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


 

Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews

March 24, 2019:

JAYE HAMMER: Double Trouble (Ecko) Three Stars *** Solid. The Artist's Fans Will Enjoy.

Jaye Hammer, the southern soul singer who went blind from a detached retina at the age of twenty-six, has quietly amassed an impressive resume over the course of a half-dozen albums. His 2005 debut was followed by a fallow period during which the blindness descended, a seemingly more cruel fate (having seen the world and lost it in adulthood) than singers like Clarence Carter, blind from birth, or Ray Charles, whose blindness became complete by the age of seven.

Delta producer Aaron Weddington, who had discovered Hammer as a gospel-singing child prodigy, introduced him to Ecko Records' John Ward during this perilous transitional period, and Jaye's five albums for the Memphis label between 2012 and 2017 have positioned Hammer as a solid if second-tier contemporary southern soul performer, lacking only a significant "breakthrough" single in his quest for wider popularity.

Hammer's fans might argue that "I Ain't Leaving Mississippi"is--or should have been--that "breakthrough" single. With lyrics like--

"I got my first piece of coochie
In the middle of a cotton field,
And had my first drink of whiskey
From my grand-daddy's still."

--it's an autobiographical (or seemingly autobiographical) gem.

Listen to Jaye Hammer singing "I Ain't Leaving Mississippi" on YouTube.

Together with the anthem-like "One Stop Lover," which showcases Hammer's ability to steadily percolate authentic emotion, and the southern soul/zydeco hybrid "Trail Ride," which rocks along to an infectious cajun accompaniment, these oft'-overlooked singles ring with a muscular vocal clarity not unlike that which Clarence Carter brought to singles like "Slip Away," "Patches" and "Strokin'". In both instances--Carter's and Hammer's--the singing is professional yet laced with a rowdy, unschooled flavor that stresses naturalism and country roots.

Listen to Jaye Hammer singing "Party At Home Tonight" on YouTube.

Jaye Hammer's new album Double Trouble--his sixth Ecko release--has a single that begs for inclusion in that list of Hammer's "best". It's "She's My Baby Forever". A cradle-rocking tempo propels a melody that will seem familiar to soul music aficionados. That's because it's based on the old Latimore standard, "Sunshine Lady". The vocal and instrumental tracks are executed with taste and flair. It's a beautiful song and deserves to be ranked among Jaye's finest, but it's probably not that long-awaited "breakthrough hit" that some Jaye Hammer advocates may be hoping for.

And as Double Trouble's top single goes, so goes the album. This is a mellow set, cooked up much like a chef would "comfort food," with a lot of variety and lot of "tried and true" formulas. No surprises. Nothing disturbing. Even a potentially over-the-top tune like "The Groupie Girls" comes off as familiar and conversational, as if Jaye were talking to you from an adjacent airline seat.

"Buck Jumpin' Dance" will be familiar to Ecko Records fans--a booty-shaking line-dance you've heard from Ms. Jody et.al.. Ditto for "Booty Slide." The bluesy "Trouble Trouble"--or is it "Double Trouble," the title tune?--is puzzling. I was never convinced by it. I never believed in it, other than as an exercise on the level of, say, a neo-soul artist, which is an awful thing to say about a southern soul artist. And yet, for different reasons--one song is "down," the other "up"--I reacted to "She's Lovin' Me Crazy" in the same way.

On generic tunes like these, with no inspiring hooks or lyrics, Hammer's high, metallic baritone can get a little harsh and abrasive. But just when it's wearing on you, Hammer will step into a more personalized and authentic vehicle like "We're Stepping Out Tonight," a mid-tempo ode to the pleasures of domesticity, which will transport Jaye's fans to "Party At Home" territory. And occasionally, a song on the set will sneak up and surprise. Such is the case with "Coming Home To You," which begins a little shakily but matures with a dramatic, no-holds-barred chorus that at first seems jarring, then becomes the backbone of the record.

Some refreshing gravitas also embellishes the "Soul Heaven" clone, "Blues Heaven," in which, departed less than a year, Denise LaSalle is now--sadly--conspicuously listed. The smooth slow jam, "Let Me Hammerize You," ends, incidentally, with Jaye saying, "I'll even leave Mississippi for you," which fans will instantly recognize as a reference to "I Ain't Leaving Mississippi".

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Jaye Hammer's DOUBLE TROUBLE album at iTunes.

Buy Jaye Hammer's DOUBLE TROUBLE album at Amazon.

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

Browse Jaye Hammer CD's.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

March 3, 2019:

LADY Q: Class 'N Session (Jones Boys Ent.) Three Stars *** Solid Debut By A New Southern Soul Artist.

At times while listening to this new album, I felt like a TV game-show host trying to decide whether to give Class N' Session, the debut CD by Lady Q., a three-star ("solid") or four-star ("distinguished") rating. I gave the artist points for at least three radio-worthy singles and the collaborative boost realized from the contributions of hot artist Jeter Jones and producer-of-the-year Ronald "Slack" Jefferson, about which more in a minute, but I took away points for some gaffes.

