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


 

Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews

March 24, 2024:

TYREE NEAL: Liquor Talk (Jazzy Records) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

In Louisiana Tyree Neal fills big shoes. Tyree comes from a storied musical family---Raful, Kenny, Larry and of course cousin Jackie, Jackie Neal, the departed, forever-young queen of Louisiana southern soul. When the prestigious Blues Is Alright Tour comes annually through Louisiana, Tyree sometimes appears on the bill with the "big boys"---King George, Pokey, Tucka, Sir Charles. And yet it is safe to say that with that recognition has come a complacency, a contentment with his regional status not shared by his more high-profile, former Louisiana Blues Brothas bandmates Pokey and Bagher.

Liquor Talk, Neal's new album, is very much in the mode of the last, Young Goat of the Blues, quantity (twice the number of tracks of usual southern soul collections) over quality. It's not that the songs aren't adequately produced---they are---but therein lies the problem. They're just adequate. With a dearth of fresh melodies, interesting chord progressions or additional elements of production to distinguish one track from another, major portions of the album accomplish little beyond testifying to Tyree's well-known reputation for being a studio rat.

So it's more of the same in Liquor Talk, meaning Tyree's agenda is to prove his worth as a singer and songwriter. You'd never know from listening to the set that Neal is one of the pre-eminent lead guitarists in southern soul music. Tyree played guitar on Pokey's "My Sidepiece". Would I still like to occasionally hear Tyree's guitar up front in the mix, like his dope riff in Stephanie McDee's "When I Step In The Club"---to this day still the finest "bumper" music in the southern soul catalog? Yes I would.

If, on the other hand, you think "When I Step In The Club" sports a fairly pedestrian guitar line (even though it carries the entire song), sample Tyree's surgically-precise work with Highway Heavy (on keyboard organ) in backing up Johnny James on "Sweet Dick Johnny", a blues cauldron of tasteful picking and deep-soul organ straight from the Devil's crossroads.

In spite of Tyree's insistence on downplaying his studio session work, as a Neal he's steeped in the music and its history, and that alone will please avid fans who'll enjoy songs like "What He Don't Know Won't Hurt," which plays on the old Maurice Wynn classic "What She Don't Know (Won't Hurt Her)" and incidentally showcases Neal's vocal acuity at an all-time high.

The title tune "Liquor Talk" is the first officially-released single. "Bad Risk" is the most popular track on YouTube at 52K and rising. Solid guitar work and a reggae-based rhythm track also lift "Take My Time In It". However, the most encouraging new sound on Liquor Talk is the dance-friendly "Can't Nobody Do It Like She Do It," featuring Hot Boy Ronald. It surprises us with a locomoting instrumental track with lots of special effects. It may even surprise Tyree. Even he seems energized.

References to Jackie Neal abound, and in the end that seems to be the point of any Tyree Neal solo effort. "It's Going Down Tonight" starts with a scratchy copy of Jackie Neal's classic, "Down In The Club," and if for nothing else than its up-tempo zydeco pace, "Goin' Jackie Neal," (feat. Pokey Bear, C-Loc, Adrian Bagher, Johnny James and Bro Bro) may be the most enjoyable and dramatically distinctive tune on the album. Everyone takes an entertaining verse, Pokey giving obeisance to Jackie more vehemently than anyone. Adrian Bagher sings that when he first heard Raful Neal, Tyree's uncle, at ten years old, he knew he wanted to be a blues man. As Jackie herself once said: With the Neals, it's all about the family.

Listen to "That's The Way We Roll".

---Daddy B. Nice

Buy Tyree Neal's new LIQUOR TALK CD at Apple.

Listen to all the songs from LIQUOR TALK on YouTube.

See the LIQUOR TALK track list in Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide to Tyree Neal.


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February 25, 2024:

THE JAY MORRIS GROUP: LET ME TALK
Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

Let Me Talk takes me back to the days when we actually listened to albums from beginning to end. The title says it all. This is music for intelligent, sensitive people who can see the shadings in life. It's southern soul music with unusual influences: Gil Scott-Heron, Tribe Called Quest, Sly Stone, De La Soul, Lauryn Hill, Bishop Bullwinkle, Outkast. Looking for mindless "party hardy"? You won't find it here.

