Me" showcases the mouth harp of Scott Albert Johnson. All-live horns and saxes enliven "That Party Song" and the big-band swing of "Cradle Robber."

But still...Promoting the big-band sound of "Cradle Robber" as the #2 single from the album? In doing so, Stevie may be trying to emulate the success of guitar-blues-playing youngsters like Grady Champion, Jarekus Singleton and Mr. Sipp, who have readily made inroads with the lucrative national and international “white-blues” audience.

But does this mean Stevie J. is turning his back on the southern soul audience? And is this wishful thinking on Stevie J's part? To think his "eclectic" blues is going to capture the imagination of the contemporary southern soul audience? At this late date, it's still not clear how Stevie J. means to build the "full house" of his brand. There are only so many light-hearted and contagious hits on the order of "Come Here Party" to be sprinkled into a single career.

And although it's only the latest in a series of albums that have hopscotched from blues to southern soul and back to blues again, Back 2 Blues may tell the tale of whether Stevie J. is destined to become a well-mannered studio musician/straight-blues practitioner or the controversial southern soul act hinted at by original hits like "Because Of Me."

Back 2 Blues indicates the former, a career of covering the blues, a mission of preservation. But we don't really know. Stevie could still spring a wicked southern soul album on us. There's still that much mystery, that much untapped potential. We lovers of southern soul are still waiting for Stevie J to stop playing peek-a-boo from his blues-foundation periscope and reveal his true "upper stories".

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Stevie J Blues' BACK 2 BLUES CD at Amazon.

Sample/Buy Stevie J Blues' BACK 2 BLUES CD at iTunes.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

February 5, 2017:

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Blues Mix 22: Down Home Soul (Ecko) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

It's an impressive list of artists: Ms. Jody (2 songs), O.B. Buchana, David Brinston, Luther Lackey, Jaye Hammer, Mr. Sam, Donnie Ray, Sheba Potts-Wright and Quinn Golden, with a couple of newcomers thrown in. Jaye Hammer’s bubbly “Trail Ride” kicks off Ecko Records’ newest sampler, Blues Mix 22: Down South Soul. The remix doesn’t change much of the song (to my relief), giving the chorus a little more prominence, perhaps with club-dancing in mind. Hammer’s vocal and the infectious button accordion instrumentation remain as they were on the original (Daddy B. Nice’s Best Out-Of-Left-Field Song of 2016), bolstering the rhythm track once again with a champagne-popping buoyancy.

And congratulations to Jaye Hammer for being the first artist in memory to place a hit single--the "cozy marriage of southern soul power and zydeco enthusiasm" that is “Trail Ride” --on near-consecutive Ecko samplers. "Trail Ride" made its first appearance on last year's Blues Mix 19: Total Southern Soul.

“They Were Gone” is a new tribute ballad by O.B. Buchana, although the concept (a remembrance of southern soul’s greatest departed stars) has become somewhat overused and timeworn. I’m of two minds about these types of “commemorative” songs. On the one hand, I’ve heard way too many of them over the years, which makes “They Were Gone” seem a little…well, gratuitous. On the other hand, I’m an insider, and 99.9% of the listening audience probably feels the way I did when I wasn’t an insider. Grateful, that is, for the memories of the great artists and the continuing celebration of their lineage in contemporary song. Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone Davis, Bobby Womack, Little Milton, Bobby “Blue” Bland, J. Blackfoot, Marvin Sease, Jackie Neal, Mel Waiters and Reggie P. are among the notables cited.

Donnie Ray’s “I’m Going Back” recycles the title tune of Aldredge’s 2012 album of the same name, and it just might make you sit back, amazed at how good Donnie Ray sounds when he’s on his game.

“Make Time For Her,” a new ballad by Mr. Sam ( aka composer Sam Fallie), is the title tune of his just-released album of the same name. The melody, arrangement and vocal combine to make a gorgeous-sounding experience. The mid-song voice-over also works well, giving the tune an effective and impactful simplicity.

“Energizer Bunny” is one of the most popular tunes from 2008’s I NEVER TAKE A DAY OFF album, in which Ms. Jody complains vociferously about her over-sexed mate (O.B. Buchana does a brief cameo) seriously stressing her “kitty”. The song does survive its mixed metaphors. And Ms. Jody's ”I Don’t Backtrack,” from 2006’s WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE RENT IS DUE, may sound "fresh" to most listeners (it did to me), being one of the most obscure tracks from her catalog.

Sheba Potts-Wright’s “Don’t Get Yours Before I Get Mine” is a piece of history from Sheba’s 2006 Ecko album BIG HAND MAN, while “When This Dance Is Over” recycles the late Quinn Golden’s title tune from his 2004 Ecko album WHEN THE DANCE IS OVER. David Brinston’s “You Caught Me With My Drawers Off” is a tune from his DIRTY WOMAN album (2009), showcasing David in fine vocal form, while Luther Lackey’s “I Don’t Care Who’s Getting It,” takes us back to his hit-laden but unfortunately unsuccessful Ecko album, Married Lyin’ Cheatin’ Man.