The most glaring mistake is Lady Q's cover of Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It?" Turner's powerful and husky vocal style had an obvious effect on the development of Lady Q's style, and while it's interesting to be privy to one of Lady Q's influences, putting such an iconic song in the strategic final position of a debut CD is, frankly, an admission of inferiority. A debut album should represent years of pent-up and unpublished creativity; it should be a resounding statement of an artist's identity. We can imagine Lady Q singing covers, as all aspiring singers do, prior to her debut, but a debut is no place for influences, especially a blushingly faithful cover of "What's Love Got To Do With It?"

The second major error is the inclusion of "Dancing In Da Streets (B-Day Song)," which under ordinary circumstances would be a creditable tune and another reason to give this album positive points. The caveat here, however, is that producer Ronald Jefferson has used the same chords and melody, if not quite the identical instrumental track, for another recent, high-profile single, P2K DaDiddy's "Trucker Hustle" from his five-star 2018 debut, Welcome To The Boom Boom Room.

Anyone who fell in love with P2K's album is bound to be taken aback by hearing a clone of "Trucker Hustle" on Lady Q's album, and Jeter Jones above all should have put the "nix" on the iteration, having been involved in his own gaffe earlier in his career using an Eric "Smidi" Smith instrumental track already published by both Bobby Jonz and Chuck Roberson.

(DBN notes: That particular track just won't die. I recently was e-mailed an mp3 by Cadillac Man using it yet again. You'd think Smidi would retire it as a statement of character, but it's hard to turn down the money when it's put in front of you unsolicited.)

A handful of the songs on the set occupy a middle ground, neither gaining nor losing overall points. "Treat Me Like Ya Mama," "Enough Is Enough," "Two Steps," and "Checking Out" are all pleasing at times, but also mediocre at times--you could call it "benign filler".

The songs even skeptics of this album--and buyers of my argument above--will want to download are contained in four substantial singles: "You Make Me Feel Good," "Issue It," the title track "Lumberjack" and the surprisingly delicate and affecting "Can't Come Back To You" (featuring Jeter Jones). This quartet of tunes more than makes the case that Lady Q has arrived.

"Q" debuted on the charts in June 2018 with "Lumberjack".

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

-------JUNE 2018-------

…5. "Lumberjack (Good Wood/I Need A Lumberjack)"-----Lady Q featuring Jeter Jones

Another stunning, hard-hitting, dance-grooving debut by a female vocalist (making three in this month's top five picks).

Listen to Lady Q feat. Jeter Jones singing "Lumberjack".

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(DBN notes: The other two female singers in the top-five that month were Annie Washington ("Show Pony") and Beatrice ("I'M Gonna Wait".)


And upon release of Class N' Session, Lady Q has charted twice in two months.

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

-------FEBRUARY 2019-------

…4. "You Make Me Feel Good"------Lady Q

Aided by Jeter Jones and Producer of the Year Ronald "Slack" Jefferson, the barrel-chested songstress with the masculine vocal style pounds out a gritty ballad for the ages. From her debut album Class N Session.

Listen to Lady Q. singing"You Make Me Feel Good" on YouTube.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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

-------MARCH 2019-------

…7. "Issue It"------Lady Q featuring Jeter Jones

Speaking of good rhythm tracks, you can't do much better than Lady Q's "Issue It," another gem from her Class n Session debut album brought to fruition by Best Mid-Tempo Song Of The Year winner Jeter Jones.

Listen to Lady Q singing "Issue It" on YouTube.


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Good pipes, good songs, good people in her corner. She's got a lot of rough edges to hone, but the future looks bright for Lady Q, who fits the bill as a quintessential, easy-going "big lady" of southern soul music: bright, tough and beautiful.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Lady Q's Class 'N Sessin album at iTunes.

Buy Lady Q's Class 'N Sessin album at Amazon.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

Send CD's to Daddy B. Nice, P. O. Box 19574, Boulder, Colorado, 80308 or e-mail to daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com to be eligible for review on this page.

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February 10, 2019:

VAL MCKNIGHT: Stroke That Cat (Ecko). Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

Val McKnight has quickly become a force among female southern soul singers--not quite in the first rank occupied by the likes of Ms. Jody, Nellie “Tiger” Travis, and Karen Wolfe--but close. However, you would never know it if you were in a hurry, listened to the first couple of tracks of Val's new album, Stroke That Cat, and swiftly moved on, as we all do, reluctant to engage further. The set opens with a tepid--I almost said "typical"--John Ward/Raymond Moore opening track, but it's written by Val herself. "Turn Up" is guaranteed NOT to raise your pulse, and the next song up, the title cut "Stroke That Cat," which IS written by Ward and Moore, isn't much stronger. Both tunes sport musical phrases you've heard way too many times before, and the prosaic material seeps into uninspired McKnight vocals that don't give a hint of the excitement to come.

