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”.

Listen to Sojo singing “So Good” on YouTube.

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

Buy “Winter Is Coming:A Southern Soul And Blues Queens’ Christmas” at PayHip.

 



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

Write to: daddybnice@southernsoulrnb.com

October 25, 2021

Gerod Rayborn: I Love My Blues (Ecko)

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

The title cut of Gerod Rayborn’s new album I Love My Blues first saw light of day on Ecko Records’ 2019 sampler Blues Mix 28: Dance Party Soul. The title was listed as “I Like The Blues” but the song was the same, including the lyrics, “I love my blues”. Memphis musician Rayborn is well-known throughout the southern soul industry for his association with Ecko Records as a composer, producer and recording artist. He’s written songs for Jaye Hammer, Sheba Potts-Wright, Carl Sims, Denise LaSalle, David Brinston, Ms. Jody and O.B. Buchana, making him a fixture in Ecko Records liner notes, in addition to guesting frequently in the Memphis label’s Blues Mix Series—for instance, the catchy “Night Time Lovers” from the Ecko compilation Blues Mix 31: Dirty South Soul, reviewed here in September 2020 and, like “I Love My Blues,” reprised on this new set.

A decade in the making (one of the tracks, “I Need It,” dates back to 2013) Rayborn’s new collection mirrors its predecessor—the 2010, Ecko-published, solo debut by Gerod, Call Before You Come— with a generous fourteen-track assortment that belies the long and winding road between CD’s. Vigor and “want to,” including the craving to perform one’s own work, are the calling cards of I Love My Blues, which manifests a marked progression from the by-no-means insubstantial pleasures of Call Before You Come. It appears that instead of writing for other artists, Gerod has saved some of his best stuff for himself.

In addition to “I Love My Blues” and “Night Time Lovers,” a bevy of uptempo numbers stand out, none more so than “I Work Hard for What I Got”. Its strength is in the indomitable bass line and the rousing vocal, but the message contained in the lyrics—that you work hard to get the things you want, and you’re proud of it—fires up the proceedings. “That Groove,” not to be confused with Katrenia Jefferson’s “That Thang,” which it emulates in tempo and phrasing, also gets the juices flowing. Another noteworthy club jam, “Sue’s Daughter,” traffics in the musical territory of Bobby Rush’s “Sue,”punctuated by a stomping rhythm track and authoritative vocal. Ironically, and despite the variety of styles used throughout, Gerod’s vocals are largely invisible, which may be one of the finest compliments one can give an artist.

There are miscues: for example the set-opening “I Need It,” with a bass line you’ve heard ad nauseum on dozens of Ecko jams, or “Take Me Back’s” shameless recycling of the oft-used, string-section hook from Ms. Jody’s “Your Dog’s About To Kill My Cat”. But these lapses are more than offset by slow-jam jewels like “Show Me Some Love,” “I Still Want You” and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Mess Up My Day”. Even the stock blues of “I’m The Right Age To Sing The Blues” wins over the listener with its nifty customizing to Gerod Rayborn’s personal-life specifications.

What really gets the blood flowing, however, are two tunes you’d never expect on a record by a musician thoroughly immersed in Ecko Records culture. “You Didn’t Know What You Had” is Percy Sledge-like. It also recalls the best days (when the streets were cobblestoned in gold) of Stax and Hi Records, former Memphis institutions that the current, Memphis-area music scene seems to give short shrift.

The other head-turning track is “Somebody’s Been Talking Too Much,” a winsome, mid-tempo, domestic slice-of-life that begs for airplay. If you’re not seduced by the musically-undulating verses (and, once again, Rayborn’s expert but invisible-like-God, totally natural vocalizing), you’ll be transported by the exotic, far-Eastern, musical fillip that tiptoes through the instrumental track.

Combined with already-mentioned stand-outs like “Night Time Lovers,”“I Love My Blues,” and “I Work Hard For What I Got,” this music takes I Love My Blues to another level—and thrusts Gerod Rayborn into the unfamiliar role of being one of the most exceptional and surprising recording artists of the year.

—Daddy B. Nice

Buy Gerod Rayborn’s I Love My Blues album at Apple.

See Daddy B. Nice’s new Artist Guide to Gerod Rayborn.

 



September 1, 2021

MS. JODY: Cowboy Style (Ecko)

Two Stars ** Dubious. Not much here.

The honey-voiced and irrepressible Ms. Jody kicks off her new album Cowboy Style with “I Wanna Celebrate,” a tune written by one of her best songwriters, John Cummings (with John Ward). She brings great enthusiasm to the vocal, as does Ward to the instrumental track, which is crisp as a potato chip from a just-opened bag. The track is embellished with solid string and brass accompaniments that add depth. It’s followed by “Cowboy Style,” which charted on Daddy B Nice’s Top 10 Singles at #2 in August,barely missing a #1 showing. “Cowboy Style” sports a similar freshness of sound and even songwriting, with an unfamiliar composer for Ecko, Charles Burton (with Ms. Jody and John Ward), bringing a novel perspective to the legendary Memphis label’s usual fare.

“This Ecko-recorded track begins like a Ronald Jefferson, Slacktraxx production,” your Daddy B. Nice writes, “with that ubiquitous little, muffled guitar (or keyboard?) pecking sound that Slack has used on countless hit singles. What? Capitulation from Memphis? You can imagine John Ward and company tearing their hair out over the Louisianan’s success with this elementary-school sound, but it segues into one of Ms. Jody’s finest efforts. After all, Ms. Jody is the mistress of the understated vocal, and as the instrumental track blossoms into a gentle boogie-woogie the song becomes irresistible.”

So what makes this collection go “south” so quickly? It begins with the aforementioned “I Wanna Celebrate,” which despite its strengths is one of the most pedestrian melodies John Cummings has ever written. Ecko has long relied on the same group of composers. John Cummings, Raymond Moore, Gerod Rayburn, James Jackson, Henderson Thigpen, Rick Lawson, Marshall Jones, Sam Fallie (aka Mr. Sam) and John Ward himself come most readily to mind. Moore and Cummings alone have written hundreds of songs for Ecko over the last twenty-some years, not just for one artist but many artists—Brinston, Buchana, McKnight, Potts-Wright, Hammer and many more.

The problem is the creativity of these prolific songwriters is finite. There’s just so much “manna from heaven” (music) any one man is blessed with. And when you multiply the writers’ workload by Ecko’s policy of an album per artist per year, you begin to understand the uphill climb these songwriters face. What happens in COWBOY STYLE is the compositional weakness one may be inclined to forgive (due to the great execution) in “I Wanna Celebrate” is completely undermined by the third song in the set, “Turn It Up, whose chords have been used on more Ecko tracks than the proverbial old whore. And musical sameness—derived, hackneyed chords and tempos—mar the majority of the remainder of the set.