“Full Figured Woman” features a new bluesy singer named Joe Butler, and “Keep This On The Low” marks the Ecko debut of a deserving but little-known singer/songwriter named King Fred (aka Frederick Hicks). Fred has been charting at Southern Soul RnB since 2013, most memorably for the tune ”When I Think Of You,” in which--in the most exquisite, sepia-drenched verses--Fred sounds like he's singing about love through a weathered old man's vocal cords.

As a set, Blues Mix 22: Down South Soul is interesting for its individual tracks, which frequently shine, but as a collection the set lacks the cohesion and unifying theme that distinguish Ecko's finest compilations.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Blues Mix 22: Down South Soul at Best Buy.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

January 24, 2017:

STAN BUTLER: Back To Basics (Stantavio Butler / Stan Butler Productions) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort by a New Southern Soul Artist.

The story of Stan Butler's rise from "a complete unknown" to Daddy B. Nice's Best Southern Soul Debut Of The Year should hearten the spirits of any musical aspirant across the chitlin' circuit. First, as noted in my first charting for Stan Butler in June of 2016, deejays and critics don't just wait for product to come to them. They also beat the bushes in search of that "new thang." That's how, while hacking through the YouTube musical jungle, I came upon...

2. "Tootie Boot"------Stan Butler

Here's another 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.

Shortly thereafter, still in June, I heard from Stan Butler, and received a package with three or four copies of BACK TO BASICS. I told him I wouldn't review the CD until, at the least, he posted it on CD Baby for distribution. And although declining to interview him (which "Soul Dog" Neal Furr subsequently did a fine job of doing anyway), I told Stan to work on his music--that I only wanted to relate to that. It was the music I wanted to excite me. And, wow, did he come through--three successive singles as follows:

-------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. Profiled this month on Southern Soul Corner With The "Soul Dog" Neal Furr.

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. Write stanb478@gmail.com for service.

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.


Meanwhile, back at Quent Jackson's Big Baby Studios in the Macon suburbs, where Butler had recorded the tunes for Back To Basics, Stan's growing local profile had landed him a gig as the opening act for a Macon appearance of Cameo, requiring a live band. As with the CD distribution, the necessities of the music business had heeded the call of Stan Butler's talent, not the other way around, and Butler hooked up with a John Mills-managed group called The Unit, performing in front of an audience of three-thousand.

It's not easy to pinpoint the wellspring of Butler's talent. He's a humble-looking and humble-sounding young man, with an average voice (for an R&B star), and production still blemished with amateurish tics and musical spaces crying out for detail. And yet, the talent cannot be denied. It's difficult not to keep listening to a Stan Butler song. Reality, in all its sensory glory, is emoted.

I was anticipating a three-star ("solid") critique for Back To Basics, which Butler finally got around to offering for sale on CD Baby not long ago. After all, it only has two of the songs mentioned above, "Tootie Boot" and "Took My Grandma To The Club." Everything else--the bulk of the great music quoted above--has come since then, making the album almost obsolete before it hits the market. Surely, the next album will be much better--the breakthrough, if you will.

But I came away surprised by Back To Basics. With only seven full tracks, the set yet has a undeniable fullness, and the other five tracks (with the exception of one, "Woman Must Be Cheating," which has the same rhythm track as "Took My Grandma To The Club") are not just throw-away's.

"Respect Your Woman" lacks the definition of a focused songwriter, but "Got Me A Woman" (with Ron G.) is a superb composition, with a melody that sinks the hook and pulls the listener along for five pleasurable minutes.

"Caught Up," too, is a fine piece of songwriting, with an interesting arrangement and the kind of special but somehow still "everyman"-like vocal that we have come to expect from Butler. Listening to "Caught Up," you can make out the song structure Stan would later bring to the spectacular "Preacher Was A Home Wrecker."

"Trust Me, Baby" (featuring Yale), has a chitlin' circuit-friendly couplet:

"Every time I take off my clothes,
You're smelling my drawers."

Butler asks his lover to "let him go" if she "don't trust me no more." A seductive bass line and a rap verse are only two of the musical elements that make the song memorable.