Because, paradoxically, and with more than a little help from her friends (Ward, Moore, Henderson Thigpen, Ms. Jody), the performer absolutely "tears it up" the rest of the way. In her third long-play release (and second on Ecko), Vivacious Val grand-slams just about every bawdy theme ever explored by Memphis's latter-day flagship label. With tunes like "I'm A Horny Woman" (first published on Ecko's Blues Mix, Vol. 17: Dirty Soul Blues) and "I'm Gonna Hump Your Brains Out" (also available as an X-rated single called "I'm Gonna Fuck Your Brains Out,"), the intrepid McKnight far surpasses the flirtatious naughtiness of label-mates Sheba Potts-Wright and Ms. Jody.

"It's Booty Shakin' Time" recycles the irresistible instrumental track from Ms. Jody's "Ms. Jody's Thang", while "Down Low Brother" harks back to the man-turns-out-to-be-gay themes explored by Peggy Scott-Adams and Keisha Brown in the nineties. "Down Low Brother" hit #1 on Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles chart with the following "bullet" summary:

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-------JANUARY 2019-------

1. “Down Low Brother”------Val McKnight

Vivacious Val delivers a vocal so unique and unprecedented it eclipses the original recorded by the gritty Barbara Carr, whose X-rated catalog makes today’s divas look like choir girls. The tale of a woman discovering her husband with another man was one of a wave of "he-turned-out-be-gay" tunes recorded in the wake of the resounding success of Peggy Scott-Adams' "Bill". From Val's new Stroke That Cat album.

Listen to Val McKnight singing “Down Low Brother” on YouTube.
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That notorious Barbara Carr catalog, by the way, was and still remains on Ecko.

The remix with Ms. Jody of "It's Party Time," originally recorded for Val's Independent Woman, has all but become a southern soul classic. The interaction between Ms. Jody and McKnight is one of the under-rated collaborations of the last couple of years. They sound like sisters who've grown up together, and when Val growls, it's like a big cat purring. The synthesized background chorus works to perfection, and from a production standpoint here and throughout, John Ward plays to Ecko's strengths, using only the most tried-and-true formulas and giving the people what they want (for example the formerly-Ms. Jody vehicle "It's Booty Shaking Time"). The pace never flags.

"Can You Ride This Pony," a funky-edged dance jam, is almost on the level of "Party Time" and "Down Low Brother," while "Hoodoo Woman Pt. 2" reprises a top track from McKnight's debut, Red Hot Lover.

Finally, in the midst of all this furious, come-"atcha" lust and inflamed libidos--the very stuff of Val's persona--we're treated to two mellow cuts, "My Boo Thang," with a nice, high-pitched,"Summer Madness"-like synthesizer fill, and a quirky but catchy background chorus (something that Ecko has been getting better and better at), and a solid, even righteous ballad, "Good Loving Will Make Everything All Right".

In "Boo Thang" Val says, "We fit together like a hand and glove," and for maybe the first time in her recording career we see Val not only as an "independent woman" but a wife and/or partner--a "co-dependent". And in that sense, Stroke That Cat as an album expands Val's image: ergo, she's not just a purveyor of gross-out jams; she can summon different vocal tones for slower tempos and domesticity.

And that's the thing about Val. Even when she's singing about "humping" or "fucking," it comes off surprisingly innocent--not so much vulgar as earthy and natural. Val's so comfortable in her "own skin" that when she says, "Friendship means nothing to a horny woman," (from "I'm A Horny Woman") we take it not as an affront but a candid capsule of the facts. And in an age when women who want to make it in southern soul shy away from using their real names, Val McKnight not only has the courage to record indelicate material but, like Peggy Scott-Adams and so many others before her, to use her given name. Almost by default Val has become a light-house, a Statue of Liberty-like presence in a dimly-lit and risque corner of southern soul's universe formerly inhabited by fearlessly outspoken singers like Millie Jackson, Jackie Neal and Big Cynthia.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Val McKnight's "Stroke That Cat" album at Amazon.

Buy Val McKnight's "Stroke That Cat" album at iTunes.

Read Daddy B. Nice's "Val McKnight" Artist Guide.

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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 or e-mail to daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com to be eligible for review on this page.

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February 2, 2019:

VARIOUS ARTISTS (ECKO): Blues Mix 27: Ultimate Soul Blues.

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

This is one of the best compilations in Ecko's Blues Mix series, and ten bucks well spent by anyone who loves southern soul. The latest sampler from the venerable label out of Memphis begins with a bang with a new song featuring the label's mainstay O.B. Buchana collaborating with Ross Music Group's (out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana) hot new artist Big Pokey Bear of "My Sidepiece" fame. Written by James Jackson, "I'm Whipped Again," rocks to a mid-tempo beat while offering insights into the vocal styles of both artists, with Buchana coming off as the more powerfully-equipped singer and Pokey Bear's more amorphous style clarifying like butter in contrast--a wailing, pleading falsetto. Charting #2 in January's Top Ten "Breaking" Southern Soul Singles, your Daddy B. Nice noted:

I’m encouraged when old stars (Buchana) mingle with new stars (Pokey Bear). It gives continuity to the music, bestowing legitimacy on the new star and sprinkling relevance like fairy dust on the old star. Also can't say enough about the crisp but charmingly modest production on both "Down Low Brother" and "Whipped Again" by John Ward; you wouldn't know either one was an Ecko project.