The trio (K. Monique, Zee Brownlow and leader Jay Morris) is uncommonly verbal. To listen to them is to descend a rabbit warren of conversation. A Jay Morris song or album has more in common with a seventies' Robert Altman film like M.A.S.H. where the actors are always talking, interrupting and overlapping one another than it does with traditional southern soul. Consider February's #2 southern soul single "In Front Of Me," a fascinating, female-oriented takeoff on southern soul classic "Sho' Wasn't Me". One of my favorite couplets is: "Jay, that's his co-worker. / They have lunch from time to time".

Where else in the universe of southern soul music would you ever hear a lyric like that? Yet what's surprising is the substantial following this highly literate group has attained in a genre not known for being conducive to poetry beyond the pithy one-liner. The band has produced four fruitful albums in five years, and with fifty million views and counting, their signature single "Knee Deep" rivals the hit songs of King George, Tucka and other A-list southern soul headliners.

The biggest single (so far) from LET ME TALK is "Talk My Shit" ("Talk My Ish" for all audiences on YouTube and Apple), which debuted at #4 in Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 Singles for September '23 . "Talk My Shit" has all the earmarks of a Jay Morris tune: the roundelay of confident vocals, the mid-tempo, almost ballad-like, cradle-rocking of the instrumental track and---last but not least---the perennial riffing of the keyboard/organ, although "Talk My Shit" adds a little more emphasis on lead guitar and piano.

That ever-present keyboard sound---the "kazoo" sound, I call it---is both Jay Morris's signature of fame and the group's ball and chain. It's hard to imagine a JMG tune without that insistent keyboard, yet it can grow tiresome, and likely, if projected indefinitely into the future, unnecessarily restrictive. The kazoo-keyboard is given a refreshing swagger in "For Granted," which positions it as another potential hit single from the CD. But in general drums and bass are used begrudgingly, as in "Freaky Secrets, where you have to strain to hear a little bass at the end of the more dominant keyboard bass-line notes.

There's a hint of what this band could do on a more blues-based, mid-to-fast tempo in the K. Monique vehicle "You My Man," which recalls the trio's debut single, "4 By 4" (aka "Ms. Wendy"). But for the most part LET ME TALK adheres to the sameness in instrumentation and tempo that have characterized the Jay Morris Group's storytelling format from the beginning.

Given the off-the-charts vocal talent of the group, it may behoove them to gradually add more instrumental depth and options---perhaps even explore faster, dancing tempos. That would be something people, I think, would be curious and even excited to hear. In the meantime, LET ME TALK cements the trio's reputation as the pre-eminent group in the solo artist-dominated southern soul market.

---Daddy B. Nice

Buy The Jay Morris Group's LET ME TALK album at Apple.

See the LET ME TALK track list in Daddy B. Nice's Artist Guide.

Listen to all the tracks from the Jay Morris Group's "Let Me Talk" album on YouTube.

Read more about the Jay Morris Group.


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February 16, 2024:

P2K DADIDDY: U-TURN (The Album) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

U-Turn (The Album) celebrates the hit song that transformed P2K DaDiddy's southern soul career, "U-Turn" contrasts P2K's vulnerable, guy-next-door vocalizing with King George's strong, fluid, charismatic baritone. It's not only a great piece of songwriting (Keith Taylor aka P2K) but one of the most uniquely produced songs of the year, courtesy of Kang 803 (King George, etc.). "U-Turn" was recently feted in the 17th Annual Southern Soul Music Awards as "a masterpiece of production," its majestic and reverberating chords etched permanently in the consciousness of the 2023 southern soul fan base."

On first impression, the thing about U-Turn (The Album) that'll make you say "Whooahh!" is the phenomenal line-up of guest artists. It's a set of collaborations---and artful, relevant guests at that: King George, Big Mel, Marcellus The Singer, Urban Mystic, Frank Johnson, Magic One, Bad Newz, not to mention southern soul's pre-eminent "wailer," Big Pokey Bear. And bringing something new to P2K's sound, the powerful-piped West Love partners with P2K on one of the most intoxicating tracks, "Can't Make 'Em Drank".

The A-list of contributors, I suppose, shouldn't be a surprise. DaDiddy's first album and debut---Welcome to the Boom Boom Room (2018)---boasted a similar list of star-studded contributors: Jeter Jones, Sir Charles Jones, Cupid, L.J. Echols, Nathaniel Kimble, Avail Hollywood, Crystal Thomas and more, with the Sir Charles-influenced and dominated "Soul Brothers Moonshine" being that CD's "U-Turn" and, for that matter Sir Charles Jones being that CD's King George. In short, P2K is doing what he "do," mixing creativity and market-based networking (which require two different sides of the brain, let me tell you) in a dazzling way few creatives can.