With the Ms. Jody-written “Let’s Have A Good Time,” (done twice on the album) anticipation and enthusiasm momentarily revive. Here is a real groove, thanks to writer Vertie Joanne Delapaz (aka Ms. Jody). It’s a bewitching and dance-friendly “hook,” providing an opportunity to build on the good will gained from the fresh-sounding “Cowboy Style,” but trouble arrives in the guise of the instrumental track. Here Ward has the opportunity to impress with a cutting-edge, monster-groove production that will launch this jam into the hit-single stands. He’s done it before (O.B. Buchana’s “The Mule” comes to mind) but he swings and he misses. It’s the same-old-same-old, programmed rhythm section, just getting by technically speaking—good enough, but not really good enough—lacking any instrumental solos, talking interludes, double-tracking, echo/reverb, additional percussion or auditory novelties that might make the tune memorable. In a word, it’s a missed opportunity in a collection that could use a stand-out track.

The appearance of Big G on “I Can’t Tell Nobody” is a welcome sight, and as often occurs with unexpected juxtapositions, Big G’s voice is a delight to hear in the context of a Ms. Jody album. However, the song really doesn’t get off the ground because Big G himself is challenged compositionally, having himself released an album-per-year of by-now, very familiar material for almost the same length of time as Ms. Jody.

Neil Young sang that “Rust never sleeps,” and it may be that after the year off with Covid-19, Ms. Jody and crew have a little rust to shake off. We can usually count on one or two hit singles from a Ms. Jody CD, but other than the title track, the balance of Cowboy Styledoesn’t encourage replaying. After three beginning-to-end listenings over a period of days (in addition to many “single” shots), I just didn’t want to pick up this album again, and I wouldn’t recommend it to a first-time listener hoping to make them a Ms. Jody fan. Few of the indefatigable Ms. Jody’s albums are “classics”—she records too frequently for that—but of the more mediocre collections this may be the most forgettable.

—Daddy B. Nice

 



August 1, 2021

SIR CHARLES JONES: The Chosen One (Music Access)

Five Stars ***** Can’t Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

As most everyone conversant with southern soul music knows, Sir Charles Jones and Jeter Jones (no relation) got together in 2020 to produce The Jones Boyz: Two Kings”. The collaborative album was successful, not to mention a validation for Jeter Jones, who had written and sung his way from obscurity to the top rank of southern soul artists, a moment further memorialized at the onset of the Sir Charles “Still In Love” video, when Charles welcomes an exhausted, road-tripping Jeter Jones into his studio with, “I know you’re tired, man.” The two performers brought out the best in one another, but who knew at the time that the partnership would stimulate their future output?

Jeter’s new album (reviewed previously on this page) is among his best ever, and The Chosen One is an uncommonly powerful set from Sir Charles. The songs pour out in a torrent of inspiration. As a matter of fact the tunes are so varied, with so many contexts and points of view, it’s tempting to wonder if Charles has a secret cache of songwriters on his payroll. Whatever the resource, the results are amazing.

Three of the tunes from THE CHOSEN ONE dominated Daddy B. Nice’s Top 10 “Breaking” Southern Soul Singles in the month of June: “Eternity” at #3, “Forever” at #6 and “Midwest Party” at #9. In July the title track “The Chosen One” came in at #5.

The ballad “Eternity” is in the mode of last year’s “Still In Love” but with much less visible artifice. It’s a superb Sir Charles Jones love ballad, emotionally true.

Produced to cross over into the pop market, with a rock-and-rollish piano, doo-wop chorus and gorgeous synthesized chorus, “Forever” should endear Charles to the baby-boomer audience and anyone who loves the musicality of early rock and roll.

“Midwest Party” caters to the only geographical group that gets less respect than Southerners. Charles dedicates it to his far-flung, midwest family members but all Midwesterners will love this smooth-stepping hymn to the heart of the country. “Even Nebraskans” Sir Charles notes toward the end. “They sure know how to two-step too!”

With an instrumental sound reminiscent of early-seventies Marvin Gaye and a bracing, northern musical ambience (vintage Detroit and Philly), “The Chosen One” is a chest-pounding, selfie testimonial. Charles is aiming for the audience beyond southern soul with this chest-thumping and fronting, but the track is so purely focused and musical it comes off as natural and captivating, akin to a first-time artist introducing himself to the world. And who wouldn’t want Charles leading the charge of southern soul into the mainstream, cape furling in the wind, “grown-folks” shield glinting in the sun?

Many of the songs in this ten-track set are three minutes in length, which adds to their power, and gives the set an explosive element. But even the longer songs—“I’m All I Got, I’m All I Need,” for instance, roll by expeditiously, one after another, in waves of seemingly spontaneous energy.

“Morning Rain” indulges in synthesizer washes and vocally-enhanced vocals we fans recognize from Sir Charles’ past work, but without any telltale barnacles of age or derivation clinging to it.

“I’m All I Got, I’m All I Need” offers a wickedly ornery take on the old saw that “no man is an island”. Charles’ narrator in this tune insists he can survive without anyone, and whether it’s meant as a portrait of an egotist or a tongue-in-cheek satire, the lyrics are a brash reminder that there are no boundaries in songwriting except those made by songwriters themselves. Like all of the songs in the set, freshness and spontaneity are the order of the day.

How does a 25-year veteran of southern soul music re-invent himself, approaching his music as if he were a wide-eyed kid, bringing innocence and fresh perspective to bear on all the dues he’s paid and techniques he’s acquired? On The Chosen One it’s as if Sir Charles Jones has been “reborn,” achieving that most difficult and elusive state of mind for a show-business veteran. If you’ve grown blasé about the King of Southern Soul, I guarantee you’ll be surprised by this album’s freshness, curiosity and enthusiasm.

—Daddy B. Nice

Listen to all the tracks from THE CHOSEN ONE on YouTube.

Buy Sir Charles Jones’ THE CHOSEN ONE album at Amazon.



July 1, 2021

JETER JONES: Trailride Certified Part 2 (Jones Boys Ent.)

Five Stars ***** Can’t Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

Jeter Jones is in the midst of one of the most productive runs by a southern soul artist in recent memory. Consider that since last summer (the Covid summer of 2020) Jones has released the following albums of all-new material: The Jones Boyz: 2 Kings with Sir Charles Jones, the solo project Mufassa, a Jones-inspired and Jones-dominated, multi-artist compilation titled Fish Grease Friday and now Trailride Certified 2, a 21-track, various artists compilation featuring Jeter Jones on practically every track. The long and short of it is that it’s hard to imagine the last year in southern soul music WITHOUT Jeter Jones.