"Down Low Brother" references Daddy B. Nice's #1 Southern Soul Single for the same month and the third track from the sampler:

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

-------JANUARY 2019-------

1. “Down Low Brother”------Val McKnight

Vivacious Val delivers a vocal so unique and unprecedented it eclipses the original recorded by the gritty Barbara Carr, whose X-rated catalog makes today’s divas look like choir girls. The tale of a woman discovering her husband with another man was one of a wave of "he-turned-out-be-gay" tunes recorded in the wake of the resounding success of Peggy Scott-Adams' "Bill". From Val's new Stroke That Cat album.

Listen to Val McKnight singing “Down Low Brother” on YouTube.

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A third new track, Jaye Hammer's "Blues Heaven," from Hammer's upcoming CD Double Trouble, is a "Soul Heaven" (Johnnie Taylor) -styled tribute to deceased stars. One of the ancillary benefits of southern soul artists recording commemorative songs like "Blues Heaven" is the road map they provide the national audience, which instantly recognizes legends like Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor and B.B. King but has no idea who Denise LaSalle, Mel Waiters and Reggie P. are. Human nature being what it is, few people can admit they don't know of an artist they "should" know: once warned, as in a song like "Blues Heaven," they're motivated to familiarize themselves with the artist, so they won't be considered "ignorant" by their peers. So the juxtaposition of these "unknowns" with the "knowns" will gradually bring southern soul's marginalized artists into the ranks of the legends. Or, at the least, let's hope so. That's the way it has always worked, especially for black artists, every legend having once been a "complete unknown--like a rolling stone".

This trifecta of opening cuts insures that BLUES MIX 27 roars out of the starting gate with authority, and the sampler cruises the rest of the way with a highly- sustainable mix of old songs, remixes and the like, highlighted by Ms. Jody's redo of "Where I Come From" and interesting new label-mate Randolph Walker's previously-unpublished "Bouquet Of Roses". Ms. Jody's remix of "Where I Come From" (called the "country soul version") is a marked improvement over the original. Scary, how much the production--"the mix"--of a song dictates the success or failure of that song. This mix dissolves all skepticism and distance and makes you want to get your ass back to Ms. Jody and that "old pickup on the old country road".

Finally, no one who loves southern soul will dispute the inclusion of perennially-enjoyable classics like O. B. Buchana's "Southern Soul Country Boy," Sonny Mack's "Goody Good Good Stuff," Rick Lawson's "If You Hit It" and Sheba Potts-Wright's "Big Boy Stuff".

David Brinston's "Back Up Man," Jaye Hammer's "Go Ahead On" and the late Quinn Golden's "I've Got A Schedule To Keep" fill out this highly satisfying set.

--Daddy B. Nice

Listen to all the tracks from Blues Mix 27 on YouTube.

Buy Ecko Records' BLUES MIX 27: Ultimate Soul Blues at iTunes.

Buy Ecko Records' BLUES MIX 27: Ultimate Soul Blues at Amazon.

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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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December 1, 2018:

CRYSTAL THOMAS: Drank Of My Love (Crystal Thomas) Three Stars *** Solid. The Artist's Fans Will Enjoy.

Drank Of My Love, the second collection from Crystal Thomas, the uber-talented singer out of Shreveport, Louisiana, is disarmingly soft-focused and laid-back. It also suffers from the same malady that marred Ms. Thomas' debut album: a lack of significant new material. Ms. Thomas stubbornly insists on doing all her own composing and the bulk of her producing, revealing once again a wide discrepancy between her writing/producing skills and her breathtaking vocal expertise.

So just as her debut, Lyrical Gumbo: The Essence of Blues, had little to recommend it beyond the song "Country Girl," the new album has no obvious, radio-worthy singles beyond the title track, "Drank Of My Love". And even "Drank Of My Love," a simple blues phrase culminating in a minor-key-sounding note and repeated over and over, is more dispiriting than "bluesy," salvaged primarily by the marvelous background chorus (again Thomas).

The opening track and an already-released single, "Party" is no doubt meant to furnish an upbeat contrast to the taciturn "Drank Of My Love," but there's not a fresh note in the song-- one of those "in-one-ear, out-the-other" party songs. "Mr. Do Right" is a shameless recycling of Otis Redding's "Try A Little Tenderness"--why not just cover the original?-- and "Hey Baby" is a blues that has been done maybe fifty-thousand times. You have to be a blues fanatic to appreciate these brazenly generic exercises. And "Show Me How To Zydeco" fails to capture any of the fizz that cajun music usually gives a southern soul album. Once again the onus is on the songwriting: melodically and lyrically, Ms. Thomas' compositions fall short--that is, they fail to stand out, they have no novelty.

"I'll Be Right Here" is the closest Ms. Thomas comes to succeeding at putting it all--writing, singing, producing--into a vehicle with bonafide charisma. The relaxed, mid-tempo melody brings out the best in Thomas, and her vocal is a marvel. Similarly, the gospel of "Every Hour"--and the energy it infuses--provides an uplifting and refreshing contrast to the languor of the rest of the set. The remake of "Country Girl" in a re-booted tempo is also a pleasure.

Listen to Crystal Thomas singing "Country Girl (2018 Remix)" on YouTube.

