southern soul blues
Blues Critic Awards
2007 READERS POLL
Southern Soul Blues
As voted by Blues Critic readers
January 7 2008
Southern Soul Blues Awards. In our third annual Blues Critic readers poll we had the most votes yet. Over 75,000 ballots! Methinks the choices were even harder this year because 2007 saw a high number of quality CDs despite the fact album sales are down again for the entire music industry. Bootlegging (pirating) and file sharing continues to ruin the business. It's human nature to want something for free but when it comes to the Southern Soul Blues world it hurts the artists and companies more. When a CD release only has a chance of selling a few thousand copies every single bootleg sale hurts. There's been a lot of outcries about "low budget living room recordings" and such but many artists figure they need to keep costs as low as possible since half their album sales are eaten up by slimeball street vendors selling counterfeit CDs. It's up to each one of us to support this music by paying a few dollars more for the REAL CD instead of the cheap bootleg. Go ahead and get your R. Kelly for free but not your Floyd Taylor if you know what I mean. Every time we do the right thing we are increasing the chance there will be more Southern Soul Blues music created and better quality music. So here's another tip: REPORT THE BOOTLEGGERS when you see them. (Any individuals with information regarding CD-R pirates or illegal manufacturing locations can call 1-888-BAD-BEAT (1-888-223-2328), send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the program’s website at www.CDReward.com on the Web).
Okay enough preachin'. Back to the reader's poll. This year no one person dominated the awards as no one person won more than one award. There were many releases that were worthy of nominations but didn't make the list
Thanks to all the Program Directors, DJs, stores, websites, magazines and most of all fans for supporting the music in 2007. We are glad to be a part of it here at Blues Critic.
-Dylann DeAnna Blues Critic Editor
Best Southern Soul/R & B Album
T.K. Soul "Undisputed" (Soulful/Brimstone)
We had records by Denise LaSalle, O.B. Buchana, Mr. Sam, Theodis Ealey, Bigg Robb, Charles Wilson, Fred Bolton, Lola, Betty Padgett, Floyd Taylor, Simeo, Lenny Williams & Steve Perry ..but the winner is? "Undisputed" by T.K. Soul. (Runner-Up: Denise LaSalle "Pay Before You Pump")
Best Soul Blues Album
Theodis Ealey "I'm The Man You Need" (Ifgam)
Southern Soul/R&B Song Of The Year
"My Give A Damn Gave Out (A Long Time Ago)" by Latimore (LatStone)
Don't call it a comeback he's been here for ye...but this was the first single from his first album in five-plus years. The brilliant "My Give A Damn Gave Out (A Long Time Ago)" is just a good old soul song with clever lyrics. In one of the closest polls it narrowly edged out hits by T.K. Soul, Carl Marshall and Runner Up: Floyd Taylor's "You Still Got It"
Best Slow Jam
"Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry" by Carl Marshall (Unleashed)This sleeper slowly climbed it's way into everyone's hearts and the top of the chart. It got an extended life when Bigg Robb did a smashing remix of it. (Runner Up: "I'm Just A Fool Part 2" by J. Blackfoot & Sir Charles Jones)
Best Dance Song
"Cupid Shuffle" by Cupid (Atlantic)
Love it or hate it there was no escaping Cupid's novelty dance craze. "Cupid Shuffle" won easily but had worthy competition including T.K. Soul's "Party Like Back In The Day", Simeo's "Get Low", Charles Wilson's "That Boom!", the Team Airplay's update of "Da Twist" and the Runner Up "Pop That Middle" by Theodis Ealey)
Best Vocal Performance FEMALE
Ms. Jody on "Your Dog's About To Kill My Cat" (Ecko)
A VERY close voting race between Lola, Denise LaSalle, Betty Padgett and Runner Up Barbara Carr but Ms. Jody won by a cat's tail (tale)
Best Vocal Performance MALE
Floyd Taylor on "You Still Got It" (Malaco)
Yup he sing like his daddy but he's his own man. Floyd Taylor bested strong showings by Charles Wilson, Latimore, Willie Clayton, Sir Charles Jones and Runner Up: T.K. Soul.
