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


 

Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews

December 12, 2017: TRIPLE REVIEW!

POKEY BEAR: Bear Season (Ross Music Group) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.



VARIOUS ARTISTS: Trailride Music Vol. 1 (Music Access) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.



MISS PORTIA: All In My Feelings (Ross Music Group) Three Stars *** Solid Debut By A New Southern Soul Artist.



A few years ago...

...the viability of recording CD's in the southern soul genre was seriously in doubt. A slew of the old masters, with surnames like Taylor, Sease, Campbell, Williams, Davis, Nightingale, Blackfoot, Holloway, Mendenhall, Lovejoy, Waiters, Willis and White, had passed away. The remaining veterans, with names like Carter, Brown, Rush, LaSalle, Clayton, Latimore and Scott-Adams, were no longer recording southern soul albums in the fashion or quantity they had in their heydays. (See Daddy B. Nice's Top 100 Southern Soul chart.) But something happened as the death knell for southern soul music sounded.

An influx of new artists and potent talent arrived, willing and eager to move into the spaces the masters had vacated. (See Daddy B. Nice's New Top 100 Southern Soul chart.) And rather than decline, the number of CD's published in the southern soul arena climbed. The year just ending marks a high point in recording activity, with the albums submitted to this page for review reaching an all-time high. And yet with more reviews posted than any previous year, I still find myself in arrears, with at least three albums too important not to review waiting in queue as January 1--the little baby in the diaper--approaches.

The first and biggest is Pokey Bear's BEAR SEASON, perhaps the most significant release of the year.

The second is the latest compilation, TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1, from the resurgent southern soul hotbed of Louisiana.

And, third, is the well-sung, well-produced debut by new southern soul artist Miss Portia with ALL IN MY FEELINGS.

Apologies to Miss Portia for reviewing her with two such high-profile albums. As a new artist, her three-star debut is the equivalent of a 4 or 5-star rating for headliners like Big Pokey Bear or a sampler like Trailride Music Volume 1. But more than year-end expediency binds these three albums together. Pokey Bear and Miss Portia appear frequently in all three discs, as does wunderkind Louisiana producer Beat Flippa, who produced the majority of the tracks from all three.

Miss Portia broke into southern soul music in 2014 on the Louisiana Blues Brotha's breakthrough album...

Love On The Bayou, accompanying Tyree Neal on "I'm Still Wearing Your Name." A year later, Portia's visibility took a big step forward with fellow newcomer Veronica Ra'elle (accompanied by veteran diva Lacee) on the popular "answer" song to Pokey Bear's southern-soul-earth-shifting "My Sidepiece". The song: "My Sidepiece Reply".

Since then Miss Portia, the performing name of Portia Palmer, has been busy recording singles, making videos and touring. With the backing of producer Beat Flippa, her debut album ALL IN MY FEELINGS has a clarity and depth unusual for a first effort. Flippa's instrumental tracks--hiphop-crisp rhythm sections, deep-soul organ at times, sparkling acoustic-guitar runs at others-- flesh out bare-bones melodies in tunes powerfully sung by Portia:

Listen to Miss Portia singing "Use What I Got" on YouTube.

Listen to Miss Portia and Pokey Bear singing "It's Gon' Cost You" on YouTube.

In both these no-nonsense declarations Miss Portia transforms little more than chants into bonafide musical vehicles through the sheer passion in her singing. Portia--in English literature the romantic heroine of Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"--makes no bones about being the street-wise woman who can deal with the "playa" types. Nevertheless, a duet with Ra'Shad (The Blues Kid), "You're All That I Need," revels in unlikely romance (and also delights in a full-fledged melody). But that track is the exception. More characteristic is the duet with Pokey Bear, "It Ain't Go Work"--also featured on Pokey's Bear Season--in which Miss Portia answers two wailing verses of Pokey Bear's marital discontent with an even more impressive verse of her own to close out the tune. Her vocal radiates authenticity and grit, and in this particular instance she "steals the show"

Miss Portia harks back to the great girl groups of the sixties, singers like Darlene Love on hits like "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "He's A Rebel". And you could look no further than Love's "Today I Met The Boy I'm Going To Marry" for a precursor to the marvelously-sung, gospel-drenched title cut, "All In My Feelings".

