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Southern Soul Corner October 2013

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Corner Talk: It is great to see Nellie 'Tiger' Travis hit #1 on The Soul and Blues Report's Top 25 with her latest single, Mr. Sexy Man. The Mound Bayou, Mississippi native is a true Soul singer with a whole lotta grit........  Patrick Green's Down To The Earth Woman has done really well on the charts of late. Wasn't the tune originally on his 2008 Popcorn Man album? Hard to believe that Patrick has been around in Southern Soul for at least a dozen years, it still seems like just yesterday that he got his start. His first album, Here Am I, was released on the Waldoxy label in 2001.........Lacee is certainly in high gear right now. The original release of Move Something from her 2011 Soulful album release was hot as a previous charter. She is now back with a remix of the tune, featuring young gun Tucka, that is also charting. Lacee also just dropped a new heart to heart type single entitled I'm At Your Mercy, which features Shirley Jones, and it has made the charts as well..........Speaking of Tucka, he has released three albums to date, the last being 2012's Love Rehab 2 – The Therapy, which contains some super smooth grooves such as Sweet Shop, Book Of Love and Forever Swing.......

 

Wilbe Records star Jeff Floyd is holding steady on the charts with Party Time. For what is now vintage Jeff, go back to his 2000 Powerhouse album and listen to the dynamite sound of Let's Git It On!........Terry Wright had a big hit in 2009 with On The Backroad. He is back strong on the charts with his latest single entitled I Done Lost My Good Thing............Soul music veteran Carl Sims recent hit Six Pack Of Common Sense extends a music career that stretches back almost fifty years. Carl, getting his start while just a teenager, was a member of the Original Bar-Kays. Travelling separately to a gig kept him off the airplane that crashed in Wisconsin in 1967, killing most of the band along with Soul superstar Otis Redding........The more I listen, the more I like Keep On Dancing, the new single from Theodis Ealey, featuring J Red. It has that classic lyrical roll that we have come to expect from the upbeat vocals of the ''Stand Up In It Man''.

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Once again, Willie Clayton is back with The Tribute One Man One Voice, Vol. II, roughly two years removed from the first release in this series. The first edition focused more on the songs of two legends in Soul music that Willie was close to as well – the late Johnnie Taylor and the late Tyrone Davis.  Volume II moves around quite a bit paying homage to several artists, many songs of which Clayton, sometimes referred to as ''one of the last great Soul men'',  has also recorded along the way. Ain't No Love (In The Heart Of The City) and I'll Take Care Of You honor the soulful and bluesman legacy of the late Bobby 'Blue' Bland, who we sadly lost earlier this year. The Chokin' Kind and Drowning In The Sea Of Love are vintage Joe Simon, who combined R&B with a Country sound to create his own brand of Soul music in the late '60's. A Woman, A Lover, A Friend was first recorded by, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest singers of all time, the late great Jackie Wilson; and also later covered by another great one, the immortal Otis Redding. Georgia On My Mind of course was a signature song from one of the original building blocks of all of Soul music, the incomparable Ray Charles.

 I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much made it all the way to #2 on the Billboard R&B Chart in 1985 for Bobby Womack.  Let The Good Times Roll? A whole host of artists have recorded some semblance of the song lyrics with that title, including Willie, but for the purposes of this album, I would say the homage is being paid to the Ray Charles and the BB King/Bobby Bland versions. Don't Make Me Pay features Willie's own crafting of the lyrics from a song recorded by legends ZZ Hill and BB King. Clayton does a bang up job here on Ain't No Way, a classic tune written in 1967 by the sister duo of Aretha and Carolyn Franklin.  Slow groove Simply Beautiful was composed by Al Green and first appeared on his 1972 I'm Still In Love With You album – Willie's version was the title track on his 1994 album release on the Ace Records label.  One tune here that is already charting is the mellow strains of Stop By, with Willie intertwining with the voice of Tyrone Davis. Tyrone's original version of the song was released on The Legendary Hall Of Famer album in late September 2004, just days after he suffered the massive stroke that eventually led to his passing in February of 2005.  Fourteen tracks all told here, paying tribute to these great foundational songs and artists of Soul music.

 

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I have been a huge Mel Waiters fan ever since the days Hole In The Wall and Swing Out Song hit radio and club play. His just released album, Dance Music Collection, is a few of the best upbeat tracks from each of his last three CDs, namely Say What's On Your Mind (2011), Got No Curfew (2012) and Poor Side Of Town (2013). Looking back at the various Southern Soul charts for the last two plus years, several of these tunes show up including When You Get Drunk, Little Girls Can't Do, My Check Is Spent, Who Got The Whiskey and Pouring Salt. Another one I really like that I missed the first time around is the rollicking Bag Of Ice (reminds me of Mel's 2001 outdoor festival single Ice Chest). Additional tunes with the Waiters bounce good for steppin' are Find A Man To Dance and It's Not Yours. One new song (at least I'm pretty sure it is new, I could not find it in the Mel Waiters catalog) that is definitely high postin' and could be a future charter is Something On Your Mind. Ten tracks in all, it's feel good party music ya'll!

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One thing the Ecko and CDS labels have in common of late, plenty of compilations are being issued containing a combination of both new and previously released tunes. The recent Blues Mix 12 Classic Soul Blues from Ecko is no exception. A couple of what I would consider outstanding songs from the label make the entire compilation worthwhile. Moans, Grunts And Groans by the late Bill Coday was one of the first big hits on the label when Ecko got its start back in 1995. It also finished at #16 on the Beach Music Top 40 for 1996. Barbara Carr's Let A Real Woman Try is a killer track that is on Soul Dog's ''shoulda charted higher'' list when it was released in 1999. OB Buchana's upbeat groove I Was Searching from his latest Starting All Over album is certainly worthy of another listen.