That's not to say DaDiddy's faultless. His last (and sophomore) album Pour It Up was a mis-step. That's especially evident now, in the glare of the new album's illuminating success. U-Turn (The Album) may not equal the sheer wealth of material in P2K's debut, Boom Boom Room, but it's close. Pokey Bear, Marcellus The Singer and West Love all deliver strong, enthusiastic vocals outside their usual ken not to be missed by their fans.

Tracks that otherwise might be overlooked include "Good Time," a duet with Frank Johnson ("Hate On Me");
"Party Tonight," a quintessentially southern soul track featuring Urban Mystic; the sentimental, anthem-like "Here We Go Again," with Big Mel; and the hip-hoppy, wryly-written "Ya Girl, My Wife," with Bad Newz. And in case you're wondering if P2K can do it alone, check out "Full Tank Of Gas".

--Daddy B. Nice

Listen to all the tracks from P2K's new U-Turn album on YouTube.

Buy P2K's new U-Turn album at Apple.

Listen to P2K's U-Turn album on Spotify.

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November 12, 2023:

TUCKA: The Guy Your Man Can't Stand (Hit Nation) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

The usual peerless vocals and confident, top-notch production combine with surprisingly suspect songwriting in Tucka's new album The Guy Your Man Can't Stand. The short, nine-track CD comes at a time when Tucka enjoys a career high in popularity and has recently ascended to the number-one position on Daddy B. Nice's current Top 100 Southern Soul Artists Chart: The New Generation. Yet, reading the voluminous praise from half a million fans in the comment section of Tucka's YouTube video for the hit single "Put It On Me," I am reminded of the fairy tale "The Emperor's New Clothes".

The story recounts a couple of scammers who convince a self-centered and style-conscious ruler that they can make him a set of clothes so magnificent that only the elite and smart among his populace will be able to see them. When the emperor displays his new raimant to the sycophants in his court, everyone effuses on his glorious atttire---this despite the fact that none of them (including the emperor himself) can see it. Only one dissenter---a child---blurts out, "The emperor has no clothes. He's walking around in his drawers!"

The child, of course, is derided as an ignorant "hater," and that's how your Daddy B. Nice feels as he listens to Tucka and Fat Daddy, who accompanies him on the song, as they smugly congratulate themselves on "another hit single" at the end of the record. They may be right, and their fans may be right (the numbers support them), but I'd caution Tucka to retain a bit of humility and self-scrutiny in the aftermath of the tune's success.

"Put It On Me" would be considered a marginal record published by any other artist. Evaluated in strictly musical terms, the melody is mediocre at best, the instrumental track is hook-less, the chorus line doesn't shore up the blandness of the verses (although one wishes it did), and there's not a new or novel sound to be heard. As a successor to the the brilliant originality of last year's "Jukebox Lover," it's a definite drop-off.

I would contend that "Put It On Me" is "successful" in larger part because Tucka is at the pinnacle of his popularity than on any musical merits of the song itself. Put another way, I believe it is the songs prior to this album ("Jukebox Lover," "Big Train," "Won't Disapprove," etc.) that are feeding the song's popularity, a dynamic long familiar to popular music artists. And there's nothing wrong with that unless Tucka doesn't remain rooted and alert to the inspirational sources that catalyzed his original mojo.

In my New Album Alert last month I remarked that the King of Swing is tracking toward a more mainstream southern soul sound, as can be seen not only in "Put It On Me" but in his other previously released single, "Party People," either of which could have graced any traditional Ecko Records album of the last two decades. That's a far cry from the early, out-of-left-field classics that made Tucka a star: "Sweet Shop," "Touch Your Spot," "Book Of Love," "Til The Morning Comes" and "Candy Land".

It is eye-opening, on the other hand, to witness Tucka, long ambivalent about being labeled a "southern soul" artist, embracing the most generic compositions, structures and tempos of the genre. With the exception of two tracks (which I'll get to in a minute) he's content to be one of the "boys" on this album. As well he should, I suppose, plying the familiar sounds of southern soul with Pokey Bear, Sir Charles, King George and the other stars on southern soul's ongoing, unflagging, biggest stage, the Blues Is Alright tour.