Mmmm... Phil Spector, producer of Darlene Love in rock and roll, to Beat Flippa, producer of Miss Portia in southern soul?...

There are some parallels, the most obvious being the demonstrativeness of their respective styles and the resulting "freshness" in their respective eras and genres. Which brings us to Beat Flippa's newest compilation, in spite of not being advertised as such. And although TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1. is seemingly not published by the Ross Music Group (Beat Flippa is Daniel Ross), Ross's fingerprints are all over the collection, and fans can correctly assume the new sampler is on a par with the excellent Beat Flippa: I Got The Blues series.

Joining Miss Portia, Pokey, Tyree and all on TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1. are Jeter Jones, whose TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED album won a glowing 5-star rating on this page earlier this year; Crystal Thomas, whose singing your Daddy B. Nice recently (Dec. 17 Singles) described as "a tour de force--black as a steer's 'tookus on a moonless night"; Sharnette Hyter, another artist whose latest album was featured and praised here in 2017; Katrenia Jefferson, whom your Daddy. B. Nice has been touting since her obscure days in Jackson, Mississippi; and, finally, Big Cynthia, whose "Swing Out" charted here at #1 in December 2016, not long before her death. First-timers Deacon Dukes, Laylla Fox, G-Sky and Sweet Nay fill out the main roster.

Here is what I wrote--without benefit of any foresight, of course--about Big Cynthia before her untimely January 3rd death.

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

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

1."Come Saddle Up" / "Swing Out"-------Big Cynthia / Big Cynthia featuring Pokey Bear

Cynthia never met a note she wanted to bend, which has arguably limited her appeal over the years. One of the longest-tenured artists in southern soul, this daughter of Junior Walker and current godmother to the Louisiana southern soul scene was recording for Avanti and Ace in the 90's. I succumbed to "Swing Out" after a couple of plays. The energy is too electric to do without. And man-of-the-moment Big Pokey submits an especially grainy, vintage-sounding vocal.


Listen to Big Cynthia and Pokey Bear singing "Swing Out" on YouTube.

The pertinent phrase from the "bullet" review is "current godmother to the Louisiana southern soul scene". After Jackie Neal, and to a lesser extent Stephanie McDee, Ms. Walker IS the house mother for contemporary southern soul-Louisiana style. Big Cynthia also contributes the catchy, zydeco-flavored "I'm Ready," a sultry duet with rising star Sharnette Hyter.

If TRAILRIDE MUSIC plays as a fitting memorial to Big Cynthia, it serves equally as a showcase for Jeter Jones, the uber-talented Louisiana artist who came out of nowhere to graft zydeco to southern soul in ways never before imagined. Jones' music is very much the heart and soul of the sampler--its thematic center--as represented by one of the most popular tunes from his Trailride Certified album, "She's Ratchet," as well as being the inspiration for one of the sampler's catchiest dance jams, "Watch My Boots, Pt. 2," a cloning of Jones' "Watch My Boots".

The new "Watch My Boots, Pt. 2," is the brainchild of yet another Ross Music Group discovery, Deacon Dukes. (Dukes also contributes the compelling "Prove My Love".) "Watch My Boots Pt. 2" features a lazy susan of singers: Jeter Jones, Pokey Bear, Miss Portia, Big Lee and Dukes.

And it might be said that what Ross Music Group does better than any current label, including Memphis' redoubtable Ecko Records, is to absorb and roll out exciting new artists with astounding regularity.

...But the biggest Jeter Jones gift to TRAILRIDE MUSIC is the anthology's keynote track. The "Z-B-T" in "ZBT Anthem" stands for "zydeco, blues and trail ride," and the "blues" stands for "southern soul". Most all the new RMG stars, with the exception of Cold Drank and a few others, participate in singing the verses: Pokey, Tyree, Jeter, Portia, Crystal, even rappers Blu3 Black & Gangsta.