Best Performance By A Duo Or Group
J. Blackfoot & Sir Charles Jones for "I'm Just A Fool For You Part 2" (JEA Music)
This is quite an achievement. J. Blackfoot won last year in this category for his duet with Lenny Williams on the ORIGINAL version of this slow jam but in 2007 he went back in and re-recorded it with Sir Charles Jones... and crushed the competition again! The only duets that came close were Omar Cunningham & Willie Clayton for "Shysters And Wannabes", Charles Wilson & Simeo for "Christmas In Memphis" and the Runner Up: Lola & William Bell for "Shake Hands".
Best New Artist FEMALE
The "best new artist" categories always get the most votes with loyal supporters of the singers rallying the troops to vote like crazy. This year there were over 75,000 votes cast in this category, mainly between winner Lola, Sweet Angel and Runner Up: The Duchess
Best New Artist MALE
The "best new artist" categories always get the most votes with loyal supporters of the singer rallying the troops to vote like crazy. This year there were over 62,000 votes cast in this category, mainly between winner Mr Sam, ZZ Hill Jr and Runner Up Fred Bolton
Best Record Producer(s) Of The Year
William Bell & Reginald "Wizard" Jones
This category isn't always fair as often voters aren't familiar with a producer's name so they may vote by default for someone they do recognize. Two producers who didn't win deserve mention. Bruce Billups produced terrific hits by Theodis Ealey and Lebrado. He's got a signature sound. Even more prolific was Simuel Overall, aka, "Simeo" who produced hits not only for his self but also for Charles Wilson, Dicky Williams and Al Lindsey. That's not to say those who got the most votes didn't deserve the attention! Larry Dodson of the Bar Kays, Bigg Robb and Runner Up Mr. Theodis Ealey got the bulk of votes but it was the production team from Wilbe Records that gets the Award. William Bell and Reginald "Wizard" Jones were responsible not only for William Bell's music but also the two bright newcomers Lola and Fred Bolton.
The BLUES CRITIC staff pick...
SOUTHERN SOUL ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Early on it seemed T.K Soul would be a shoe in and he did have a great year. Theodis Ealey's success was split between 2006 and 2007 but at one point he had three(!) songs on the charts at once! The "Plumber Man" Charles Wilson and "Never Coming Home" gal Better Padgett made a lot of noise. Ecko artists Denise LaSalle and hard hustlin' O.B. Buchana delivered huge hits... but Robert Smith , aka Bigg Robb, just did the most for the genre in 2007. Two terrific albums in one year (three if you count the "Best Of Da Problem Solvas").
Big(g) sounding production, strong songs and lots of style he brought to the game. His "8 Tracks & 45s" was one of the best LPs while his collection "Blues, Soul And Old School" featured hits he produced on Carl Marshall ("Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry (remix)"), Pat Cooley ("Older Woman Younger Man") and more to follow. Take a bow bigg man!
1. "Bigg Robb Presents Blues, Soul & Old School" (Over 25 Sound)
This is the third release this year. His "8 Tracks & 45s" then "Best Of Da Problem Solvas" are already out there and now this party in a box! Good news for those who want to get Pat Cooley's "Younger Man, Older Woman". It's in there. (like Ragu). Bigg Robb's new version of Carl Marshall "Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry" was a titanic hit.
2. Simone De "A Definitive Collection" (Premier Music Ent.)
2007 is off to a great start with this strong collection by Simone De. ...real instruments rather than programming.... richly Old School Soul, which is always timeless to folks with good taste. Despite the title "A Definitive Collection" isn't a "hits" compilation (Though it sounds like it!). All new material....De wrote or co-wrote all ten 10 slices of modern Soul. An essential purchase.
3. T.K. Soul "Undisputed" (Soulful)
...currently the "king of Southern Soul". The first single, "Party Like Back In The Day", is sitting in the Top 5 on Southern Soul charts..."Undisputed" (the album) is a crowd pandering/pleasing set capitalizing on the momentum T.K. has built up over the years. Very much a "Pop Southern Soul" album...the ladies sure do love the man! ... Another strong, slow creeper is "You're So Special" and the ode to moms, "Flowers", is truly gorgeous. Overall this has less for the clubs and more for the bedroom but it's easy on the ears for sure. Expect it to dominate Southern Soul for the rest of the year.