The Guy Your Man Can't Stand may be as much an experiment as his early singles were. Yet I now find myself---contrary fella that I am---attracted to the two songs in this set that hark back to Tucka's more unique, early sound: "Fly Me To The Moon" and "Do You Wanna Go".

Is that fickle? Maybe. What's a guy like Tucka gonna do?

---Daddy B. Nice.

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October 1, 2023:

ADRIAN BAGHER: ISM (Shoebox Money Entertainment) Five Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.



The Louisiana Blues Brothas' Love On The Bayou was published in 2014, almost a decade ago. The Brothas were Big Pokey Bear, Tyree Neal and Adrian Bagher. The album spawned "My Sidepiece," one of the most extraordinary singles in the genre's history, and Pokey Bear took it to the bank as a single artist. (The group broke up after their only album.)

Meanwhile, "Around The Corner," Adrian Bagher's first single, debuted in 2013, and Grown Folks Business, his first album, was released in 2015. Since then Bagher has done nothing but steadily hone his craft, releasing quality singles---"Around The Corner," "Don't Blame It On Jody," "Willing And Able," "Dirty," "Let Me Take Care Of You," "If You Want To Leave," "Ride With Me"---routinely amassing millions of views on YouTube and making Bagher a southern soul touring star, albeit with far less fanfare than his more famous Brotha Pokey Bear. His burgeoning catalog has also made Adrian the 24th-ranked artist on Daddy B. Nice's latest top one-hundred artist chart, The New Generation of Southern Soul.

All of the effort has paid off. Adrian's third full-length release, ISM (an acronym for "I'm soul music" as Bagher explains in the disc's intro) is splendid. This is a collection that's extremely easy to listen to, with an astonishing lack of filler for what amounts to a double album (17 tracks).

Melodies abound. Production is sure-handed---never repetitive or boring---and the variety is impressive. One minute you're enthralled with a tune like "Fallin' For You," a mid-tempo gem given extra "edge" with a bounce-style, voice-over. The next minute you're in the celestial ether with a tune like "If Heaven Had A Phone" (shortened to "Heaven Phone" in the credits), a tribute to Bagher's deceased mother done with eyebrow-raising sensitivity and universality. "Out Of Space" is so melodious one can't resist singing along.

The set showcases a contemplative and romantic---also parental---Bagher, arguably reaching its apex in the uplifting "If This World Were Mine," an anthem to the family complete with Lenny Williams-style "Oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhs". But there are also sexual romps like "Hittin' It Right" and club-style fare like "Woman And My Whiskey". The thread uniting all of the music, whether upbeat or down-low, is the attention to musical detail. Whether the head-turning balladS "Privacy" or "You're Mine" or the bounce-inflected mid-tempo excursion "Falling For You," the mix of outstanding production and personable, guy-next-door vocalizing offers a scintillating primer in a new-and-better, "clean" and "fresh" southern soul sound.

--Daddy B. Nice

Listen to all the tracks from ISM on YouTube.

Buy Adrian Bagher's new ISM album at Apple.


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August 1, 2023:

JETER JONES: Mufassa II (Jonez Boy Entertainment Worldwide) 5 Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.

Little more than six months after the release of his five-star, acclaimed SUGAR HILL HIGHWAY 84 album (also reviewed on this page), Jeter Jones's back with a new set called Mufassa II, his twelfth studio album. This new CD drops almost six months to the day after its predecessor, maintaining Jeter's hectic, two-albums-per-year recording pace even as Jones himself continues to drop hints that he may not be able to keep his boot to the metal much longer. (See Daddy B. Nice's back-up story on JETER'S EXIT from "News & Notes" in the Jeter Jones Artist Guide posted July 13, 2023.)

"I don't know how many more Cd's I got left in me," Jeter notes in introducing the 14-track Mufassa II, "but I do know that this has been a fun and exciting journey in music with you all."

My first impressions of the album were similarly doubtful. The selections seemed wildly experimental, the songwriting sketchy, and the guest artists (with a couple of exceptions) not as deserving as in the past. But by my second or third listen many of those same songs---a few of them familiar to Jones enthusiasts as recent promotional radio singles---were busting out and overflowing with personality.

”Her Sneaky Link” is a perfect example. It may seem unsuccessful at first, and it is a bit odd, but true to its title it sneaks up on you and ultimately captivates with both its musical and lyrical hook:

"If you don't treat her right," Jeter sings, "She's gonna find herself a sneaky link / And that sneaky link / Just might be me."