I've described some of the best the album has to offer, but there are valleys amidst the peaks. Tyree Neal's "I'll Pay For It" irritates because it hews so closely to the Staple's classic, "Do It Again," note-to-note on the iconic bass line. And Tucka can't do anything with the remix of shrill-voiced Laylla Fox's repetitive "I Taste Like Candy." The words seem to get caught in his throat and dissolve, swallowed up in the instrumental track. And there is plenty of music in between the peaks and valleys, some better, some worse, most of it interesting, and most of it dominated--or in the lengthy shadow of--the Big Pokey Bear.

TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1 ends with a typical, musically-controversial Pokey Bear track: propulsive, repetitively-refrained, a "house"-style jam that might generate snickers if sung by anyone but this powerhouse at emoting conviction. "Pokey at the Trailride" features the Deaconaires, an offshoot, presumably, of this fascinating new character, Deacon Dukes. The hallmark of the song is a "Go Pokey!" chorus reminiscent of a Texas high-school football game. Beat Flippa spices it up with a little naked piano run, adds a little background horse-whinnying, and Pokey does what he does. Whether you succumb to its energy or shrug it off with a polite "no thanks," it's typical of the album's overall creativity.

...At times I regret giving this fine sampler only 4 stars. I blame it on Pokey Bear, whose BEAR SEASON is even more distinguished, and deserving of putting the Big Pokey on a pedestal all by his lonesome.

Pokey's the kind of guy who can sing, over a wild, dancing-tempo-ed tune, the words--

"Take a look at Miss Cathy
With her high heels on..."


...and make you care about it--make you want to SEE it, make you want to get up and swing your hips. (From "Swing Out," the duet with Big Cynthia duplicated on both BEAR SEASON and TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1.)

I was openly skeptical of Pokey Bear's last album, the one with all the covers. Always liked that title, though: (Mr. It Ain't Fair.) I thought, "Now come on, big guy, you can show me more than this."

Well, your Daddy B. Nice is here to tell you Pokey Bear has delivered. BEAR SEASON is all you can ask of a major new southern soul star--one of a piece, daring, panoramic, above all "charged".

Pokey can sing louder and longer than anyone in the business. Every vocal is at fevered pitch. He flays his vocal cords relentlessly, the same way he whips his churning pelvis.

...You can't help but wonder if or when he'll "burn out". On "Lick That Nookie," a duet with O.B. Buchana (no "softie"), you can hardly make out O.B., and you wonder why Beat Flippa doesn't turn down the instrumentation (to over-simplify). That is, you do until Pokey Bear comes in. Suddenly the sound is just right.

I warmed to BEAR SEASON on the very first track, even though scoffing in the first few bars at the disco beat. It was "Meeting In The Ladies Room" (!), by the girl-group Klymaxx, one of those songs that makes me all warm and fuzzy remembering those great eighties' disco dance floors. Pokey's version, dominated by a blazing guitar and rhythm-guitar riff and a rare Beat Flippa vocal, is simply called Ladies Room," and I applaud Pokey for doing an upfront cover, unlike the "disguised" covers--recycled instrumental tracks dressed up in new clothes--of MR. IT AIN'T FAIR.

By the way, later in the album Pokey reprises one of those MR. IT AIN'T FAIR covers I've been criticizing--"Shake That Money Maker," a duet with Mystikal--but it's really a sample of "Genius Of Love," another great eighties jam. However, "Ladies Room" segues into another, more serious subject.

"I just got back from the doctor," says Pokey. "I got a disease. I'm addicted to women."

Here's how your Daddy B. Nice described "I Can't Be Faithful" earlier this year.

*********

-------FEBRUARY 2017-------

1. “I Can’t Be Faithful”----Big Pokey Bear featuring Bishop Bullwinkle

The two biggest new stars in southern soul music team up for the first time on a Beat Flippa-produced track that continues Pokey’s theme of being “addicted to the women.” Hewing to his theme of preaching about worldly evils, in this case Pokey’s, Bishop Bullwinkle stuns with his crystal-clear clarity and tone, proving he’s not just a novelty act but a unique vocalist.

Watch the official video starring Pokey Bear and Bishop Bullwinkle.