I previewed the new album last month in a “New Album Alert,” recounting the shock of watching Jeter sucker-punch-shoot a Jeter Jones imposter in the YouTube-video, outdoor-prelude to the otherwise carefree, massive booty-twerking club jam “Back That Thang Up”. And for the same reason many years ago I was horrified by Bigg Robb’s remix of Mel Waiters’ “Hole In The Wall,” I explained why I didn’t like Jeter’s remix of his signature song “Black Horse”. In short, if you’ve discovered enough magic to hit the sweet spot of southern soul i.e. “Black Horse,” don’t funkadelic it up!

But after the better part of a month spent listening to the surprising outpouring of music in TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED 2, I don’t have another reservation to dispense. This is a set of music you can live with. Of how many albums, seriously, can you say that?

There may not be a song on this album as blissfully buoyant as Jeter & JL’s “Love You Down” from “Fish Grease Friday,” nor a song as captivating and guitar-inspired as “Mind Playing Tricks On Me” from “Mufassa,” but TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED dwarves them and the preceding albums. In fact, given the excessive amount of material to be covered in TRAILRIDE CERTIFIED 2, I think the best way to approach it is simply to bullet-comment (pun intended, of course) on the songs I’ve been listening to most frequently this month.

“Boots Knockin'”

“Slow-motion sensuality slathered over a bed of heavenly instrumental sweetness.” From Top 10 Single charts May 2021 #2. Jeter’s seems inspired and “stretches out” with an eye-opening vocal. Urban Mystic joins him.

“(Something About The) Rain (Remix)”

This soulful slow jam featuring Jeter, Volton Wright, R&B Pooh, and David Jones is reminiscent of Wendell B and the Soul Music Representative’s “Still Learning ‘Bout Love”. In other words, a quartet of street-corner serenaders blowing your mind.

“Plain Ole Country Boy”

This was the first pre-release single from the album (charting at #4 in April), and it’s held up well. With lyrics like, “I go to church on Sunday/Work on Monday,” it portrays the kind of humble man just about any woman would find huggable.

“My House”

This emotive ballad features Volton Wright, whom I gave four stars for his distinguished southern soul debut (reviewed on this page). And I notice his presence, writing and/or singing, in other spots of Trailride Certified 2.

“On My Way Home”

I’ve actually been listening to this tune the most, and today (as I’m writing) is Father’s Day, so I was delighted to hear my daughter, who is not a southern soul lover, and who deployed twice to Iraq, and to whom I’d sent the song, say, “I liked the song you sent me.” That was a first.

“Trailride Party”

You’ll remember this one as the guy who sounds like Cupid. A young guy named Just-K joins Jeter on a rousing melody.

“Lady In These Streets”

The lyrics are over the top, and I haven’t even “caught” half of them yet, but the instrumental track pulls me in like an outgoing tide. The vocal tracks are enhanced by female rappers Mizzbehave and KyaraBoo.

“Dirt Road Loving”

This tune’s getting the most YouTube views. People love the lyrics, which revisit the territory described so well by Mr. (Chris) Ivy in “Turn Road”.

That’s ten songs discussed, and only half the album covered. Other songs that have caught my attention are “What You See” feat. DeShay, “I Shoulda Done Better” (from a con’s perspective), “Put It In My Face” feat. Terry Rogers, the chant-like “Get My Shine On” and “Somebody Won’t Make It” (about Covid 19). You begin to see the scope of this project. This album takes up the better part of an hour, and you can listen to its endless variety as you would have listened to top-forty radio back in the day.

One final note. In my “Album Alert” I promised to speak to the issue of production. I noticed a lot of the tracks on Trailride Certified Part 2 had new and/or unknown producers, and I noticed the absence of Ronald “Slack” Jefferson. And I said that might be a “good thing”.

Well, no worries. These guys, Jeter and Slack, had this thing well in hand the whole time. Ronald “Slack” Jefferson is the executive producer of this album. Like a Joycean hero, Slack is unseen and everywhere (with a couple of exceptions) while a raft of new and mostly unknown producers—Carl Sanders, Daejuan Braxton, Bishop Burrell, Brandon O. Williams, Christopher Washington, Marcus Bell, Kevin Nelson, Eric “Smidi” Smith, Ronald Johnson—take over on the front lines. The result is a refreshing diversity of producing approaches becoming such a massive project. From song to song you don’t know what to expect, just as it was in the aforementioned heyday of radio, and maybe still is in a few choice locations, namely southern soul’s Stations of the Deep South.

My lasting impression of Trailride Certified Part 2 will be of its remarkable many-sidedness. Yet despite its panoramic scope, this is Jeter Jones’ most personal album. A touching sense of familial intimacy and easy-going vulnerability permeates every track.

Digital customers will see, in the album cover work of a storm-threatening, horse-filled, western scene, a second cowboy-hatted man standing behind Jeter. And on the hard copy of the jewel case and the artwork of the actual CD disc, the name Troy Ford is given equal billing with Jeter Jones. When I asked Jeter who Troy Ford is, and what he contributed to the album, he replied that Troy Ford is his older brother, a black cowboy who has been rodeoing (specialty: steer wrestling) for twenty-five years.

“He is the one that motivated me to go back to my roots of Trailride Certified. Most of the songs, like ‘Hold It In The Road’ and ‘Dirt Road Loving,’ talk about our adventures. His nick name is Crow. When I say (on the album), ‘Crow said take her to the watering hole.’ That’s him.”

—Daddy B. Nice

Buy Trailride Certified Part 2 at Apple.

Listen to all the tracks from Jeter Jones’ new Trailride Certified Part 2 on YouTube.

 



June 1, 2021

Hisyde: Who Is Hisyde (Dirty South Journals)

Four Stars **** Distinguished Debut By A New Southern Soul Artist.

I was reminded of the late Reggie P. while reviewing the debut album by Hisyde, Who Is Hisyde? Reggie P’s debut was entitled Who Am I?

I’m not going to say Hisyde’s debut is as auspicious as Reggie P’s—well, yes I am. Reggie’s legendary, break-out album was his second long-play, Why Me? Hisyde also reminds me a little of Luster Baker (Vickie Baker’s little brother for the old school), who’s a musical genius but less career-focused than Hisyde, and of Arthur Young, who is the more accomplished vocalist and writer but lacks Hisyde’s producing acumen. That’s some pretty elevated company for a debut artist. Hisyde’s not a producer per se (he gets the cream of the crop—Beat Flippa, Tony Tatum, Eric “Smidi” Smith—to do the work for him), but he understands the importance of getting the best out of every record (something Young still needs to work on), and that’s half the battle.

