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Southern Soul Corner April 2013

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Corner Talk: Quite a bit of new music of note has been released in recent weeks that we have not yet gotten to in great detail here at Southern Soul Corner. Just out from our friends at CDS Records: Combination, a multi-artist collection of previously released hot singles like Ricky White's Shake as well as several new tracks. There are duets with Ricky as well as great individual selections from Betty Padgett, Kimberly Adams, Jerry L, Bobbye 'Doll' Johnson and Gwen White. Ecko Records continues to roll out the Blues and Soul compilations – the latest is entitled Blues Mix 10: Super Soul Music, twelve tracks that includes an O.B. Buchana/Sir Charles Jones collaboration as well as tunes from Mr. Sam, Sheba Potts-Wright, Sir Ced, Jaye Hammer, Sonny Mack, Ms. Jody and David Brinston. Yet another outstanding CDS compilation released in February: Soul Blues Sampler 1 features strong cuts by Cicero Blake, Randolph Walker, Stephanie Pickett, Sir Jonathan Burton, Carl Sims, Vel Omarr, Carl Marshall, Prince Ronnie Love and many more.

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Also from CDS, Jerry L follows up hit tune She's Got That Ooo Wee with an album release of A Million Women, thirteen tracks of soulful grooves, old and new. I'm liking It's Gonna Be Good To See You Again and Get Busy Loving You.  An underrated (in the Corner's opinion) James Smith just released Get Off My Track on the Coday label, a ten cut drop with some jumpin' joints including I Miss You Baby, Bad Habit and Plumber Man. Ms. Bertha Payne's March release of  It's The Blues In Me is already receiving some action. Lead tracks are It's Friday, I'm Not Your Fool Anymore and Let The Party Get Started.

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Wendell B.'s 2012 release of Get To Kno' Me is currently riding high in the #1 spot for April on the Southern Soul, Rhythm & Blues Albums Top 40 chart. A smooth and mellow vocalist, he is a contemporary crooner with some occasional hip-hop blasts in the mix. His singing idols growing up included Barry White, Freddie Jackson and Luther Vandross. I believe the phrasing and style of Wendell's music could be accepted as hits in today's R&B and Pop world if that were the target market.

 

St. Louis based Wendell Brown first burst onto the Southern Soul scene in the mid-2000's as a solo artist after spending more than two decades as a member of various vocal groups. Good Times, his first album in the genre, contained the simple balladry of well accepted songs like Just Don't Understand Me and Heaven Sent Me An Angel. Subsequent album releases have included a set of Christmas mixes, Save A Little Room For Me, and Love, Life and Relationships, both in the 2007 time frame.  Wendell later uniquely dropped two full CD’s on the same March 2010 date on his own Smoothway Records label, In Touch With My Southern Soul  and  Back Ta Bid’ness. Hit singles over this period in time: She Didn't Have To Hurt Ya Boy Like That, This Ain't Livin', Step, Mississippi Girl, The Best Time I Ever Had In My Life, Working On The Building, I Can Deal With The Leaks.

 

Wendell B.'s latest has a few more upbeat tunes than his usual fare -  Celebrate Cho-Day, We Stepping Out Ta Night and Good Man are examples. The latter was a successful advance single release that has received significant air time. The album, however, is mainly slow to mid-tempo jams, which has become Wendell's classic roll. It has the type of silky grooves I would have on the car CD player while cruising down a two lane country road on a warm spring night, with both the music and the darkness challenging my aging driving skills.....LOL. From an overall Southern Soul perspective, I would describe Wendell B.'s music as 'somewhat different, but certainly relevant'! 

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Soul/bluesman Grady Champion was one of twenty eight siblings while growing up in rural Mississippi. He was no stranger to hard work, having been raised on a farm. Singing in the church was Grady's first real exposure to music. After a move to Florida and a series of occupational tries, Grady recorded and released his own album, deciding to try to make it as a performer. Becoming more proficient on harmonica, guitar, singing and songwriting, Champion signed on with Shanachie Records in 1999, releasing his first album on the label, Payin' For My Sins, thirteen tracks most of which Grady penned or co-wrote.  His 2001 follow-up, 2 Days Short Of A Week, contained more Champion written tunes, several of which were not lacking in social commentary, such as Policeman Blues and Children Of The Corn.

 

Grady Champion's first significant crossover in Southern Soul came from his 2011 Dreamin' album on GSM Records. Make That Monkey Jump was the juke joint favorite that took off for the club and radio jocks. Cross That Bridge also got some burn as well. This year's Tough Times Don't Last on the Grady Shady Music label is yet another outstanding Champion album. Trust Yourself is the soulful groove that is already charting here on our Top 45. My Time Baby, Glory Train, On The Road and Broken Down Cadillac all have that smoky barroom flavor with nice rhythm tracks that make for good dance steppers. Twelve tracks, including a Christmas song, all with Champion signature penmanship, this guy has quite a future still ahead as a songwriter as well as performer!