*********


"Ladies Room" and "Faithful" commence an incredible opening run for BEAR SEASON. "I Can't Be Faithful" segues into "Naked," which is credited to The Louisiana Blues Brothas. Writer Tyree Neal's composing style is as languid as ice cream on a hot southern afternoon--I don't know if he's ever written an uptempo tune--but "Naked," with Beat Flippa's church-service-like organ swirling around the subtle, swinging melody, is perfect. Even Pokey Bear settles into something akin to sensitivity and finesse.

"I've got a woman on the other side of town," Pokey sings, "says she needing me," and the syllables of the lyric fit like jigsaw pieces perfectly into the tempo. "She said she wanna get naked."

Then, with three boffo numbers under his belt, Pokey Bear keeps the pedal to the floor with "In The Mood," a mid-tempo duet with Cupid.

"I'm so excited," Pokey croons. "To be dancing with you."

Cupid has done so many duets you can find them at your local flea market "a dime a dozen," few of them memorable, but "In The Mood" is an exception, with a likable melody, a groovy beat and a steady producing hand by the ever-present Beat Flippa. And, as in "Naked," Pokey shows his tender side to great effect. When Cupid's refreshingly romantic voice joins in, the contrast is just right. The song swells into something akin to an anthem.

Next up is yet another duet with a headliner, Lacee. Everybody wants to sing with Pokey, and southern soul's every-woman diva shines on "We Belong Together," a ballad of regret in which Pokey Bear once again defies expectations--and refutes what your Daddy B. Nice said above about always "flaying" his vocal cords--with yet another contemplative vocal. This evocative string of duet-ballads--with Tyree, Cupid and Lacee--lends the album a depth and coloration surprising for a Pokey Bear project.

Never mind. Pokey soon returns to a party-hardy frame of mind with the gravelly rapping of Mystikal ("Shake That Money Maker"), the torrid duet with O.B. ("Lick Dat Nookie"), the chiding rant "Don't Call Me," the domestic dysfunction with Miss Portia ("It Ain't Go Work"), the alley-cat wailing with Deacon Dukes ("House Ain't A Home"), and the wild, flailing dance rhythm of his duet with Big Cynthia ("Swing Out").

But as good as these tracks are, (not to mention a couple of others that follow, especially "Floating Without A Paddle"), they still don't prepare you for the mesmerizing pull of the Pokey Bear/Crystal Thomas duet "All I Want Is You".

Listen to Big Pokey Bear and Crystal Thomas singing "All I Want Is You" on YouTube.

Crystal Thomas broke into southern soul a couple years ago accompanying Jeter Jones on record and tour, and she published an uneven debut album, Lyrical Gumbo, reviewed here in 2016. The finest single from the album was "Country Girl," but nothing on the album or even the single quite hints at the breathtaking confidence and authority and fluid easiness of Crystal Thomas's vocal on "All I Want Is You".

Crystal sings like Ella Fitzgerald might have sounded had she been born after rap. And the two of them--Pokey Bear and Crystal Thomas--together? Imagine a darker, bayou version of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Beat Flippa's organ steams up the glass with bayou atmosphere while Pokey and Crystal volley back and forth like the bluesiest singers on the planet.

Crystal asks,

"Do you want money?"
"No."
"Do you want cologne?"
"No."
"Do you want a pair of patent leather shoes?
"No."


And Pokey says,

"Do you need diamonds?
"No."
"Do you need a car?"
"No."
"Do you need fancy things that make you feel like a star?"
"No."


All they need is each other, folks. And all you need is ears to take in the extraordinary groove and vocal back-and-forth. Pokey Bear's true forte'? Collaborative singing. "All I Want Is You" epitomizes everything that lifts this album into "southern soul heaven": energy, life, musicianship and blacker-than-midnight soul.

--Daddy B. Nice


Buy Pokey Bear's BEAR SEASON CD at CD Baby.

Buy Pokey Bear's BEAR SEASON (EXPLICIT) CD at Amazon.

Buy Pokey Bear's BEAR SEASON CD at iTunes.

Buy TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1 at Amazon.

Buy TRAILRIDE MUSIC VOL. 1 at iTunes.