Born in 1979 in El Dorado, Arkansas and raised just down the road in tiny Strong, Arkansas, Sernerick Greer (aka Hisyde) started managing and doing promotional work for a rap group called the Swangaboyz in south Arkansas after graduating from high school. In 2009 he moved to Dallas to pursue a gospel recording contract with gospel producer Flaco Da Great. When Flaco relocated to California, Greer pursued musical studies at Eastfield Community College, interned in “Artist Boot Camp” under engineer/professor Brad Cox and managed the late Big Cynthia Walker.

Hisyde published his first southern soul single “Ouchie Coochie” in March of 2019, and followed it up in 2020 with the release of his debut EP Hap Here, containing “Oochie Couchie” and the tunes “Fantasy Man,” “Sleepin’ Pill” (feat. Chrissy Luvz), “Hap Here” and “The Git Up” (feat. Big Mucci & Rico Cason).

Hisyde first appeared in Daddy B. Nice’s Top 10 Singles in June of 2019 with “Sleepin’ Pill” featuring Chrissy Luvz. The giddy and disarming “Sleepin’ Pill” also gained year-end honors, coming in at #21 on Daddy B. Nice’s “Top 25 Singles” as well as propelling Hisyde into a nominee for Best Debut artist of 2019.

Who Is Hisyde? essentially reprises the songs from the Hap Here EP while adding Hisyde’s two head-turning, blockbuster singles of 2020 and early 2021, “Is It Ova?” and “For Your Love”. The roof-rattling “Is It Ova?”, featuring Avail Hollywood and produced by Beat Flippa on his celebrated P.O.T.Y. album, was #1 with a bullet in December of 2020, and the buoyant, swinging “For Your Love,” produced by Eric “Smidi” Smith, was #2 in March of 2021 (and the 11th-ranked single of 2020), prompting Daddy B. Nice to comment:

Hisyde is really coming on. Two in a row! “For Your Love” comes at you as easily as Mr. Campbell’s “I’m Stepping Out” a couple years ago. This song plus “Is It Ova?” should catapult Hisyde above the rank-and-file for good.

The rambunctious “Is It Ova?” was an outright smash, peopling deejay turntables across the South and not only lifting Hisyde’s profile but revitalizing Beat Flippa’s mojo. And just as with Chrissy Luvz’s inspired vocal on “Sleepin’ Pill,” Avail Hollywood’s turn on “Is It Ova?” was among the King of Grown Folks’ best-ever, guest-artist spots, furthering Hisyde’s reputation and knack for bringing out the best in his collaborators.

Southern soul devotees may do a double take at “If You Were Mine,” a full-fledged country-western single that according to Hisyde has already attracted some attention in Nashville, and proving, like so many before him, that if you can sing southern soul you can sing country.

Of the handful of remaining tracks, there’s not another song of which you could say, “This is a sure-fire new southern soul hit single.” But there’s more than enough to savor just catching up on the last two years of Hisyde’s product. Debut albums seldom pack in as many deserving cuts as Hisyde delivers on Who Is Hisyde, and I would rank the not-to-be-missed songs in this order: “For Your Love,” “Is It Ova?”, “Sleepin’ Pill,” “Fantasy Man,” “Ouchie Coochie,” “Hap Here” and “Nookie Now,” with the best of the new/unknown cuts the ballad “Yes Maybe No”.

Hisyde takes to the road with a host of venues in 2021 including El Dorado and Crossett, Arkansas, Dallas and DeSoto, Texas, Monroe, Richwood and Choudrant, Louisiana, with big-city stops in Atlanta and Detroit, and if his official video to “For Your Love” is any indication, he should be great in concert.

—Daddy B. Nice

Listen to all the tracks from Hisyde’s WHO IS HISYDE debut album on YouTube.

Buy Hisyde’s WHO IS HISYDE album at Apple.

Visit Hisyde’s official WHO IS HISYDE website.

 



May 1, 2021

Double Review:O.B. Buchana, Urban Ladder Society (w/ Stevie J. Blues)

O.B. Buchana: Southern Soul Brother (Ecko)

Three Stars *** Solid. The artist’s fans will enjoy.

 


 

Along with the buckets of love, I think familiarity does breed contempt. As great and durable an artist as O.B. Buchana is, I get annoyed with him every time he puts out a new album. I feel like I’m pushing for O.B. harder than O.B. is pushing for himself. He’s singing the same type of songs in the same old style with the same old instrumental tracks by the same old label of twenty years, Ecko. Imagine if Jeter Jones put out an annual album twenty years in a row with his same producer, Slack. I’d probably feel the same way, and I might even say of Jeter, as I’m tempted to do with O.B., that he’s “plateaued,” and that he needs to surprise us with something different. But then, as I listen to the tracks again and again, I gradually break down. Differences and nuances do appear. The songs begin to take on shape and substance, and before I know it, I’m starting to warm to it. Such is the process I’ve gone through once again with Buchana’s new CD, Southern Soul Brother.

The album title and title track are taken from the John Cummings song “Memphis Blues Brothers,” which I touted as the stand-out tune from the sampler Various Artists (Ecko), Blues Mix 31: Dirty South Soul. (See the review in the right sidebar of New CD Reviews.)O.B.’s version expands the roll call of “southern soul brothers” cited in the lyrics to the entirety of southern soul. I still prefer the relative sweetness of the Cummings original, but it will be interesting to see how the greater southern soul audience (who may not have heard the original) reacts to what may in effect be the first time they heard “Southern Soul Brothers”.

“Cruzin’,” the gem of a ballad from O.B.’s 2019 Face Down album, comes in for a remix here, adding some whimsical, calypso-like, percussive effects. And in a bid for striking vintage gold, and just a couple of months following a successful Stevie J. Blues rendition of the late J. Blackfoot’s and Ann Hines’ “Just One Lifetime,” O.B. teams up with Lacee on the legendary Blackfoot’s “Two Different People”.

The first single from the album was released in late April, just in time for Mother’s Day, and “Mama You’ve Been Good” follows in the benign tradition of such maternal eulogies as Sir Charles Jones’ “Take Care Of Mama”.

Not to be overlooked is the potential “sleeper” from the album, “You Might Have To Hurt”. The composition brings out Buchana’s finest vocal performance of the set, and the song’s refrain—

“You might have to hurt,
But you can hurt and move on.”