 

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Have you heard of a kick butt female singing duo called Lady? Many folks likely have not, they have only been together a short while. Both Terri Walker and Nicole Wray had extensive vocalist experience before getting together. Walker had previously recorded four solo albums as well as singing backup for the likes of Fergie and Jennifer Hudson. Wray's resume included working with Missy Elliot, Cam'ron and the Black Keys. Both ladies, however, had a common love for late '60's/early '70's Soul music.

 

Hooking up with Truth & Soul Records (a label that includes Lee Fields, no stranger to Southern Soul) the ladies first recorded and released a couple of singles. Their self-titled album just dropped in March of this year and, OMG, what an album it is – the throwback sounds of Stax, Motown and Chess all rolled into one great package. The advance singles, Money and Get Ready, are included but that is just the beginning. Eleven tracks of jump back jack retro Soul with a modern flair,  they are all good - the five I am currently featuring are Please Don't Do It Again, Hold On, If You Wanna Be My Man, Sweet Lady and Waiting On You. This album is awesome, check it out if you can!

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Performing legend Cicero Blake's singing and songwriting career stretches all the way back to the late '50's - he recorded his first official studio music fifty-one years ago! Born in Jackson, Mississippi, his family migrated to Chicago, where he got his start as a teenager singing in various vocal groups. Although Blake was never a well known Soul star, many of his Windy City based singles recorded in the '60's and '70's are now Northern Soul collectables. Cicero was the opening act on occasion for some of the greats of that era: Jackie Wilson, Chuck Jackson, James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Jerry Butler. All the while, Blake served the public as a full time member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners for many years.

 

Later trending more toward the Blues, Cicero did the festival circuit for as much as his schedule would allow. He began recording and releasing albums in the genre in the late '80's, the first two on the California based Valley Vue label (Too Hip To Be Happy, Just One Of Those Things) followed by two (Wives Night Out, Stand By Me) on Johnny Vincent's Ace Records in Mississippi. A couple of my favorite Blake tunes from this period: his great rendition of the George Jackson written Girl I'm In Love With You and the late Ronnie Lovejoy penned This Time Around. An up and coming Stan Mosley was Blake's driver as well as his opening act in the mid-'90's.

 

 Cicero's first real foray into Southern Soul was a good one – he released Ain't Nothing Wrong on Mardi Gras Records in 2003. The album contained several accomplished songwriter Floyd Hamberlin, Jr. authored tunes with the title track, Waitin' On You and It's The Weekend all making substantial radio and chart noise. He followed that up in 2008 with It's You I Need on the Hep' Me label in 2008, eleven cuts of primarily slow to mid-tempo jams.

In between, The UK based Grapevine Records released Here Comes The Heartache: The Soul Years in 2004, a twenty-four track set of many of the lost Cicero Blake singles of the '60's and '70's.

 

Blake moved over to CDS Records in 2010. The resulting first album release was I'm Satisfied, with a hit out of the chute on I Can't Go On Mrs. Jones. Also reprised were some previous Blake tunes with strong remixed versions of I'm Into Something, Dip My Dipper and Here Comes The Heartache.  Cicero's latest single, Be Careful With My Heart, is the lead off track on CDS' recent Soul Blues Sampler 1 compilation. It is so good that it made our Southern Soul Top 45 right out of the box!  Seventy-five years old and still going strong, Cicero Blake is one accomplished performer who has stood the test of time!!

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Sheba's First Ecko Release in 2001

     

One outstanding female vocalist in the Southern Soul arena that seemingly has not yet gotten the ongoing recognition as a top diva of the genre is Sheba Potts-Wright. The daughter of longtime recording artist Dr. Feelgood Potts, her early days in the business included sharing the stage with such luminaries as Willie Clayton, Shirley Brown, Marvin Sease, Quinn Golden,Vickie Baker and Pat Brown. Signing on with Ecko Records in 2001, her first album release was the self-titled Sheba, which is where I initially became familiar with her work. Although Lipstick On His Pants was the song that got everyone in the industry's attention, two outstanding tracks that were overlooked for the most part were Lover and You Were Wrong. Sheba's resonating voice almost has a pleading pitch to it as she weaves the lyrics of a song.

 

Sheba has consistently produced strong outings on Ecko, releasing an album every two years between 2002 and 2008, culminating in The Best Of Sheba Potts-Wright in 2010. Charting hits have over this time period included: Slow Roll It, I Can Bagg It Up, I Need A Cowboy to Ride My Pony, Big Hand Man, I Can Hear Your Macaroni, Private Fishing Hole, Love Fest, I'm A Bluesman's Daughter and Leave Me Alone.  Perhaps the industry critics have felt that her music had become a little too cookie cutter in the Blues vein. Sheba's most recent release on Ecko, Let Your Mind Go Back, has gotten somewhat away from that norm, likely being her best effort to date. It certainly has had a multitude of soulful songs that charted as well as received play from the various club and radio jocks. In addition to the title track, Lay Hands On Me, I've Done All I Can Do, Put Your Hands Up,  Do Me Like You Did Last Night and My Kind of Man have all gained significant notice. Sheba Potts-Wright has stayed the course - her best work could quite possibly be still ahead of her in future recordings!           

                                               

 

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