The same goes for "Trailride Anthem," which initially seems suspect due to its minimal soundtrack but with familiarity becomes an irresistable rhythmic treat enlivened by DJ Tony, the shouter/toaster who lent so much excitement to such mid-career, Jeter Jones tunes as "Single Footin'". He's also featured on "Trailride Train".

"Meet Me (In The Back Of My Truck)" is a country-flavored song complete with banjo accompaniment celebrating truckers and the amenities of their big rigs. You either bask in the genre-bending soundtrack or you do not, but after preliminary waffling I've decided that trysting in a semi sounds like fun.

"Quarter In The Jukebox" may or may not have been inspired by Tucka's 2022 smash single "Jukebox Lover". The video features Jeter juking in front of a brick wall covered from floor to ceiling with gold records. The song is written by Squirt Kelly, who also collaborates as writer and singer on "Ball In High Grass".

"Good Ole Boyz," with the couplet, "I've been wearing this hat and boots / Since the day I was born," ambles along on the most recognizable of chord progressions, yet the set picks up a notch when it queues.

Another song with originality and considerable depth features Jake Carter. "Most Wanted" has a chorus that runs, "I'm a cowboy / On this horse I ride / I'm wanted / Dead or alive." Carter and Jones take turns filling in the theme with seemingly autobiographical details, and the result is surprisingly resonant.

Other interesting tracks are "Come Home With Me" featuring LaMorris Williams and Volton Wright, "My Turn," "Da Jook Joint" and "Your Style" featuring Shannon "Scoop" Jones."Your Style" pre-dates Jeter's southern soul career, its original YouTube posting dated 2012.

One person you do not hear on Mufassa II is Jeter Jone's longtime producer and collaborator, Ronald "Slack" Jefferson. Slack's absence was also noted at times in SUGAR HILL HIGHWAY 84. "I want to hear a song from Slack," Jeter sings in "Da Jook Joint," and one wonders if a parting between these two creative geniuses, however amicable, took place recently. That would certainly account for some of Jeter's trepidation about the future. But no worries, as Jeter would say. He keeps turning musical experiments into southern soul etouffee.

---Daddy B. Nice

MUFASSA II Track List:

1
Intro
2
Trailride Anthem (feat. DJ Big Tony)
3
Meet Me
4
Quarter In The Jukebox
5
Her Sneaky Link
6
Let Her Geaux
7
Ball In High Grass (feat. Squirt Kelly)
8
It's Your Style (feat. Shannon "Scoop" Jones)
9
Good Ole Boyz
10
Most Wanted (feat. Jake Carter)
11
Da Juke Joint
12
Come Home With Me (feat. LaMorris Williams and Volton Wright)
13
Trailride Train (feat. DJ Big Tony)
14
My Turn

Buy Jeter Jones' new Mufassa II album at Apple.

Listen to all the tracks from Jeter Jones' new MUFASSA II album on YouTube.

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UNDER CONSTRUCTION!!!!



March 24, 2024:

TYREE NEAL: Liquor Talk (Jazzy Records) Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

In Louisiana Tyree Neal fills big shoes. Tyree comes from a storied musical family---Raful, Kenny, and of course cousin Jackie Neal, the departed, forever-young queen of Louisiana southern soul. When the prestigious Blues Is Alright Tour comes annually through Louisiana, Tyree sometimes appears on the bill with the "big boys"---King George, Pokey, Tucka, Sir Charles. And yet it is safe to say that with that recognition has come a kind of unconscious complacency, a contentment with his regional status unlike, for example, his more high-profile former Louisiana Blues Brothas bandmates Pokey and Bagher.

Liquor Talk, Neal's new album, is very much in the mode of the last, Young Goat of the Blues, quantity (twice the number of tracks of usual southern soul collections) over quality. It's not that the songs aren't adequately produced---they are---but therein lies the problem. They're just adequate. With a dearth of fresh melodies, interesting chord progressions or additional elements of production to distinguish one track from another, major portions of the album accomplish little beyond testifying to Tyree's well-known reputation for being a studio rat.

So it's more of the same in Liquor Talk, meaning Tyree's agenda is to prove his worth as a singer and songwriter. You'd never know from listening to the set that Neal is one of the pre-eminent lead guitarists in southern soul music. Would I still like to occasionally hear Tyree's guitar up front in the mix, like his dope riff in Stephanie McDee's "When I Step In The Club,"---to this day still the finest "bumper" music in the southern soul catalog? Yes I would.