—is a defining moment, lifting the song (and the album) to the status of an anthem.

Some of the more uptempo numbers—“Bend It Over,” “Bet You Got A Good ‘Un” and “Tear It Up”—aren’t’ as successful, actually coming off as more sentimental than the ballads and mid-tempo numbers in spite of their token ribaldry. However, if you’re averse to sentiment, O.B. Buchana is probably not meant to be your performer of choice anyway. Southern Soul Brother may not hit on all cylinders—the songwriting is a little too flaccid for that—but the set is a worthwhile addition to the O.B. canon.

Buy O.B. Buchana’s “Southern Soul Brother” at Amazon.

Buy O.B. Buchana’s new SOUTHERN SOUL BROTHER CD at Apple.

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Urban Ladder Society: The Summit (PKMG – IP Exchange (IPX))

Three Stars *** Solid Debut By A New Southern Soul Band.

Listening to “Da Blues,” the opening track of their debut album, THE SUMMIT, you might describe Urban Ladder Society as southern soul crossed with De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, but the styles mutate as the songs unfurl. The only constant is the blues.

“Some people say the blues is gone.
My friends, the blues is still alive.”

This echoes the message in Urban Ladder Society’s 2020 debut single, “Same Ole Thang,” also included on the album.

“It’s the same ole thang,
Like water in the brain.
Like one thing never change,
The blues will stay the same.”

In a way, THE SUMMIT actually refutes that statement. Although blues influences are what the set is all about, they’re interspersed with liberal dashes of southern soul, funk, rap and even touches of jazz. The blues does change (even as it stays the same).

Urban Ladder Society is composed of Victa Nooman (lyricist), Chris Gill (vocals & slide guitar), Jonte´ Mayon (vocals) and Stevie J AKA Rooster Man (guitar and vocals), and one can see why Stevie J was drawn to this particular aggregation. There is so much to explore, and fresh sounds abound.

“Chill Winds” is a particularly potent blues, simultaneously original yet traditional, which seems to be the formula Urban Ladder Society is striving for. Like other recent southern soul-blues (Narvel Echols’ “Pour Me A Drank” comes to mind), rap is given a verse and adds valuable contrast. Voice-overs segue into rap and vice versa, as in the ballad “Prophecy”.

Stevie J’s vocals dominate throughout, reminding us whenever he’s on the mike that he possesses one of the sweetest tones in southern soul, but this band is by no means a one-man show. Check out the country-western-tinged “We Got This Covered,” in which Stevie J’s vocal segues into Chris Gill’s vocal.

In “Trouble Man” Stevie slides from a voice-over into a quasi-rap and ultimately into a conventional balladeering. Just when you think the tune has accomplished its mission, it morphs again into a rap by another member, with Stevie sliding in once more at the end, singing, “I’ll play the blues/’Till my troubles gone”.

The most interesting and uplifting feature of THE SUMMIT is, in fact, its ability to surprise. You never know what the next song may hold, nor even what direction the next verse may take. Not all of the elements in this gumbo-like approach work, but the diversity of this album makes for an appealing debut comparable to recent newcomers The Jay Morris Group, high on variety and verve.

Listen to all the tracks from Urban Ladder Society’s debut album THE SUMMIT on YouTube.

Download mp3’s from Urban Ladder Society’s THE SUMMIT album at Amazon.

–Daddy B. Nice



April 1, 2021

Double Review: Volton Wright, Tasha Mac

Volton Wright: Love On You: The Album (Jones Boys Entertainment):

Four Stars **** Distinguished debut by a new Southern Soul artist.

 

New southern soul recording artist Volton Wright has scored a trifecta of hit singles, and they just happen to lead off his new southern soul debut album, Love On You Tha Album—one-two-three—take your pick. They are, in order, “Southern Soul Girl” (featuring T.K. Soul), Super Woman (featuring JD and Jeter Jones) and “Circles”. I can’t remember a more impressive line-up of tunes leading off an introductory CD in many years.

It could have—and might have—been so different. Volton Wright came to the attention of the southern soul community in 2019 on the ground-breaking sampler, SLACK: My Music, My Friends: Southern Soul Compilation. He was honored with the lead-off track, “That Thang,” but the first artist from the sampler who capitalized on the platform Slack had provided was not Volton Wright but R.T. Taylor with his hit single and subsequent album, “It’s A Mule”.

Little did we know at the time that Volton Wright’s true specialty was melodic ballads, not “That Thang”-type, mid-tempo jams, and “That Thang” remained the exclusive property of Katrenia Jefferson, who had recorded her song of the same name years earlier.

Wright’s penchant for soulful slow tracks first surfaced in mid-2020 with his homage to the Temptations, “My Baby”. The video featured Volton and his back-up singers, including Jeter Jones, stepping onstage in vintage Temps stage style. Suddenly, for southern soul aficionados, it all fell into place. Volton Wright had a voice perfect for covering old-school soul.

The lovely and effervescent single “Circles” subsequently surfaced, and the message was clear. A remake of The Friends Of Distinction’s “You Got Me Going In Circles,” Wright’s “Circles” not only revived the original but if anything surpassed it in immediacy and vocal and instrumental quality.

The revelation of Love On You: Tha Album is the way Volton Wright has transitioned to originals. “Southern Soul Girl” showcases Volton and T.K. Soul on one of the most soulful duets of 2021. See Daddy B. Nice’s #1 Southern Soul Single for April 2021. Their harmonies on the chorus are exquisite.

“Super Woman” is as good or better. Featuring an even newer artist (JD) who wasn’t on the 2019 Slack sampler, and who scored a #1 Daddy B. Nice single with Jeter Jones in February 2021 (“Love You Down”), the song traffics on the cryptically-named JD’s knack for irrepressible, lilting melodies. Not only that, the chords mimic the famous chord washes of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” putting it in truly celestial, musical company. JD takes the first verse, Volton the second, and then comes the unexpected treat. Jeter Jones raps! And he’s great: he raps the song in his own dogged style, bringing it off with monumental brio. The song is an outright coup of musical accomplishment.

Listen to all the tracks from Volton Wright’s new LOVE ON YOU THA ALBUM on YouTube.

Buy Volton Wright’s new LOVE ON YOU THA ALBUM at Apple. 

See Daddy B. Nice’s New Debut Alert.

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Tasha Mac: You’re Not My Competition (Jones Boys Entertainment)

Three Stars *** Solid debut by a new Southern Soul artist.