Buy Miss Portia's ALL IN MY FEELINGS CD at CD Baby.

Buy Miss Portia's ALL IN MY FEELINGS CD at iTunes.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide



November 12, 2017:

RA'SHAD (THE BLUES KID): Country Soul (Mondo Tunes) Three Stars *** Solid Debut By A New Southern Soul Artist.

COUNTRY SOUL is the first album by a young artist from Laurel, Mississippi. Fans of "grown folks, good-times" sounds in the vein of Lomax's "Swing It" (or prior to that Mel Waiter's "Swing Out Song") may want to check him out. A nominee for Best Southern Soul Debut Artist of 2016, singer/songwriter Ra'Shad McGill, recording as Ra'Shad The Blues Kid, first struck pay dirt with the mid-tempo "Shake It".

Listen to Ra'Shad singing "Shake It" on YouTube.

Charting at SouthernSoulRnB in August '16, the gently-rocking dance tune reminded your Daddy B. Nice of vintage Lee "Shot" Williams in its singer's casual singing style and sensual intimacy. Ra'Shad returned to the charts in September '17, coinciding with the album release, with "Go Get It," a duet with L.J. Echols.

Listen to Ra'Shad and L.J. singing "Go Get It" on YouTube.

Your Daddy B. Nice praised the "great, chunky rhythm track--almost like listening to reggae's archetypal rhythm section of Sly & Robbie". But while giving credit for the instrumentation to Echols, the unpretentious pleasure generated by the melody and vocal were all Ra'Shad's.

Meanwhile, Ra'Shad wasted no time, parlaying his debut single ("Shake It") into all-important touring dates and networking with other like-minded musicians. One such joint effort is "You're All That I Need," a duet with Miss Portia from her upcoming debut album, All In My Feelings.

More at home, Ra'Shad teams with Napoleon Demps on the zydeco-tinged "Saddle Up," a hit-worthy track from COUNTRY SOUL with the goods to match if not surpass the popularity of "Shake It".

Watch the official video of Ra'Shad and Napoleon singing "Saddle Up" on YouTube.

Ra'Shad was also featured on a song from Napoleon's debut album from last year, the compilation Southern Soul, Vol. 1.

Listen to Ra'Shad and Napoleon singing "Never Get It All" on YouTube.

"Get It All" is wisely reprised on COUNTRY SOUL.

Another highlight of Ra'Shad's new album is his partnering with the renowned young gun of southern soul, J-Wonn, on The Blues Kid's signature single.

Listen to Ra'Shad and J-Wonn singing "Shake It (The Remix)" on YouTube.

In fact, what may be most impressive about Ra'Shad's first effort is the sureness of the artist's grasp of southern soul. There are hardly any of the mis-steps characteristic of typical debuts. A song like the mid-tempo but rocking-out "Good Love," for example, isn't a head-turner, but for what it is, it's done well.

And yet there is one such exception--and mis-step--on the CD: the mall-generic, straight-blues "Dance". "Dance" could have been recorded by a million other blues artists. On "Dance" Ra'Shad becomes anonymous.

Listen to Ra'Shad singing "Dance" on YouTube.

The point is that only Ra'Shad The Blues Kid could have recorded "Shake It" or "Saddle Up" or the heartfelt "I Love The Blues" or the other tracks on Country Soul. Suddenly Ra'Shad becomes one IN a million, not one OF a million. Ra'Shad already understands this, as attested to by the rest of COUNTRY SOUL, and that's a huge step forward in his budding career.

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Ra'Shad's new Country Soul CD at Amazon.

Sample/Buy Ra'Shad's new Country Soul CD at iTunes.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Ra'Shad.

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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

Write to

daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com

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

October 30, 2017:

MS. JODY: Thunder Under Yonder (Ecko Records) Four Stars **** Distinguished Effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

Your Daddy B. Nice was listening to a National Public Radio interview with an African-American educator from Memphis, Tennessee (coincidentally the home of Ecko Records) the other day. She was bemoaning the divide between the rural culture of the black Deep South and the urbanized, sophisticated and socially-progressive culture of the cities--Memphis, Atlanta, etc. I was taken aback by her total antipathy and denigration of the country and small-town folks--not to mention lower-income strata of the cities--who make up the audience for southern soul music. According to her, the culture of the African-American Delta, with its "sins" of sexual profligacy, single parenthood, economic hardship, poor diet, alcoholism and the like should be eradicated for the betterment of all.

