Thursday, January 21, 2010
Etta JAMES - Matriarch of the Blues 2000
MATRIARCH OF THE BLUES was nominated for the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Sandwiched between trad jazz excursions BLUE GARDENIA and HEART OF A WOMAN came MATRIARCH OF THE BLUES, a millennial outing featuring Etta James unleashing her powerful growl on a wide-ranging mix of soul and rock & roll covers. This outing found a then 62-year old Peaches roaring over a crack band equally at home pumping punchy horns and a slinky groove into the Born Again-era Dylan nugget "Gotta Serve Somebody" and laying down a funky bed for O.V. Wright's tasty "Don't Let My Baby Ride." Not surprisingly, James's strongest moments come on ballads like Ray Charles's gospel-flavored "Come Back Baby" and Ann Peebles's pleading "You're Gonna Make Me Cry."
This veteran vocalist easily slips into the swamp-rock pocket of CCR's "Born On The Bayou" and rides herd over a particularly crisp reading of Big Mama Thornton's oft-covered "Hound Dog." Even The Rolling Stones' disco anthem "Miss You" is given an even more lascivious twist by an undulating mid-tempo groove that replaces the dance beat with flamenco-like nuances and luscious sounding horns.
The mark of great singers is their ability to turn a trifling song into an emotional masterwork. R&B legend Etta James has done it live for nearly 20 years with Kiki Dee's "Sugar on the Floor" and a few others. But what's really sublime is hearing James sink her teeth into numbers that stand up to her own greatest work--"At Last" and the other Chess hits that built her reputation. James ignites such sparks all over this new disc of mostly well-chosen covers, wrapping her deep, supple, and saucy pipes around Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" and "Hawg for You"; replacing Mick Jagger's flippancy with real heart on the Rolling Stones' "Miss You"; putting the gospel fire into Bob Dylan's "You Got to Serve Somebody"; and digging down 'n' dirty into O.V. Wright's "Don't Let My Baby Ride." The straight-ahead arrangements and undistinguished playing leave James to carry the album herself, but at 62, she's still a fireball and more than up to the task.
By Ted Drozdowski.
Etta James- (Vocals);
Bobby Murray, Josh Sklair, Leo Nocentelli- (Guitar);
Jimmy Z. Zavala- (Harmonica, Tenor & Baritone Saxophones);
Lee R. Thornburg- (Trumpet, Valve Trombone);
Tom Poole- (Trumpet);
David K. Matthews- (Piano);
Mike Finnigan- (Hammond B-3 Organ);
Sametto James- (bass);
Donto James- (Drums, Percussion);
Ross Locke- (Percussion, Background Vocals);
Goldman Redding- (Background Vocals).
01. Gotta Serve Somebody 6:50
02. Don't Let My Baby Ride 5:15
03. Rhymes 4:36
04. Try A Little Tenderness 4:46
05. Miss You 6:00
06. Hawg For Ya 3:44
07. You're Gonna Make Me Cry 6:18
08. Walking the Back Streets 7:08
09. Let's Straighten It Out 5:24
10. Born On The Bayou 4:41
11. Come Back Baby 5:56
12. Hound Dog 3:43