From The Shoals
Big Blue Records
Slinky, Soulful and Swampy Blues Straight Outta Beale Street
I don’t know anyone in the Soul or Blues world that can sing a song the way Barbara Blue does.I’m not saying that she’s better or even shoulder to shoulder with the greats like Aretha, Diana, Nina or the like; but in this day and age she’s one of a kind and I love her and her music.
Back in the day; Barbara would surely have been on Atlantic Records; the coolest of the Big Three labels; and when you hear opening track The Shoals for the first time I’m sure you’ll agree. There’s a self-confident swagger in every note she sings and the band behind her, are all excellent keeping the funky melody in line with Barbara’s deep and sexy voice; never even coming close to crossing the line.
The second song won’t get radio play, simply because of the title; Nutthouse Blues and it’s fair to say the Queen of Beale Street plays on that innuendo with glee; but the Nutthouse in question is the name of the recording studio this was all recorded in.
The best of both Blues and Soul; which this album criss-crosses with ease can both be listened to in the quiet of your own home; and also be danced to on a Friday or Saturday night in a seedy club or bar that your Mother claims not to know about; but strangely the bartender knows her favourite drink!
Danceable Soul and Blues songs they are invariably meant for the end of the night when you slowly shake, shimmy and grind…. and that’s exactly what springs to mind with (Etta James’s) Tell Mama, Curse of Beauty and especially the sensual Nothing Lasts Forever which even has a hint of Disco in that phat bass line.
Of course there are a host of Lurve songs here; but not the usual teenage lovey-dovey type of our youth; Ms Blue is a fully grown lady and knows what she wants; even if it as as bittersweet as the stories and characters in the simmering ballads Severed and Too Far, which are probably best heard in a dark room; but will also drag hardened lovers onto the dancefloor to cling onto each other when the lights go low and the glitterball twinkles at the end of the night; and I guess Never Stopped Loving You falls into the same bag too …. as it’s a heartbreaker of the Deluxe variety.
The album closes with the beguiling epic; Trail of Tears; not your ‘obvious’ Blues song as Barbara recounts the story of a Native American woman set to a swampy Blues melody
I keep repeating myself that these days albums no longer need ‘obvious commercial singles’ on them; most especially when the target audience is a grown up one; but that doesn’t stop some songs being extra-special; which brings me to the two songs I can’t seperate for the accolade of Favourite Song.
The haunting Song of The River is deceptively ‘gentle’ with crackling sound effects and pristine bottle neck guitar leading into Barbara with a ‘talking Blues’ which is as hypnotic as it is poetic ….. different from absolutely everything here and an absolute stunner of a song.
The other is a more traditional Slide Man; and Will McFarlane’s guitar playing is as cool and dreamy as you’d hope on a song of that title; but the Slide Man in question is a lover not a ‘picker’ and the way Ms Blue describes her needs …. I’m ruling myself out!
There is absolutely everything you’d hope to find on an album of this quality; love, heartbreak, making up, dance tunes and even a little bit of a history lesson …. highly recommended.
Released January 27th 2022
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