 

 One of the brightest of stars, Ms. Jody follows up The Bop with another similar new jam in The Rock – remember Eddy Clearwater's Boppin' At The Top Of The Rock? Sorry, it just came to mind, LOL. Jody and fellow label stalwart Donnie Ray do a nice back and forth ditty entitled I'm Gonna Keep My Love At Home. Rick Lawson checks in with a new slow and low fire burner called Lay Your Body Down.  Although Rick joined Ecko in 2001 and was once one of their lead acts, he has been pretty much missing action for several years. Part of this compilation is focused on primarily new tunes from five emerging male artists who may be vying to be the next big star at Ecko. I am talking about Jaye Hammer, Sonny Mack, Gerod Rayborn, Sir Ced and Big Poppa G. My pick of tunes out of that group would be Rayborn's Nosey Neighbors. This release was not yet available on iTunes at press time but I am sure it will be there in the next few days.                    

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 One of the most successful artists in terms of consistency in the Blues & Soul world over`the last twenty five plus years is veteran musician Johnny Rawls. His music career actually spans a much greater time frame, but Johnny really stepped out on his own beginning in the late '80's/early '90's. He is quite an accomplished producer, arranger, composer as well as instrumentalist and vocalist. Johnny has written the vast majority of the songs he has recorded over the years as well as penning many tunes for others in the business.  

 

Music was in Johnny's  bones at a very early age  - the Hattiesburg, Mississippi native turned professional while still a teenager, backing up such superstars as Joe Tex and ZZ Hill before eventually joining Memphis Soul legend OV Wright as his band director. He continued in this role for several years with the band after OV passed in 1980, sharing the stage with the likes of BB King, Little Milton and Bobby Bland. Johnny began to record and release songs with fellow guitarist LC Luckett in the late '80's while continuing to tour and perform as a solo artist. The two collaborated on an album as Rawls and Luckett with Can't Sleep At Night, released in 1994 on the Rooster Blues label.

 

Beginning in the mid-'90's, Rawls spent roughly seven years with the JSP label, composing, arranging and producing for several key artists (including his daughter Destini) while still finding the time to record and release four top quality solo albums. Johnny's music really flourished and became well defined during his years at JSP, creating his own distinctive while recognizable sound. Killer Rawls singles from this period include Bad Reputation, I've Been Lookin', I'll Be Alright, Gonna Keep On, Put Your Trust In Me, How Much Longer, Here We Go, Back In Your Arms, I Been Broken Hearted and Hit By A Truck.  His time at the UK based label culminated with the album release of Get Up And Go: The Best Of The JSP Years in 2002.

 

Johnny created his own label, Deep South Sound (later re-named Deep South Soul) to continue to capture the rhythmic groove of today that also paid homage to the soulful sounds from the '60's and '70's.  As well as releasing four albums on this label between 2002 and 2007, Johnny teamed up with Roy Roberts to drop Partners And Friends in 2004. Rawls album producing skills also extended over to Topcat Records by recording No Boundaries with The Rays, released in 2005. Johnny was named R&B Vocalist of the Year by The West Coast Blues Hall of Fame in 2006. His Heart And Soul release received a nomination from The Blues Foundation for Best Soul Blues Album for 2007. Some of what I would list as the best singles from this period are Lucky Man, Missing You, Ain't That Love, One Good Woman, Make Up Your Mind, Can't You See, What's Been Going On, Reach Out, How Long,  Train Keep Rolling and You're My Girl.

 

The next segment of Johnny's stellar career has been captured by the El Paso, Texas based Catfood Records, a period in which he has been rewarded with well deserved recognition.  His first two albums on the label, Red Cadillac (2008) and Ace Of Spades (2009), won Critics Choice Awards for the Best Southern Soul Album of the Year from Living Blues Magazine. Ace Of Spades also won The Blues Foundation's Award for Best Soul Blues Album for 2010.  His Memphis Still Got Soul release again won the Living Blues Best Southern Soul Album for 2011. Johnny has been nominated for The Blues Foundation's Best Soul Blues Male Artist four out of the last five years. Outstanding singles from this latest era include Flying Blind, Give You What You Need, Love Stuff, Soul Survivor, Memphis Still Got Soul, Long Way From Home, Drive All Night, He's A Good Man, Falling For You, Take You For A Ride, Red Cadillac, Sure Miss Your Love, Hand Me Downs, Can't Win For Losing and Get It While You Can.

 

From a producer, arranger, composer perspective,  Johnny has worked with a multitude of artists including Chick Willis, Kay Kay & The Rays, Roy Roberts,  Lonnie Shields, Barbara Carr, Blues Boy Willie, Phil Guy, Willie Cobbs, Dietra Farr, Percy Strother, Sweet Betty and Johnnie Marshall. One of his most recent accomplishments was composing seven of the track selections as well as co-producing Barbara Carr 's Keep The Fire Burning album, which won Living Blues Magazine's Best Southern Soul Album of the Year for 2012. Johnny's latest endeavor was just released this month – a fitting tribute album to his long ago mentor with Remembering OV, which features the legendary Otis Clay on several of the tracks. Talk about consistent effort over several decades, the spectacular Johnny Rawls may just be getting warmed up!   

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