Taken as a whole, and combined with the more well-known "Tootie Boot" and "Took My Grandma To The Club," the songs of BACK TO BASICS constitute a satisfying if short set. Nothing compared to what's coming next from Stan Butler, though. Can hardly wait.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Stan Butler's BACK TO BASICS at CD Baby.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

December 13, 2016:

J-WONN: The Legacy Begins ( I Got This Record Publishing) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

The most revealing moment on J'Wonn's new CD THE LEGACY BEGINS comes at the end of his live version of "I Got This Record." Up to that moment, you're marveling mostly at the faithful rendition via live onstage instruments of the studio version of J'Wonn's signature tune. Then comes the end and the squeals of the young women in the audience, far-off from the onstage sound equipment, but nevertheless powerful enough to recall The Beatles in their early days and their squealing, girl-dominated audiences.

Longtime followers of southern soul music have never experienced quite this kind of audience reaction. Johnnie Taylor was the marquee heart-throb of his day, but the women screaming their appreciation were more mature, experienced and knowing. Marvin Sease drove his female audiences to heights of passion, but their catcalls and mock-shock cheers were hardy, wild and comedic. Perhaps Sir Charles Jones, kicking off contemporary southern soul in the early years of the century, was the real harbinger of J'Wonn's arrival: the girls went crazy.

But none of the stars, it seems, drew the really young girls--even teen-agers--the way J'Wonn does. He does what no southern soul veterans thought possible: he makes southern soul accessible to the young, in the process demolishing the old critical "truism" that southern soul would die with its aging audience.

J'Wonn's most revealing concerts over the last couple of years have been his gigs with Big Yayo (the producer of "I Got This Record" and the album of the same name) and their performances of Big Yayo's dance-hall smash "(I Need A) Cowgirl." Watching him prancing half-naked onstage as if he were riding his horse, laughing and singing and reveling deliriously in the moment, it's obvious J'Wonn has that rare, androgynous quality of Michael Jackson, or even more apt, Little Richard--not as outrageously kinky/androgynous as Richard--but equally sexual and one-of-a-kind. (Here's another concert clip.)

When all is said and done, there are no "breakthrough," "can't-miss" songs on the order of "I Got This Record" (or even "Cowgirl") on THE LEGACY BEGINS. The new album is J'Wonn's first without his mentor, Big Yayo--also the first on J'Wonn's new, self-produced label. And to continue the Beatles comparisons, when it comes to songwriting without Chris Mabry (Big Yayo), J'Wonn is a little like Paul McCartney without John Lennon, or in over-simplified terms, melody and music hall (McCartney--J-Wonn) without grit and rhythm (Lennon--Big Yayo), an approach epitomized by some of the set's biggest singles: "Daddy's Girl," "I Need A Grown Woman," and "24/7."

Listen to J'Wonn singing "Daddy's Girl" on YouTube.

These aren't "big" singles in a dubious, southern-soul-bragging kind of way. These songs really are "big." They're popular and have made huge inroads with the young crowd.

Listen to J'Wonn singing "I Need A Grown Woman" on YouTube.

And in profiling J'Wonn's "24/7" on the Top Ten Singles (November 2016), your Daddy B. Nice returned to the age vs. youth issue in a more critical way:

How can you criticize a young artist for singing about young topics (infatuation with a new lover)? But we are miles from the celestial heights of J’Wonn’s classic, ”I Got This Record.” Although songs like “24/7” and “Daddy’s Girl” are creating a new generation of young southern soul fans, I can’t help comparing these tunes to the similarly light-weight, borderline-fluffy, follow-up efforts of LaMorris Williams—“Pretty Lady,” etc.--to his breakthrough classic, “Impala.” I hope to see J-Wonn rediscover the ageless depth and soulfulness of “I Got This Record” in the same way LaMorris eventually did with this year’s classic album, Mississippi Motown.

And just this month (December 2016), I added an exclamation point to the "young and fluffy" critique in praising the atypically older-sounding "(I'm Taking It) To My Grave."

The most southern soul track from J-Wonn's surprisingly pop-ish, new THE LEGACY BEGINS CD.

My own favorite J'Wonn song from 2016--the solemn and heart-felt hymn to God, "Lord I Need To Talk To You" (which to my surprise received an impressive 28,000 views after charting here in April 2016)-- didn't even make it to THE LEGACY BEGINS.

Listen to J'Wonn singing "Lord I Need To Talk To You" on YouTube.

The best thing about this prayer-slash-meditation? It doesn't appear to be a conscious attempt to record a gospel song, which would have added a layer of artifice, however transparent. No, this is simply a song from the heart, like "I Got This Record."

What cannot be denied about THE LEGACY BEGINS is J'Wonn's impressive musicality and production expertise, which come as something of a surprise despite the evident artistry behind "I Got This Record." In setting out to accomplish a palette of styles and moods, the young singer/songwriter has ransacked every sub-genre in R&B, including a "stepping" song, "The Night Away," the obligatory, "to-the-right, to the left," dance jam, "We Gone Party," and the old-fashioned (some might call "timeless," others "archaic") mainstream soul of "Left Me Now."