If, on the other hand, you think "When I Step In The Club" sports a fairly pedestrian guitar line (even though it carries the entire song), sample Tyree's surgically-precise work with Highway Heavy (on keyboard organ) in backing up Johnny James on "Sweet Dick Johnny", a blues cauldron of tasteful picking and deep-soul organ straight from the Devil's crossroads.

Yet in spite of Tyree's insistence on downplaying his studio session work, as a Neal he is steeped in the music and its history, which alone will please many avid fans who will enjoy songs like "What He Don't Know Won't Hurt," which plays on the old Maurice Wynn classic "What She Don't Know (Won't Hurt Her)" and incidentally showcases Neal's vocal acuity at an all-time high.

Enhanced guitar work and a reggae-based rhythm track also lift "Take My Time In It". And the dance-friendly "Can't Nobody Do It Like She Do It," featuring Hot Boy Ronald, may be the most encouraging new sound on Liquor Talk. It surprises us with an uptempo, locomoting instrumental track with lots of special effects. It may even surprise Tyree. Even he seems energized.

References to Jackie Neal abound, and in the end that seems to be the point of any Tyree Neal solo effort. "It's Going Down Tonight" starts with a scratchy copy of Jackie Neal's classic, "Down In The Club," and if for nothing else than its uptempo zydeco pace, "Goin' Jackie Neal," (feat. Pokey Bear, C-Loc, Adrian Bagher, Johnny James and Bro Bro) may be the most enjoyable and dramatically distinctive tune on the CD. Everyone takes an entertaining verse, Pokey giving obeisance to Jackie more vehemently than anyone. Adrian Bagher sings that when he first heard Raful Neal, Tyree's uncle, at ten years old, he knew he wanted to be a blues man. As Jackie herself once sang, with the Neals it's all about the family.

---Daddy B. Nice


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UNDER CONSTRUCTION! UNDER CONSTANT REVISION!



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UNDER CONSTRUCTION!!!











 

CONTENTS:

Tyree Neal, Liquor Talk, 3-24-24

Jay Morris Group, Let Me Talk, 2-25-24

P2K DaDiddy, U-Turn (The Album), 2-16-24

Tucka, The Guy Your Man Can't Stand, 11-12-23

Adrian Bagher, ISM, 9-24-23

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RECENTLY REVIEWED:

Jeter Jones, Mufassa II, 8-1-23 (Click link. Contained in the Jeter Jones Artist Guide.)


Ms. Jody, A Night To Remember, 7-29-23 (Scroll down this column.)


Bigg Robb, Vintage, 6-1-23 (Scroll Down This Column.)


Jaye Hammer Be Happy, 5-1-23 (Click link. Contained in the Jaye Hammer Artist Guide.)


Stan Mosley, No Soul, No Blues, 4-1-23 (Scroll Down This Column.)

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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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July 29, 2023:

MS. JODY: A Night To Remember (Ecko Records) 5 Stars ***** Can't Miss. Pure Southern Soul Heaven.


Ms. Jody took some time off during the pandemic, her first interlude in a routine of annual album recordings at Ecko Records in Memphis that go back more years than I'd care to remember. So it was only natural to wonder, "What's up with Ms. Jody? What's on her mind these days? You know?...With all that time to think about things?"

The answer tickles me so much I want to withold it like a parent teasing a jumping toddler with a treat. It's the last thing you'd guess: PARTY! Yes, A Night To Remember is definitively the best party record Ms. Jody has ever put out. She's in a Jaye Hammer-like party mood, milking the funk out of the damn thang, churning those elbows, working those vocal cords.

There's a duo of remixed Ms. Jody jams from the past---a souped-up, faster-tempoed remix of "Get It! Get It!" from her second-last CD and a more faithful remix of "Southern Soul Bounce" first recorded on her 2018 "Doin' My Thang" album. The most accomplished---or at least most familiar---tracks on the album, this pair of tunes sets the tone, and if they were the only club-friendly numbers, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER might merit the description of a typical Ms. Jody album.

...And in some respects Ms. Jody does hew to time-honored formulas. There's a "cat" song depicting Jody's superiority over rival "cats" (aka women)---"The Best Cat Won"---and there's a sermonizing, "relationship" song in the mode of the venerable "When Your Give A Damn Don't Give A Damn" in "If He Don't Wanna Love You".