Crystal's vocals deliver throughout, through good and bad, thick and thin. However, the fact that the new album doesn't include Crystal's 2018 single, "I Got That Good Stuff," is inexplicable. "Good Stuff" is better than "Drank Of My Love" or anything else on the set, and would have instantly raised the album's profile.

Listen to Crystal Thomas singing "I Got That Good Stuff" on YouTube.

Nor does this album include the song that garnered Crystal BEST FEMALE VOCALIST of 2018 honors: "All I Need Is You," the duet with Big Pokey Bear from his 2017 chart-topping album, BEAR SEASON.

A quick aside on "All I Need Is You." It came out in December a year ago. Dominating throughout was Beat Flippa's keyboard/organ in vibrato mode. Pokey Bear wailed a little on the intro, but Crystal took the first verse. I was so blown away by the sound she achieved with her vocal--and so blown away each time the intermittently-absent bass re-entered the rhythm track--so blown away by both the music and Crystal's vocal, in other words--that I never listened to the words, and never realized that she and Pokey were talking about getting each other Christmas presents--that, in short, it was a Christmas song. So a belated merry Christmas to all!

Listen to Big Pokey Bear and Crystal Thomas singing "All I Need Is You (For Christmas)" on YouTube.

Crystal Thomas' claim to fame remains the work she's done with Jeter Jones: "Something Something,". "Looking For Lovin'," "Them Country Girls," and "Trailride Certified". And with Pokey Bear: "All I Want Is You," "Zydeco, Blues & Trail Ride (ZBT Anthem)" (also with Jeter Jones). And, of course, with Baton Rouge producer Beat Flippa (Ross Music Group).

When she sings with these artists, Crystal rocks and rolls and swings on a level she has yet to achieve in her solo career. Released from the responsibility of writing and producing, she lets her vocals soar in a way her own material has yet to allow: raw and naked sensuality personified. It's hard to believe Beat Flippa, Jeter Jones and Pokey Bear wouldn't have given permission to Crystal to publish these songs. The money, after all, is in the songwriting, and the more the song is published, the more the royalties accrue. Which is to say... At this point in time, Crystal Thomas is less a legitimate solo recording artist than she is a distinguished and eminently-gifted background singer and collaborator: a present-day Queen Ann Hines, a contemporary Thomisene Anderson.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Crystal Thomas' new DRANK OF MY LOVE album at CD Baby.

Buy Crystal Thomas' new DRANK OF MY LOVE CD at iTunes.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Crystal Thomas.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Jaye Hammer, Double Trouble, 3-24-19

Lady Q, Class 'N Session, 3-3-19

Val McKnight, Stroke That Cat, 2-10-19

Various Artists (Ecko), Blues Mix 27: Ultimate Soul Blues, 2-2-19

Crystal Thomas, Drank Of My Love, 12-1-18

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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:

Carolyn Staten, Ladies Night, 11-19-18 (Scroll down this column.)

P2K Dadiddy, Welcome To The Boom Boom Room, 10-30-18 (Contained in the P2K Artist Guide. Click link.)

Ms. Jody, I'm Doin' My Thang, 10-14-18 (Contained in the Ms. Jody Artist Guide. Click link.)

Various Artists (Ecko), Blues Mix 25: Slammin' Southern Soul, 9-16-18 (Scroll down this column.)

Jeter Jones, Dhis Him, 9-3-18 (Contained in the Jeter Jones Artist Guide. Click link.)

David Brinston, Kitty Whipped, 8-12-18 (Contained in the David Brinston Artist Guide. Click link.)

Big G, Lonely Tears, 7-15-18 (Contained in the Big G Artist Guide. Click link.)

Various Artists (CDS), Southern Soul Smashes 7, 7-9-18 (Scroll down this column.)

C-Wright, I Bluez Myself, 6-18-18 (Contained in the new C-Wright Artist Guide. Click link.)

Solomon Thompson, Good Damn Music, 6-6-18 (Contained in the new Solomon Thompson 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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November 19, 2018:

CAROLYN STATEN: Ladies Night (Michael Darden/Firefyre Records) Five Stars ***** A Can't Miss Debut. Pure Southern Soul Heaven. An abundance of great singles by new female artists have populated the southern soul charts the last two or three years, but great albums by women have been another story--a rung too wide, as it were, a hurdle too high. Vets Lacee and Sweet Angel and recent arrivals Adrena, Rosalyn Candy and Ms. Portia, among others, have published albums to scant reception, while labels like CDS and Coday have avoided any new females and ever-dependable Ecko Records has struggled to find fresh material for its headliner, Ms. Jody. So the emergence of an aspiring independent producer like Mike Darden, coming on the heels of Keith Taylor's emergence as producer/performer P2K (elsewhere this page) is especially welcome.

Carolyn Staten's album Ladies Night is the best debut by a female vocalist since last year's southern soul coming-out of Sharnette Hyter (strangely absent and sorely missed on both the recording and touring scenes in 2018), and Mike Darden's songs and arrangements for Staten's Ladies Night comprise the finest, album-length work by a female in the southern soul genre since Floyd Hamberlin's 2017 collaboration with Nellie "Tiger" Travis on the one indisputably successful, female collection of the last couple of years, Mr. Sexy Man: The Album. It's no coincidence that both albums, Travis' and Statens', benefit from top-notch writer/producers at the top of their game, Hamberlin the aging master and Darden the young gun.