Tasha Mac is Jeter Jones’ little sister. Let’s get that out of the way first, because she has benefitted greatly from her big brother’s artistic guidance. Tasha burst onto the scene early last year with a single entitled “Get It My Way”. Backed up by Ronald “Slack” Jefferson on the instrumental track and aided by Jeter on vocals, “I’m Going To Get It My Way” has accumulated a staggering (almost a million at this writing) number of views on its YouTube video, which captures Tasha and Jeter dancing through the tourist-filled, Canal Street district of New Orleans.
“Get It My Way” and its follow-up single, “I Just Want To Ride,” highlight Tasha Mac’s new southern soul debut CD, You’re Not My Competition. Other high points of the album include “Lick This Candy” with the recurring phrase, “Come and lick this candy bar,” and “Eat That Cake”. Both songs hinge on smile-inducing, culinary double-entendres.

“I hope you’re ready
For this cake.
I made it special for you.
I’m gonna let you taste.
My momma told me
It’ll make you shake.
I know you like it.
Got icing on your face.”

The album as a whole reflects a sure-handed and confident young songstress who nevertheless has a lot to learn about vocal technique. Tasha’s natural register tends toward the bass clef, and as she negotiates the treble clef it’s sometimes painfully obvious her range is restricted to litle more than a single octave, giving the tunes and the set as a whole an unwelcome sameness.

At the same time, Tasha lacks the ferocious power (and resulting contrasts) of other contemporary “big” women singers like Lady Q and Annie Washington. What Tasha Mac does have, however, is a startling similarity to southern soul’s gone-but-not-forgotten and undisputed queen of “big women” vocalists, Big Cynthia, with whom she shares some of the same tics and mannerisms, including Cynthia’s ability to shrug off just about any challenge and slap it down in peremptory fashion. That’s an art form in itself.

Buy Tasha Mac’s new I’M NOT YOUR COMPETITION CD at Apple.

Listen to all the tracks from Tasha Mac’s new YOU’RE NOT MY COMPETITION CD on YouTube.

See Daddy B. Nice’s New Debut Alert.

—Daddy B. Nice



March 1, 2021

Crystal Thomas: Now Dig This! (Dialtone)

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

Now Dig This by Crystal Thomas marks a first in my years chronicling southern soul music. Imagine….You go to the post office to check your box and instead of picking up a CD jewel case in a thin vanilla wrapper, you find a post-office key to a much bigger box with a much larger, strange-shaped package. Still puzzled, you take it home, only to discover it’s a 33 rpm vinyl record with cover art that looks like the blues records from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Then comes the big surprise. The recording artist on the cover is a contemporary southern soul star: Crystal Thomas!

As luck would have it, I had bought a used, multi-component, stereo system with a turntable a few years ago with the intention of listening to all the great albums from my youth packed away in boxes in my closets. “Vinyl’s coming back,” friends told me. To my chagrin, I soon discovered that the landmark vinyl albums I thought I possessed were lost, given away to friends or simply abandoned in various moves around the country and globe. What remained were inferior collections I’d picked up in “Just Arrived” bins of used record stores.

So the turntable was dust-covered (I even had trouble remembering how to unhook the needle), but when I did figure it out, the experience of
watching the needle rise from its base and move to the exact point above the spinning record, stop, and drop down into the vinyl groove was accompanied by pure exhilaration. Then the music started, and Crystal started singing the blues, and it was bliss.

Crystal Thomas is impressive throughout this all-blues set, her gift and technique on lavish display. She doesn’t dominate, but stays scripted, self-contained, part of a group effort, and yet my estimation of Crystal Thomas soared. She is an incredible blues singer. And it wasn’t lost on me that just after writing a new profile of Nellie “Tiger” Travis (the “top-rated female vocalist in contemporary southern soul”) and her two-track career as blues singer and southern soul star, Crystal Thomas should crop up as a potential, dual-career-path, heir apparent.

The excitement and novelty of the album brought a rush of thoughts, among them the divide between blues and southern soul, which has only grown wider since the days of Little Milton and Chick Willis, and the divide between white and black listeners, and between white and black artists, and how in the South it’s taken for granted that southern soul is an extension of the blues, but not in the North or in the cities of the South like Austin, Texas, where this album was recorded.

From the “white blues” perspective, blues is all about technique. It’s not what’s being played; it’s how it’s being played. Blues or southern soul from the black perspective is about inspiration. It’s about the song and the newness of the sound. For traditionalists, aka blues purists, new music is not the point. It’s the same old chords from one small phase of the history of the blues played over and over and over again like a religion—a liturgy.

As a former classically-trained bassist, I was awed by the bass performance on “Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me?”. The bass (Chuck Rainey) is almost the “lead” throughout the song. Think of that live, bass-driven rhythm section behind O.B. Buchana from Ecko Records. You think his career wouldn’t sky-rocket with a band such as this? And although I’m not well-versed enough in the traditional blues market to make judgments on the musicians or even the compositions on Now Dig This, I’m not too dumb to realize Lucky Peterson’s organ solo on “The Blues Ain’t Nothing But Some Pain” is something to die for.

But does this record’s appearance mean blues and southern soul really could merge—and from the blues side? The one thing both camps would agree upon is that they are two distinct audiences. Still, Now Dig This shows how the traditional blues guys are watching southern soul out of the corners of their eyes even as they deny its existence.

For example, the liner notes call this Crystal Thomas’s debut album. Technically, since its vinyl, that may be true, but it also effectively omits Thomas’s two already published southern soul (and very bluesy) albums. But for the blues purist to even acknowledge Thomas’s career in southern soul would be to accept the profane, even though the traditional blues they’re playing on Now Dig This was considered “profane” when it first came out.

In the South it’s different. When black southerners say “blues,” they may be talking about blues from the past, but more likely they’re talking about southern soul music: something they heard on the radio, something they danced to in the club—somebody like Pokey Bear—all of which they consider today’s blues.

Twenty-five to fifty years from now, “traditional-blues” guys like those behind this NOW DIG THIS! will be riffing on Sir Charles Jones and Pokey Bear the way these musicians are riffing on Janis Joplin’s “One Good Man,” Albert King’s “Can’t You See What You’re Doing To Me” and Ashford and Simpson’s “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” and they will be doing it with the same reverence and love.

But make no mistake. There is more “blues” and “getting-stoned-ness” in a spoonful of Daddy B. Nice’s #1 “Breaking” southern soul single for March 2021—hiphoppers Joe Nice’s and Sean Dolby’s cover of Lynn White’s “Take Your Time,”– than in Crystal and her illustrious backing band’s “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” simply because the latter is so unconsciously and damnably respectful—or maybe “respectable”.