But A Night To Remember quickly plunges like a cannonball into serious club territory with an uninterrupted trio of brand new, uncompromising, funk-heavy tracks: "Mr. Beast Master" (one of Ms. Jody's personal favorites), "Burger King" and the title tune, "Let's Party Right (A Night To Remember)". Add Ms. Jody's 2022 hit single "I'm Gonna Ride That Black Horse," and push them together with "Southern Soul Bounce" and "Get It! Get It!" and you've got a bonafide party album.

The tender ballad "I Still Love You" and the the opening track, "Good Man," are the only outliers. (Ms. Jody tackles the same subject as "Good Man" with much better results in "A Man Like That" and "All True Man".) And when Ms. Jody returns to uptempo fare with "I'd Rather Wait Till He's Hittin' It," it's a wrap. Intentionally or not, A Night To Remember is a concept album, and the concept is dancing---moving your body!---be it in the club or the kitchen. And it's rare for a performer of the female persuasion to lavish us with something this generously and consistently uptempo and one-of-a-kind. Cheers!

Buy Ms. Jody's new A Night To Remember album at Blues Critic.

Listen to all the tracks from Ms. Jody's new A NIGHT TO REMEMBER album on YouTube.

---Daddy B. Nice

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June 1, 2023:

BIGG ROBB: Vintage (BiggRobb) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.


Twenty-some years ago singer/humorist Unckle Eddie had a novelty hit with a song named "Black Magic Woman". Probably not many people remember that these days, but the B-I-G-G man does. Only Bigg Robb reverses the wording for his "Black Woman Magic," a much more sophisticated and self-reflective production. And as the song from Bigg Robb's new Vintage album evolves Robb adds instrumental depth and vocal enhancements---not to mention a mid-song, talking voice-over---that will remind longtime fans of his early masterpiece "Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry".

Songs like the title tune and "Too Old For The Bullshit" place this generous, 19-track set squarely in the mode of Bigg Robb's latter-day, mid-career form: less pretentious subjects, effortless lead singing. I can remember when lead-singing was Robb's only handicap, an acquired skill rife with potential hazard. Now it's second nature, Robb having so thoroughly grafted his southern soul persona to his funk and hiphop roots the song-making formula is one of the most unmistakeable brands in southern soul.

"Smiling And Crying," with its sweet and welcoming guitar hook, and "Sipping And Thinking," with its appropriation of the chords from the Jay Morris Group's "Knee Deep," typify Bigg Robb's mature approach: contemplative, self-aware, family and home-oriented. Bigg Robb proselytizes for positivity---a wide-ranging, eyes-wide-open level of experience leavened with understanding, kindness and patience---in practically every tune: for example, "Backyard (Southern Soul Mix)," which is also given a "funky remix".

And he does it pretty much all by himself. Charles Wilson and Charles "Gator" Moore do appear in guest vocal spots ("Get My Groove On" and "Bring Back The Love"), and an uncredited vocalist (at least it doesn't sound like Robb) joins Bigg Robb on the chorus vocal of the locomoting "25 Again New Jack Swing," mimicking the way Mr. Woo used to guest on Robb's early records. But other than that it's all Bigg Robb and his personal studio wizardry.

"Belly On Ya / Poppa (Medley)" recycles some Biggie (Notorious B.I.G.) But later in the set, Robb serves up the real "Belly On Ya," the southern soul mix of "Belly On Ya" if you will. It's one of the most provocative yet good-natured come-ons to a woman you're ever going to hear, and one that will undoubtedly make the men who hear it jealous (it certainly did me), not because they necessarily want to be b-i-g-g like Bigg Robb but because they can't summon, when the occasion arises, similarly ingenious arguments on their own behalf. And there's history. This hilarity goes back to Robb's early days holding forth on the virtues of big men vs. skinny men. ("A big man will even take care of that kid the skinny man gave you...") And as in "Black Woman Magic," Robb lets the song grow, giving it the instrumental equivalent of "some air" until it blossoms into a triumphant summation of not only this easy-going album but Robb's entire career.

--Daddy B. Nice

Go to Bigg Robb's Artist Guide to purchase or listen on Spotify or YouTube.

SouthernSoulRnB.com - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

April 1, 2023:STAN MOSLEY: No Soul, No Blues (Dialtone / P-Vine) Four Stars **** Distinguished effort. Should please old fans and gain new.