Darden, who has been bubbling up the southern soul charts with sporadic hits for artists such as Adrena ("Better Thangs") and Miss Mini ("That Act Right"), makes good on the promise hinted at in those singles with an outstanding collection of compositions for Ms. Staten, whose husky, no-nonsense phrasings perfectly suit the steady pounding of Darden's dominant themes of female empowerment and the bawdy celebration of love.

Staten's "Thump Mr. DJ" (the only track from the album not written by Darden--Carolyn wrote it) crashed the charts exactly a year ago, November 2017, powered by Darden's seductive rhythm track and Ms. Staten's unique, low-register vocal. Lending the song even more allure was the curious title, "Thump Mr. DJ".

Does a deejay "thump"? Not really, but a "house" beat booming from gigantic speakers does. The "thump" of the title gave the tune a bit of mystery, an identity, in the way Floyd Hamberlin gave "Mr. Sexy Man" a twist--a singularity--by transforming the commonplace phrase, "What's your name?" to "What yo name is?"

Darden serves up an even more high-profile classic with "Mr. Ain't Gone Do Right," a guitar-friendly instrumental track that dollops up generous helpings of the slinky melody along with some of the most deliciously-detailed lyrics of this or any era.

"He won't keep no job.
That ship's done sailed.
And every time he goes to jail
You got to pay his bail."

Or...

"He won't feed the damned dog,
Unless you remind him,
And when you need a man around
You can never find him."

Staten's vocal (beginning with a great voice-over) is unflaggingly powerful, yet full of personality, shifting from honeyed to scathing with thrilling variance, giving you the same comfortable buzz you used to get listening to Marvin Season sing "Hoochie Momma".

Listen to Carolyn Staten singing "Mr. Ain't Gone Do Right" on YouTube.

A new single from the album, "Just The Way You Want It," has been out for a couple of months, and an even newer single, the title tune "Ladies' Night," is coming out soon. "Just The Way You Want It" has a thematic connection with another tune, "This Luvin".

"This loving don't come free,
And you ain't gone rush it,"

Staten says in "This Luvin," adding--

"You wanna get this loving,
But I ain't no fool.
You got to go to work,
And pay your dues."

"This Luvin" comes early in the album. "Just The Way You Want It" comes later, and now Carolyn is singing a different tune.

"I know I made you wait.
I had to get to know you.
You done paid your dues.
I've got some things I want to show you."

Listen to Carolyn Staten singing "Just The Way You Want It" on YouTube.

Together, the two tunes form a satisfying arc of emotional involvement that gives the album a story-like quality. Both songs are lovingly produced, "Just The Way You Want It" with an acoustic interlude. There's a timelessness to the arrangements. They sound modest yet pack a punch, and Darden has so thoroughly absorbed southern soul techniques these songs could have been recorded twenty years ago. Still, they're absolutely up to date and cutting-edge.

"Wall To Wall" and "Ladies Night" also share a duality. They're party songs, but party songs with a distinct romantic bent. "Wall To Wall" cruises along on a "stepping" tempo. The attention to detail is amazing, with string backgrounds, keyboard fills, background singing (including male) all contributing to the flow.

One of the charms of this album is its grit, and grit is the very essence of a pair of bluesier vehicles, "Jody Ain't Got No Job" and "Used To Stay". The uptempo "Jody Ain't Got No Job" features an amusing, deep-voiced "Jody," while "Used To Stay" ("This is not your home/It's where you used to stay.") is a blues lament in the style of David Brinston's "Somebody's Cuttin' My Cake". Once again, the hook is a keeper, and Carolyn's vocal meshes with Darden's textured instrumental track like Crystal Thomas on a Beat Flippa track. The comparison is apt, because Staten resembles no other current singer as much as Thomas in her God-given talent and larger-than-life ability to project.

There really isn't a tune on Carolyn Staten's debut you wouldn't want to hear coming over your radio or streaming device. Thanks to producer Michael Darden, Ms. Staten has delighted us with one of those rare albums you can listen to over and over again with renewed pleasure and surprise.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Carolyn Staten's new Ladies Night album at Amazon.

Buy Carolyn Staten's new LADIES NIGHT album at CD Baby.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Carolyn Staten.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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September 16, 2018:

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Blues Mix 25: Slammin' Southern Soul (Ecko Records) Three Stars *** Solid. The Artists' Fans Will Enjoy.

The new sampler from Ecko Records in Memphis, BLUES MIX VOL. 25: SLAMMIN' SOUTHERN SOUL, features Rick Lawson's "I Done Found Your Good Thang," an "answer" song to Terry Wright's popular "I Done Lost My Good Thang" (Coday Records).

Listen to Terry Wright singing "I Done Lost My Good Thang" on YouTube.

