Daddy B. Nice’s CD Reviews
December 1, 2021
Various Artists: Winter Is Coming:A Southern Soul And Blues Queens’ Christmas (Various Publishers)
Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.
Let me tell you how it all went down. I was at this concert in Henderson, Texas when the divas on this album wrestled me to the floor in the lobby in full view of three security officers (!) twisting my arm painfully while repeating, “You must write about Christmas!” I’ve been telling recording artists for years not to bother with Christmas music, not that I have anything against Christmas. It’s just fleeting—here one minute, gone the next—and I hate to see a good hook wasted on a song with such a temporary life span. The only Christmas song I can ever remember writing about was Pokey Bear and Crystal Thomas’s amazing duet on ”All I Want Is You,” but that was because I was so hypnotized by the vocals and instrumental track I wasn’t paying attention to the lyrics and didn’t realize it was a Christmas song.
So that’s my disclaimer as I sit here listening to (and actually enjoying) “Queen’s Christmas,” and if you’re inclined to purchase a southern soul album with a little Christmas spirit this year, I can’t think of a better choice. Not only are a host of up-and-coming southern soul demoiselles represented—Carletta Bush, Donna Renae, Dee Dee Simon, Tara Keith, Sassy D, Jessi Terrell, Jinda Harris, Sojo The Ladies Champ and Diamond Dollaz—but the song sequence is buoyed by intro/shout-outs from southern soul deejays around the country—Lady C, DJ Vonn, Lady B, Lady Jock, Down South Diva Ms. Bambie, Melle Mel That Lady DJ, Jazzi A, Alisha Jay and Anjali Queen—who pump up the volume and spice up the already panoramic variety.
Sojo’s “So Good” fairly jumps out of the speakers with an appealing melody and memorable, harmonizing chorus that you’ll be humming long after the CD ends. Sojo The Ladies Champ is the singer who debuted with Kinnie Ken on the impressive ”I Got That Good Good” a couple of years ago and followed it up this year with the steamy solo ballad ”Toes Curl”.
Carletta Bush’s “Christmas Slide” is a jam for any season—a stepping song that would stand on its own without the fairly superfluous “Christmas” tag. Donna Renae’s “All I Want For Christmas” (not to be confused with fellow artist Donyale Renae) marks the return of an artist nominated for Best Debut of 2016 for “Steppin’ Out”. Before that she sang background on Unkle Eddie’s “Crystal Delite”. Tara Keith’s “Holiday In Heaven” introduces a new artist with an impressive set of pipes on what may be the most romantic Yuletide track of the set.
Jinda Harris is on the cusp of genre recognition, marketing herself as The Lady Songbird Jinda. She brings a falsetto-scaled voice and special tone to “Dear Santa”. And Diamond Dollaz, yet another new vocalist, closes out the album with the bonus track “You Ask Me”. But there are many well-known artists as well, and just when you think the set might end, this CD keeps rolling.
Jesi Terrell, perhaps best known for “My Man Is A Full Grown Dawg”, represents with “Secret Santa,” a textbook case of Christmas on the down-low. Terrell is also known for her cover of Willie Clayton’s “Love Mechnic” and her recent duet with Theo Huff, “Stay The Night”.
The perennially busy Sassy D, who has impressive duets with Tucka, Arthur Young, Jeter Jones and Coldrank to her credit, holds forth here with “Santa Didn’t Buy That,” in which she complains that “Santa gets all the credit”… “We’re the real Santas,” she continues, “working to the bone, running up our credit cards”.
Which brings us to Dee Dee Simon, the unifying force behind this Christmas-themed, all-woman sampler. A year ago, Dee Dee recorded “Divorce,” a bittersweet holiday ode instructing her husband to take his TV and car; she’d keep the house—“of course”. This Christmas isn’t much better. She’s still thinking about the divorce. Should she let her ex “stop over for Christmas”? What about the kids? It’s a dash of sober reality delivered in a strangely anonymous vocal style, as if Dee Dee were too emotionally damaged to inject any of her identifying vocal mannerisms into the song.
What I mean by that is you wouldn’t necessarily know it was Dee Dee singing. You get the power in the last half that we associate with Dee Dee, but not necessarily the inflections, tones, little tics and gimmicks that are unmiskably Dee Dee Simon, and which are so important for an artist’s brand. And which—come to think of it—we have precious little of from Dee Dee. She should be releasing a lot more singles than she is, which again is ironic because she is one of the most driven women on the planet and she wrote all of the music on this Christmas album! Talk about giving away some of your best hooks.
“Winter Is Coming: Queen’s Christmas” wouldn’t exist without Ms. Simon. The Queens Project started in 2020. Soliciting fellow artists for holiday-themed submissions, Dee Dee published two previous all-female sets. Last year’s “Queens” featured, among others, Nellie “Tiger” Travis and Karen Wolfe. Unfortunately, “here today gone tomorrow,” nothing of these two predecessor sets can be found online. They’ve vanished like last year’s snow. So if you interested in this album, you’d better get it while you can. Like many Christmas projects, it’s geared to fans of the artists and pressed copies are likely limited.
Simon wrote all the music on the album, then gathered the participating divas in Baton Rouge for four days of recording. 2 Buck Chuck, her worthy collaborator, produced all the tracks and took them back to California for mixing and mastering. The copyright credits belong to Babyboy Publishing, Katheryn Charlene Publishing, in association with the independent artist publishing entities featured on each track.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
—Daddy B. Nice
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