Where is southern soul music going in this era of smart-phones and rampant media? The twin influences of blues and gospel appear to be eroding. The influx of aging hiphoppers is increasing and slowly and not so subtly changing the sound, although former rapper King George turned that idea on its head last year by inventing a southern soul sound so traditional it became more popular than anything else out there.

Now, into this Tower of Babel of southern soul
styles, Chicagoan Stan Mosley re-emerges with a "live-instrument" album---No Soul, No Blues---brought to you by the same Austin folks who released Crystal Thomas's straight-blues album two years ago. Which, of course, brings up the age-old argument that a significant portion of the music-loving public (read especially blues purists) will not listen to southern soul music because of its programming, and that (at the other extreme) certain southern soul deejays won't play live-instrument records because (they say) it doesn't sound like southern soul.

First, for those who may not know, or may not remember....Stan Mosley was one of the stars of early contemporary southern soul (90's-00's). His tender and heart-warming ballad "Rock Me" is as admired and beloved by the hardcore audience today as the ballads of Johnnie Taylor (JT just had more), and his groove-friendly jam "Anybody Seen My Boo?" played like an anthem through many a party and car trip. Stan sang the music of the finest composers: Floyd Hamberlin...Frederick Knight...Stan recorded for Malaco when Malaco was in full flower (and used live instruments)...

Still, Mosley's largely forgotten. He was never the promotional type in the first place, and although he's produced fairly regularly over the years, the albums have come in average intervals of three years, making it hard to keep a fan base. But Stan can still sing with the best of them. He hasn't lost a step.

Which brings us to the music. I'm blown away by the title track "Bluesman (No Soul, No Blues)," and I'm not one of those fellas who won't play "live-instrument" music. I don't believe it violates the southern soul sound. Just the opposite. It reminds me of the best of traditional southern soul---big-boy stuff like Clarence Carter, Al Green, Brook Benton, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke. I grew up on soul music played live. The problem in those days was the static. But we didn't notice the ambient noise, whether from the turntable or the radio, so it really wasn't a problem.

That's precisely the way current southern soul fans regard programming, or mixing programming with live instruments. Who doesn't program? It's more or less ubiquitous. But when I do hear a great song like "No Soul, No Blues," played with all-live instruments, I have to admit I'm ecstatic. The verses gallop along. The chorus chords are unforgettable. The sound is incredible, especially the horns, which always stand out when live. Stan's vocal is more than up to the task. Hell, he sounds like he's twenty years old.

I like all the accessible stuff on this set. "The Temps' "Can't Get Next To You" is a wondrous duet with the aforementioned Crystal Thomas, who collaborates throughout. Ditto for "Stomp" (obscure Wilson Pickett), "I Smell A Rat" and "Change of Heart". There are three, four, maybe five songs on "No Soul, No Blues" that will thrill anyone who loves soul music. But I can't give out YouTube links.

That's another difference between the "live" folks and the "programming" folks. Because they pay for all those sidemen---the Moeller Brothers (guitar, drums), Mike Archer (bass), Anthony Farrell (organ) and Kaz Kazanoff, John Mills and Al Gomez (The Texas Horns)---and studio time, there is no YouTube presence. And by the way, this record has been out for over a year without anything but a "teaser" on YouTube, first with P-Vine through a Japanese release and now from Dialtone in Austin where the CD was created. I guess you could call it old-school marketing for an old-school sound.

Other tracks that stand out are "What You Need," and by "accessible" I mean exactly what this tune has in spades---melody, pacing, soulfulness. "Right Next Door (Because Of Me)" is interesting. Not only does the historical antecedent totally escape me, but I can't help hearing echoes of Stevie Johnson's (aka Stevie J. Blues') southern soul classic, "Because Of Me," and wondering where Stevie picked up that riff.

The balance of the album is "da blues," and as readers know, traditional blues is not my expertise nor passion. I have no doubt blues fans will be as impressed with the execution as I was by the songs of interest to the southern soul audience, however. "No Soul, No Blues" is old-school bluesy, maybe too much so for today's market, but it would be unfortunate to say the least if this kind of incandescent southern soul music ever becomes "out of bounds".

---Daddy B. Nice

Buy Stan Mosley's new NO SOUL, NO BLUES album at Antone's Record Shop.

Sample/Buy Stan Mosley's new NO SOUL, NO BLUES album at Apple.

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