The Lawson single debuted to a mixed reception this past summer. Currently (September 2018) a Daddy B. Nice Featured Artist of the Month, the formerly gospel-based Lawson recorded a series of albums for Ecko Records in the first five years of the new century, establishing himself as a respected journeyman artist in the southern soul genre but never achieving a breakthrough hit single. The new single is his first newly-minted record in over a decade.

The late Denise LaSalle's "I'm Still The Queen (Blues Mix)" with a nice bass line and stepping tempo, was first recorded at Ecko Records for her 2002 Still The Queen album. This updated version features a little more guitar, courtesy of John Ward.

Mr. Sam and O.B. Buchana team up on the well-received "Did You Put Your Foot In It?" The baffling lyrics (to the uninitiated) are a take-off on Theodis Ealey's southern soul classic, "Stand Up In It". The liner notes say the song was previously unreleased, but O.B. recorded it on his Ecko-label album of 2009, It's My Time, and Mr. Sam recorded a slightly different version for his Make Time For Her album in 2017. This one's a classic, if you consider yourself a southern soul fan, and the back-and-forth between Sam and O.B., with Sam obligingly taking on the "younger" role, is a high moment in contemporary chitlin' circuit annals.

"Party Time," listed in the album liner notes as performed by the Pyramid City Band ("pyramid city" a reference to Memphis), is also listed in YouTube as the Paul Child Band. (Lee Gibbs is given credit for the songwriting.) The deep bass lead vocal of "Party Time" will have longtime music fans scratching their heads trying to figure out the song's antecedent, and after some scratching of my bald pate I finally hit on it. It's Laid Back's (a white Euro dance band's) huge club hit from the 80's, "The White Horse," and "Party Time" swipes not only the original's cavernous-bass vocal but hook and tempo as well, with predictably catchy results.

The rest of the collection features seamlessly-transitioned, professionally-produced--yet derivative and on the whole forgettable--outings by Ecko-affiliated artists spanning the last twenty years, with sexual hijinks the unapologetic order of the day. Val McKnight checks in with "Watch That Booty Do". Rick Lawson appears a second time with "Cheatin' Ain't Easy To Do". David Brinston signs in with "Bounce That Booty," and Luther Lackey makes a rare Ecko-label appearance with "Jody's Got My Problems".

With another nod to Theodis Ealey's "Stand Up In It," O.B. Buchana extols the virtues of "Slow Lick It," while Donnie Ray "answers" Rue Davis's "Honey Poo" with "She's My Honey Bee". Jaye Hammer sings "I'm Gonna Hit That Thang," and Ms. Jody sums up the set's tongue-in-cheek cheating and fucking preoccupations with a routine blues called "We Got To Cheat On Schedule".

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Ecko Records' VARIOUS ARTISTS: BLUES MIX VOL. 25: SLAMMIN' SOUTHERN SOUL (explicit) at Amazon.

Listen to full cuts of VARIOUS ARTISTS: BLUES MIX VOL. 25: SLAMMIN' SOUTHERN SOUL on YouTube.

Buy Ecko Records' VARIOUS ARTISTS: BLUES MIX VOL. 25: SLAMMIN' SOUTHERN SOUL at iTunes.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

July 9, 2018:
VARIOUS ARTISTS: Southern Soul Smashes 7 (CDS Records) Three Stars *** Solid. The Artists' Fans Will Enjoy.


First, a disclaimer. Southern Soul Smashes 7 contains one of my favorite songs of all time, Carl Marshall's "I've Lived It All". I put it right up there with Peggy Scott-Adams' "I'm Willing To Be Your Friend" as one of the greatest rants-slash-sermons--and songs--ever recorded. In the barnyard of southern soul, Carl Marshall's "I've Lived It All" is the rooster crowing at dawn, and his gutsy, vividly autobiographical vocal is the farmer calling his hogs--"Soooooo-eeiiiee!"--(think of them as his fellow artists) to the morning trough.

Carl Marshall had actually lost this song from his early career. I had to send my copy of "I Lived It All" back to him to remaster and publish, which he has now done two or three times since. "I've Lived It All" is distinguished by a template-forging, gut-bucket-raw rhythm track, an amazingly communicative lead guitar, and--topping it all off--a soaring, swooping, bagpipe-like keyboard/organ flying the melody like a tattered flag.

"I was out on my own
At the age of twelve,
From a kid to a man,
I caught plenty of hell."

Listen to Carl Marshall singing "I've Lived It All" on YouTube.

Marshall's vocal fuses the desperation of the blues with the zealotry of a preacher and the immediacy of a rapper. When I asked Marshall in a 2009 interview about his early life, he actually broke out into the lyrics of "I've Lived It All" without realizing it. I immediately roared with recognition and the success of the interview was assured.

I've always thought "I've Lived It All" was Carl's true signature song, that it's more relevant and accessible, that it would pull in a lot more audience than "Good Loving Will Make You Cry," which--let's face it--came to its fullest fruition with the Bigg Robb/Carl Marshall collaboration on "Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry (Remix)". Bowing to popular opinion and Marshall's own perspective, however, I've kept "Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry" at #1 and "I've Lived It All" at #2.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Carl Marshall.