While most people would agree that her list of the black community's woes are problematic, I couldn't help thinking how elitist her comments sounded. Exactly like the urban white progressives' writing-off of rural, white middle-America that brought Donald Trump to power. As with the divide between white urban techies and white, mid-American common folk, the black educator had absolutely no feeling for the underlying work ethic, stalwart spirit or old-fashioned virtues of friendliness, loyalty, religiosity, humility, humor and respect for tradition that make the black Deep South one of the most fertile and cohesive cultural matrixes in the world. And yet, this is the social prejudice that excludes southern soul music from its own largest potential market, the urbanized African-Americans and their urban children, for whom anything less hard-edged and cynical than hiphop is somehow outdated and embarrassing.

Enter Ms. Jody. What better avatar for the traditional culture of the Delta?

"I see all the mens (sic)
Undressing me with their eyes,
They want to jump this pony
And ride, ride, ride.


(from "Ms. Jody's Energizer Slide")

Every song on Ms. Jody's new album, Thunder Under Yonder, embraces the social "incorrectness" of life and times in the Delta, and does so with a brio worthy of illustrious forbears like the just-passed Fats Domino. We need our outlaws. And where are they going to come from?

Ms. Jody's very name appropriates the traditionally male social outlaw, "Jody". Ms. Jody is the larger-than-life "Stagolee" of southern soul in this gender-equal age, and all of us, her fans--the mens and womens--get off on her breathtaking composure in "life situations" we'd much rather experience in our music than in our real lives.

I quote at length from Ms. Jody's "I Had To Lie":

"I got a friend who's a so-and so,
I been knowing him for quite some while.
I stopped by his house one day,
And things got a little wild.

After we were through making love,
I grabbed my clothes and got out of bed.
He said he wanted me to leave my husband
And be with him instead.

When I got home, y'all,
My husband met me at the door.
I just received a phone call
From old "so-and-so."

I had to lie to my husband,
I couldn't tell the truth.
I had to lie. Yes I did.
I did what I had to do.

"Baby, baby, just listen to me, please.
Because I wouldn't sleep with old so and so,
He got upset with me.
I told him I got a man at home
Who loves me and treats me kind,
And to cheat on him would never enter my mind."


Observe the upfront eroticism of Ms. Jody's narrator, the Spock-like objectivity in her telling, the lack of guilt in her act of deceiving. "Outlaw" stuff. You can be a woman who goes to church and is faithful to her husband and still chuckle, laugh and maybe even admire Ms. Jody's calculation and chutzpah.

Ms. Jody--Joanne Delapaz--wrote the lyrics, by the way, along with John Ward.

"I Had To Lie" topped the charts at #1 on Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 Southern Soul Singles in October, 2017 for reasons more musical than lyrical.

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

-------OCTOBER 2017-------

1. "I Had To Lie"------Ms. Jody

This Ms. Jody-written tune has it all: the Ms. Jody brand (naughty gal that she is) and a terrific, layered production from 2016 Arranger/Producer of the Year John Ward, incorporating a surging rhythm track, the horn riff from Nellie Travis' "If I Back It Up" and--the pièce de résistance--a beguiling background chorus. From Ms. Jody's new album, Thunder Under Yonder.


*******

The month prior, the album's title cut, "I Got That Thunder Under Yonder," charted:

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

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

9. "I Got That Thunder Under Yonder"------Ms. Jody

Listening to Ms. Jody's pristine voice as she lingers on the "R's" in "thunder" and "yonder" from the title cut of her new album is like quaffing long gulps of San Pellegrino with ice and lime wedges after going through a long bout drinking farm pond water infested with herbicides, carp and suckers.