These and other tunes from the album are remarkably realized. The Legacy Begins may not be the foundation of a rather pompous-sounding "legacy." It may not even be the album we know J-Wonn is capable of. But it is, in its way, a tour de force.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy J'Wonn's THE LEGACY BEGINS at iTunes.

Buy J'Wonn's THE LEGACY BEGINS at Amazon.

Go to Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to J-Wonn.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

November 17, 2016:

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Beat Flippa: I Got The Blues Vol. 2 (Music Access/Ross Music) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

I was about to write that, despite a bounteous, Thanksgiving-sized helping of new music (a generous fifteen tracks vs. sixteen on the first Beat Flippa sampler), nothing jumps off the liner credits of Volume Two like Volume One's "My Sidepiece" by Big Pokey Bear. The trouble with that comparison is Pokey's new southern soul classic didn't appear on I Got The Blues Vol. 1. It graced The Louisiana Blues Brothers Love On The Bayou a year earlier.

Regardless of whether "My Sidepiece" debuted on Beat Flippa Volume 1, the album was a powerhouse in the Deep South, a cultural earth-shaker and a creative game-changer for contemporary southern soul music and the way the genre is produced, dropping a slew of new artists (headlined by Pokey) on a southern soul audience hungry for new sounds.

The single that woulda/coulda/shoulda been this album's "Sidepiece" was Cold Drank's "Three." In a September 2016 interview featured on Daddy B. Nice's Corner, "Three" producer Heavy, the original composer of "My Sidepiece," told your Daddy B. Nice:

"I don't do business with Beat Flippa (any more). I'm not discrediting him, but I wasn't happy with him doing the "My Sidepiece Reply" on YouTube, the one with the women (Veronica Ra'elle, Lacee, Ms. Portia), without talking to me."

But the end result, I fear, was a loss for all parties, on the one hand Beat Flippa, whose Vol. 2 CD otherwise lacks a showcase single on the order of "My Sidepiece," and on the other hand Heavy and Cold Drank, whose "Three" may never benefit from the much wider exposure and retail sales the single would have garnered on I Got The Blues: Volume Two.

Listen to Cold Drank singing "Three" on YouTube.

Any follow-up to Beat Flippa's Vol. 1, with exceptional anthems like "T.G.I.F.," (Pokey, Vince Hutchinson & Adrian Bagher), "The Best You Ever Had" (Rosalyn Candy, Veronica Ra'elle), "If It Ain't The Blues" (Pokey Bear, Cupid) and "Let's Do It" (Adrian Bagher, Big Cynthia, Veronica Ra'elle), was bound to be something of a disappointment by comparison.

And songs like Laylla Fox's "I Taste Like Candy," Rosalyn Candy's Let's Get The Business Clear" and Miss Portia's "Use What I Got" from the new CD lack not only the surprise factor but some of the outstanding musicality of the first collection, relying on simplistic and repetitive hooks.

Meanwhile, in spite of their obvious merits, tracks one would anticipate to be sure-fire successes, such as L.J. Echols'"Is It True" or the Louisiana Blues Brotha's "Naked," are under-stated to an almost off-putting extent, lacking some of the indefinable energy and enthusiasm of Volume 1.

Which is not to say Volume 2 doesn't deliver an ample share of great music. Stand-out tracks, executed with the freshness and originality we've come to expect from Beat Flippa, include:

Napoleon Demps' "Ol' School Love"

Big Cynthia’s ”Come Saddle Up”

Sharnette Hyter's "I'm Classy"

Lady Soul's "Tighten Up"

Jeter Jones' and Crystal Thomas' "Them Country Girls"

and...

Nicole Jackson's "What You Gone Do For Me."

These and other tunes from the new sampler sparkle with all the special, atmospheric production touches evident in Vol. 1: the signature organ fills that run like "deep waters" through the entire set, the spacious but appropriately spare use of the zydeco accordion and the crystal-clear mixing. And not to be forgotten: the yoga-supple guitar work of Tyree Neal, whose picking is evolving and maturing into a sophistication we haven't seen in southern blues and soul since Theodis Ealey and, of course, B.B. King.

Listen to Tyree Neal's guitar on Napoleon Demps "Ol' School Love."

While I Got The Blues: Volume Two may lack some of the impact and overall consistency of Volume 1, it's still music to fill any righteous southern soul fan's day with pleasure, energy and intimacy.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Beat Flippa's I GOT THE BLUES VOL. 2 at Amazon.

Sample/Buy Beat Flippa's I GOT THE BLUES VOL. 2 at iTunes.

Listen to samples from "Beat Flippa I Got The Blues Vol 2 Promo pt 1".

Listen to samples from "Beat Flippa I Got The Blues Vol 2 Promo pt 2".

Listen to samples from "Beat Flippa I Got The Blues Vol 2 Promo pt 3".

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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