Southern Soul Smashes, along with companion series Southern Soul and Party Blues, is the brainchild of CDS Records' executive producer Dylann DeAnna (formerly out of California, now Ohio), and his samplers are a version of Ecko Records' longer-lived Blues Mix compilations.

CDS also publishes the Ricky White / Combination series of samplers, and White, like former CDS producer Marshall before him, mans the production on three of this album's generous fourteen tracks.

I'm on record as wishing Ricky White never touched the "programming horns" lever, but even the Ricky White-produced tracks--Donnie Ray's "Grown Folks Spot" (remember, Donnie Ray recently left Ecko for CDS), Gregg A. Smith's "Can You Still Drop It," and Ricky's own "Grown & Sexy"--are professionally done, with strong, bouncing rhythm tracks that are hard to deny. In fact, there really isn't a bad tune on this entire album.

My least favorite is probably everybody else's favorite: Donnie Ray's. "Grown Folks Spot" is too brassy and gleaming in Ricky White's style. My vision of who Donnie Ray is...Dare I say more homespun?

And although Donnie Ray's "Grown Folks Spot" has 5,000 YouTube views (I didn't expect that many), nothing speaks to the disconnect between the southern soul old guard of Donnie Ray's day and the much more vibrant and expansive southern soul scene of 2018 than the fact that even a song by a relatively new and largely unknown performer like Adrian Bagher can routinely draw 100,000 (!) YouTube views.

On his own song, "Grown And Sexy," White tones down the faux-horns, while the solid rhythm track, decent melody and worthy vocal result in a more satisfying record. In fact, in spite of my aversion to the programmed horns, I found myself grooving to "Grown And Sexy" with ease.

Gregg A. Smith is represented by "Can You Still Drop It?" He was one of Daddy B. Nice's original Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (1990-2010), and yet, so quiescent has the Texas recording artist's career been that his #1-rated tune all these years, "Stacked In The Back," has never found its way to YouTube.

Ironically, the gap between what Smith has "done" and what's "out there" for people to hear is what makes Southern Soul Smashes 7 such a compelling document. One needs to catch up.

Take Mr. Zay, another "blast from the past" and, like Gregg A. Smith, an original and permanent member of Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 Southern Soul Artists (1990-2010). Zay did the first version of Luther Lackey's "She Only Wants To See Me On Friday".

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Mr. Zay.

This is a sampler that's easy to overlook because it lacks contemporary "A-list" performers. Nellie "Tiger" Travis is on deck with "Let's Get It Poppin'", from her 2009 I'm In Love With A Man I Can't Stand album.

But while Nellie and the late Big Cynthia appear, most of the artists featured on Southern Soul Smashes 7 are not household names, even in the Deep South.

And DeAnna isn't searching for the new (i.e. the hottest, the latest) talent here. He's ferreting in the niches and crevices, the borders and frontiers, of southern soul, looking for the questionably-authentic or unjustifiably-overlooked. His is a search for "B-list" and even more obscure veterans who, through whatever exigencies, have been unable to bring their creative dreams to full fruition.

And the best tracks on this album? Those by the "unknowns". Blind Ricky McCants, Jim Bennett, Garland Green, Vel Omarr and Lonnie Robinson. Even Clarence Dobbins--an original partner of DeAnna's in forming CDS Records, the "C" in "CDS".

Garland Green's "Happy Street" typifies the rewards of this sampler. An obscure artist, a never-heard song, and yet a surprisingly professional outing, with a hook that makes one want to listen again.

Same goes for Vel Omarr's "My Love Grows". Everything about this ballad pleases: the modest arrangement, the vulnerable vocal. At times you expect Omarr to break into Ben E. King's "Stand By Me"; at others, into Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come".

The most original music in the set belongs to the still largely unknown Blind Ricky McCants. Possessing an idiosyncratic and memorable voice, the Charleston, South Carolina artist is a singer, writer and producer who has worked as a bassist and background singer with the likes of Clarence Carter, Roy C and many others. McCants' "Sugar Daddy" reworks the melodic structure of Nellie "Tiger" Travis's "If I Back It Up," forging something new. McCants also checks in with "Hot Damn! (Jook & Jam)".

Jim Bennett's "Right Man, Wrong Doctor" is another fascinating song by an artist who's never had a break-through hit. If you like "Right Man, Wrong Doctor," check out Bennett's "Body Roll" and his performances with Lady Mary on YouTube. See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Jim Bennett.

Lonnie Robinson closes the set with "Two Women". The title should really be "Two Women For Every Man In This Club". Robinson charted here with "Outside Woman" in 2011. Following Carl Marshall's "I Lived It All" is a hard act to follow; to Robinson's immense credit, he has the depth to do it.

This album is a low-key alternative and respite from the roller-coaster of excitement, profanity and hyperbole (i.e. Big Pokey Bear, Bishop Bullwinkle, O.B. Buchana, Big Yayo, Johnny James, Cold Drank, not to mention numerous female singers) that is currently--and probably always was and always will be--the rage in southern soul.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Southern Soul Smashes 7 at Amazon.

Buy Southern Soul Smashes 7 at iTunes.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide
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