*******

Fueled by buzzing, button-accordion fills and the occasional trickling of a deep-soul organ, the mid-tempo "Thunder Under Yonder" personifies both the musicality and universality of this CD. All the songs on Thunder Under Yonder are meant to please--and for the most part, they do.

"Ms. Jody's Energizer Slide, for example, is a techno dance number, and yet with Ms. Jody singing it, it's southern soul. "Booty Strut," which charted here in August 2017 after appearing on Ecko's Blues Mix 23 Ultimate Southern Soul, is another straight-out disco-oriented jam, complete with background vocal enhancement. At times, one has to pinch oneself to remember this is Ecko Records, the current "keeper of the flame" for traditional southern soul.

But Ms. Jody holds it all together. That's the beauty of it. As differing styles ping-pong back and forth within the set, her "swag" is effortless and constant. All these influences--and there are many more--are just spice in her southern soul gumbo, like Sam Cooke and the Latin influences back in the day. Speaking of which, there's the calypso influence of "Stir It Up," which Ms. Jody brings off with typical aplomb (as did label-mate O.B. Buchana with "Tip It Up," on his second-last Ecko album.)

Ms. Jody sums it up in her near-acapella, acoustic blues, "Where I Come From," transporting us back to the "Mississippi Boy" and "Turn Road" Delta culture that so pains the city sophisticates:

"When the work-day's done he picks me up,
And we go riding in a pickup truck.
Sometimes we start out moving slow,
Then we find that country-road mojo.

Spotlight shining all in the woods,
'Till we find that place where it's all good.
Now our friends all know where to be found,
On the pickup truck, we get down.

That's how we do it where I come from,
Me and my baby have a whole lot of fun
In a pickup truck on an old country road.
It's a party, y'all, wherever we go."


While there may be no single song of the significance of "When Your Give A Damn Just Don't Give A Damn" or the iconic sexual swagger of "Just Let Me Ride," two of her latest hits, the generous dozen cuts from Thunder Under Yonder span a carnival of styles with remarkable energy, consistency and attention to detail.

--Daddy B. Nice

(Sorry. No YouTube for this album's songs, as of this posting.)

Sample/Buy Ms. Jody's THUNDER UNDER YONDER CD at Amazon.

Sample/Buy Ms. Jody's THUNDER UNDER YONDER CD at iTunes.

See Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Ms. Jody.

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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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October 13, 2017:

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

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

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

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

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

…2. "Tootie Boot"------Stan Butler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Daddy B. Nice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

"Tell the police
His name is Bobby MacAvee."


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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

Write to

daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Pokey Bear, Bear Season, 12-12-17

Various Artists, Trailride Music Vol. 1, 12-12-17

Miss Portia, All In My Feelings, 12-12-17

Ra'Shad (The Blues Kid), Country Soul, 11-12-17

Ms. Jody, Thunder Under Yonder, 10-30-17

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

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

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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:

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

Various Artists (Ecko), Blues Mix 23: Ultimate Southern Soul 9-11-17 (Scroll down this column.)

Mo' B, Toast It Up, 8-28-17 (Scroll down this column.)

Angel Faye Russell, A Taste Of Angel, 8-28-17 (Scroll down this column.)

Uncle Wayne, The Birth of Hithm & Bluez Vol. 1, 8-28-17 (Scroll down this column.)

Jaye Hammer, Last Man Standing, 8-12-17 (Scroll down this column.)

Sharnette Hyter, Grown Folks Talkin', 8-1-17 (Contained in the Sharnette Hyter Artist Guide. Click link.)

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

El' Willie, The Game Changer, 7-1-17 (Contained in the El' Willie 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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September 11, 2017:

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Daddy B. Nice

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

August 28, 2017:

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

M0' B -- Toast It Up

ANGEL FAYE RUSSELL -- A Taste Of Angel

UNCLE WAYNE -- The Birth Of Hithm And Bluez Vol.1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Daddy B. Nice

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

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

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

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

August 12, 2017:


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


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

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


Hammer sings,

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


And...

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


And...

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


Even the chorus line is enchanting:

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


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

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

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

--Daddy B. Nice

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


And, a month after....

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

--Daddy B. Nice

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

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

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

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