On the other hand, if this is the “Living Blues” purists saying, “This is what southern soul—and one of southern soul’s finest singers—sounds like with a “money” band backing her, I say, “Bring it on.” I say to both sides—“Let’s merge, let’s unite, let’s collaborate.” Who can forget what Tre’ Williams accomplished backed by The Revelations on “I Don’t Want To Know”?

Which brings up another interesting question. Are southern soul artists and fans even interested in the blues anymore? We’ve come a long way from Little Milton. You don’t hear as much blues along with the southern soul anymore. And southern soul’s drift towards hiphop and de-emphasis of gospel and blues is a disconcerting trend.

Which brings us to the final irony regarding this album extolling Crystal Thomas blues expertise. Marketing. Even with all the expensive talent and exquisite packaging behind NOW DIG THIS, the “real world” marketing that southern soul artists utilize daily is evidently unknown or unnecessary in the more “collegiate world” of traditional blues, meaning no YouTube. No reaching out to the audience. Too crass? It speaks to the gulf that still and maybe forever divides traditional blues as celebrated by Caucasions and the blues and southern soul as celebrated by African-Americans.

On a side note, this album was also released in a digital version on the P-Vine label in 2019 under the title It’s The Blues Funk!, a fact I only discovered by searching without any success for YouTube videos of the album’s songs for my reader’s edification. Here’s the only one I could find:

Listen to Crystal Thomas singing “The Blues Ain’t Nothing But Some Pain” on YouTube.

—Daddy B. Nice

Buy Crystal Thomas’ new NOW DIG THIS vinyl album at Antone’s Record Shop.

Buy Crystal Thomas’ new NOW DIG THIS! vinyl album at Discogs.

 



February 1, 2021

Double Review: Jeter Jones, Jaye Hammer

Jeter Jones & Various Artists: Da Fish Grease Friday (Music Matters Entertainment / SRG/ILS Group):
Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.
 

 

I grew up in an overwhelmingly Catholic parish where we ate fish sticks or tomato soup on Fridays. One Friday noon hour one of the strongest boys in the class ran into school from the playground and pushed his hand right through the glass of a swinging door, cutting his main artery. Blood geysered up, hitting the ceiling of the corridor outside the lunch room and bathing the floor tiles in red. We didn’t have fish that day; we had tomato soup.

I don’t know what Jeter Jones’ “fish grease” story is, and his new sampler, FISH GREASE FRIDAY doesn’t offer any hints, although the flex pipe pouring fish oil into a big vat on the CD cover promises something really “greasy,” which could mean funky or trashy, although the album is anything but.

Originally scheduled for a 2020 publication in a crowded release calendar along with Jeter Jones’ new solo album MUFASSA and Jeter’s collaboration with Sir Charles Jones, JONEZ BOYS: TWO KINGS, Jeter subsequently held back FISH GREASE FRIDAY to kick off 2021.

The set is a sampler of all new material showcasing Jeter and the group of young performers—King South, R&B Pooh and Volton Wright primarily—whom he and producer Ronald “Slack” Jefferson have mentored since the appearance of SLACK: MY MUSIC, MY FRIENDS in 2019. (Many other producers and writers contributed to the project, a fact I learned more from YouTube than my hard copy, and that may have also caused delay.)

Joining them is an eclectic mix of guest artists including Karen Wolfe, Crystal Thomas, JD (not to be confused with new artist JL), Dawg, DJ Big Tony, DeShay, Jack Gaspard, Rhomey Rhone, Stan Butler, Mr. Smoke, Nadia Price and H-Town alumnus Billy Cook. None of them are household names in southern souldom outside of Karen Wolfe and Crystal Thomas, but that’s the way Jeter (thankfully) thinks. He’s after talent and new sounds, not hype.

The lead-off track “It’s About To Go Down,” a Jeter Jones duet featuring Billy Cook, is one of the best songs on the set. Jones lays down a superb vocal reminiscent of the mellow yet swinging mid-tempo atmosphere of “Black Horse”.

“Love You Down,” a duet with new artist JD, is another surefire winner, combining an irresistable melody with an uptempo
pace and an arrangement (by Ronald “Slack” Jefferson) that combines modesty and enchantment.

In fact, the set as a whole is an exercise in enchantment. Previously-released tunes like the beguililng “Southern Soul Garden” and the lively “Southern Soul Cowboy” are tailored for tender sensibilities and listening. Like the Platters from the early days of rock and roll, or the Stylistics from the early seventies, the voices-in-unison approach (Jones, RnB Pooh, Volton Wright and JD on “Cowboy,” King South and Jones on “Garden”) produces a chorale-like serenity, a good-vibes feeling that weaves its way through many of the CD’s songs.

The gentle harmonies give FISH GREASE FRIDAY a throwback feel. Sometimes it’s obvious, as in Volton Wright’s nostalgic “My Baby”. At other times it’s overpowering, as in “Jood Wood,” where Jeter, Rhomey, Stan Butler, Mr. Smoke and King South take turns on verses while even more background vocalists (including female) croon together on a vintage-styled chorus.

“Hot Body” (which seems inappropriate on this otherwise un-rowdy set), “It’s Time To Leave” (which seems a little “down” on this otherwise airy set) and “Trust Issues” disappoint, whether because they clash with the aforementioned theme or are simply lower-caliber songs, but overall FISH GREASE FRIDAY maintains Jeter Jones’ amazing run of recording excellence.

By the way, I don’t follow mainstream R&B closely, but isn’t DeShay in the DeShay/Volton Wright duet, “Lay With Me Tonight,” Beyonce reincarnated?

–Daddy B. Nice

Buy Jeter Jones’ new DA FISH GREASE FRIDAY album at Apple.

Listen to all the tracks from Jeter Jones’ new DA FISH GREASE FRIDAY album on YouTube.

Listen to Jeter Jones’ new DA FISH GREASE FRIDAY album on Spotify. 

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Jaye Hammer: It’s Jaye Hammer Time (Ecko):
Three Stars *** Solid. The artist’s fans will enjoy.

Memphis’ Ecko Records, the grand-daddy of southern soul labels, minimized its releases in 2020, the year of the pandemic. For the first time in ages, neither of the label’s top two recording artists, Ms. Jody or O.B. Buchana, put out a full-length album, although veterans David Brinston and Sheba Potts-Wright did. Now, as 2021 kicks off, one of Ecko’s most promising artists, Jaye Hammer, arrives with an album of new material recorded during the worst of Covid-19, It’s Jaye Hammer Time.

The mid-tempo, James Jackson-written gem “Come See About Me” combines a fine Hammer vocal with a unique arrangement (by John Ward) that adds a subtle and alluring, treble-clef keyboard fill to the instrumental track. The unique touch (it sounds like steel guitar filtered through cotton candy) makes the record. A stepping-styled rhythm track and a snippet of female background make this a perfect vehicle for Jaye Hammer. Incidentally, Robert “The Duke” Tillman recorded a southern soul single called “Come See About Me” a couple of decades ago.

The John Cummings-penned ballad “I’m In A Hole In The Wall Mood Tonight” is another stand-out, with Hammer’s vocal meshing perfectly with an instrumental track that draws its strength from its exaggerated slowness. This is the most original song on the album, and it wouldn’t top the peak it climbs if not for Jaye Hammer’s inexhaustible emotive abilities.

His ability to infuse lyrics with believable emotions also buoys the otherwise marginal “You’re A Keeper,” another James Jackson tune. But Hammer can’t do much with the unremarkable “You Deserve Better,” and the balance of the CD is compromised by less than stellar songwriting. Hammer’s “Party Mood,” for instance, redone as a “Club Mix,” loses much of its original fizz.

Jaye Hammer is good enough that he can pretty much write his own ticket by now, but like so many other singers he needs great material, inspired material, and it’s slim pickings here. Slim pickings—but not bare. “Come See Me About Me” and “I’m In A Hole In The Wall Mood Tonight” are likely to join the other classics on Jaye Hammer’s top shelf, and that’s better than nothing to report for the year 2020.

–Daddy B. Nice

Listen to all the tracks from Jaye Hammer’s new IT’S JAYE HAMMER TIME album on YouTube.

Buy Jaye Hammer’s IT’S JAYE HAMMER TIME at Jazz N Blues Club.

Listen to Jaye Hammer’s new IT’S JAYE HAMMER TIME on Spotify.



January 1, 2021

BEAT FLIPPA: P.O.T.Y. (Producer of the Year) (Ross Music/Music Access)

Five Stars ***** Can’t Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

 

From 2014 to 2016, a young Baton Rouge producer named Daniel Ross (aka The Beat Flippa) released four ground-breaking albums that changed the course of contemporary southern soul:

Pokey Bear’s Josephine Son Pokey

The Louisiana Blues Brothas’ Love On The Bayou

Beat Flippa’s I Got the Blues, Vol. 1

and Beat Flippa’s I Got the Blues, Vol. 2

The titles gave away Flippa’s origins. A producer specializing in hiphop, he hadn’t always HAD the blues.

The quartet of albums introduced the southern soul audience to a queue of unknown or under-appreciated Gulf-Coast recording artists who have gone on to become the backbone of the industry: Pokey Bear with his mega-hit, “My Sidepiece,” singer/guitarist Tyree Neal and reedy vocalist Adrian Bagher (Pokey’s Louisiana Blues Brothas’ mates), one-time-hitmaker Cupid, nearly-forgotten “Monkey Talk”-singer Stephanie McDee and soon-to-be-southern-soul-heaven-bound Big Cynthia.

In addition, Ross introduced fans to a slew of performers who have gone on to make names for themselves: Veronica Ra’elle, Rosalyn Candy, Isaac J, Vince Hutchison, Miss Portia, Laylla Fox, Mz. Pat, Lysa, Deacon Dukes, Sharnette Hyter, Coldrank, Sweet Nay and more.

Answering the time-honored question, “What have you done for me lately?”, Beat Flippa now returns with a 27-track sampler entitled Producer Of The Year. It’s impossible to do justice to the abundance of material.

Previously-released singles make up one strain of the contents: Ghetto Cowboy’s “Can I Take You Home” featuring Tucka, Cupid’s “In The Morning” (in which he tells his mate she’s “gonna be sore”), Omar Cunningham’s melody-rich “My Bed” and J-Fitz’s amusing “I Could’ve Stayed Home,” in which he complains he could’ve watched TV for all the action he received from his love interest.

New, potentially “hit” singles make another: Hisyde and a never-better Avail Hollywood, who steals the show on the rousing “Is It Ova?” (DBN’s #1-ranked December single); “Nose Wide Open,” in which Benito and Lady Q trade gritty, amorous barbs; “We Steppin'” by funky new singer Derrick (Son of Jody) Salter; Sir Charles Jones’ tasteful and delicate “Tell Me, Is It Love?”; the tongue-in-cheek-scandalous “No Drawers On” by Lil’ Jimmie, which in a liner-notes typo is memorialized as “No Drawls On,” meaning no slow-and-lazy, country-western speech; and Fat Daddy and Magic One’s “99 Problems,” not to be confused with Adrian Bagher’s first single “Around The Corner: 99 Problems”.

Songs by established guest artists make up yet another segment of the set: “Turn That Thing Around” by Ghetto Cowboy; Magic One’s winsome “Mind Made Up”; Pokey Bear and O.B. Buchana’s duet on the rollicking “Hate On”; Wilson Meadow’s scorching, funk-influenced “We Doin’ Alright,” including the refreshing (for Meadows) addition of female background; “Is It Real?” a surprising out-take from the late and sorely missed Bishop Bullwinkle; a straight-ahead ballad by super-balladeer Donny Ray, as conventional as the rest of the tracks are innovative; “Leaving You For Me,” a mid-tempo reflection from Sir Charles Jones; and Mose Stovall’s male-obsessive “I’ve Got A Thing For You”.

And there is still more: new work by Choppa Law, Isaac J, Tyree Neal, Jeter Jones, Napoleon Demps, Veronica Ra’elle and two, newer-to-the-scene divas in The Lady Songbird Jinda and Tip The Singer.

Fellow Louisiana producers Highway Heavy (who also appears here) and Ronald “Slack” Jefferson have been the producers of note in southern soul over the last two or three years, with Jefferson gaining honors as the best in the business of late. But listening to the “bottom” Flippa super-charges his tracks with, I realized what I have missed at times—and I stress “at times”—in Slack’s productions. Booming bass and drums, and also the little treble-clef details that add depth (essentially more “bottom”) and resonance to a song.

(Listen to Beat Flippa’s production of Hisyde’s “Is It Ova?” on YouTube.)

And Beat Flippa is having none of it. Spurred to action by his competitors, he’s dropped an album that surpasses anything ever seen or heard in southern soul. If anyone has any doubt that southern soul music is the best new American music since Motown, with all of its vibrancy and swagger, he or she only needs to listen to the sounds contained on this rare and sprawling album.

–Daddy B. Nice

Listen to all the tracks from Beat Flippa’s P.O.T.Y. album on YouTube.

Buy Beat Flippa’s new P.O.T.Y. album and mp3’s at Amazon.

Buy Beat Flippa’s new P.O.T.Y. album and mp3’s at Apple.



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