4. O.B. Buchana "Goin' Back Home" (Ecko)
...his best since his Ecko debut ("Shake What You Got!"). Why? A higher percentage of good hooks and better rhythm tracks...."Goin' Back Home" has the bass upfront like on the propulsive "Booty Mover" (2 versions), perhaps the label's best dancer since the irresistible "Booty Scoot"... and Big John Cumming's "I'm Goin' Back Home". How can you not agree with these lyrics?
5. Mr. Sam "Lookin' 4 Love" (MiLaja)
The terrific title cut preceded the full length CD by several months and made it's mark on dozens of Southern Soul playlists... hook-filled set of modern Soul music, possessing a yearning tenor of his own and a sense of melody. "12 Steps 4 Cheaters" is a stone cold gem....silky "I'm Coming Home" and "Work Yo Body", an irresistible dancer...Sam Fallie is a triple threat: Artist/Producer/Writer.
6. Lola "Give Her What She Wants" (Wilbe)
Ms. Lola Gulley is the newest find by the Stax Records legend William Bell....Daaaamn! But the girl ain't triflin', she found her way through the door to center stage...She has a mighty soulful voice that makes me think of Mavis Staples and Mr. Bell gives her a set of funky Rhythm & Blues and Southern Soul...The girl's good...he (Reginald Wizard Jones) and Bell continue to "Give Her What She Wants".
7. Denise LaSalle "Pay Before You Pump" (Ecko)
The first single, however, is a re-working of Floyd Hamberlin's "Mississippi Boy" (re-titled "Mississippi Woman"), which has already been a regional hit for Will T and Charles Wilson...The rhythmically similar "It's Goin' Down" was written by LaSalle. Here the "Queen" promises to put the smack down on a rival hen. ... LaSalle is one of those rare Blues singers that seems to appeal equally to female and male fans. The ladies cheer when she talk smack, putting men in their place but the menfolk simply eat it up too because she's got the chops. Both will "pump" this one to the top of the charts.
8. Bigg Robb "8 Tracks & 45s" (Over 25 Sound)
Bigg Robb is in the hizzy and that can only mean one thing- party time for "grown folks"!...the madcap producer brings a cast of characters including Charlie Wilson, Blowfly, Henry "Big Woo" King (of Da Problem Solvas), Shirley Murdock, Karen Graves, Sure 2 B, Special & others to a straight up party record... on the pulse of the "grown and sexy" spirit in the Chitlin' Circuit... Pure booty candy.
9. Wendell B "Time To Relax...Time, Love & Relationships" (Smoothway Ent.)
The hyperbolic intro and too many interludes may stymie some of the joy here but Wendell B is an incredible singer. Yes they call him the "new Luther Vandross" and so on but all hype aside truth is you can't help but be captured by the man's Soul. The drop dead fantastic first single "She Didn't Have Ta Hurt Ya Boy Like That" has been out for a few months making this an eagerly anticipated release. I really can't prattle on enough about how great this track is. Perhaps that's why he put it out way before the album was ready. It just couldn't wait? In fact his holiday outing "Save A Little Room For Me" dropped inbetween. Whatever it may be this track alone is worth full price.
10. Latimore "Back 'Atcha" (LatStone)
After a recording drought of six years (and after a now obscure, one-off album with Mel Waiters' Brittney) Latimore returned on a new specialty label formed with Stone (unimaginatively called LatStone) and released this dynamo of an album. The fed up and fatigued "My Give A Damn Gave Out (A Long Time Ago)" was a great success for Latimore and the album spawned two further gems with "'Nanna Puddin'" and "Edna Mae".
11. Simeo "Hottest In The Game" (Jomar)
"Get Low" shake it down to the floor! Get Low"! Ladies, please listen to the brutha! That's one hot dancefloor jammy...R & B-flava southern soul. Simeo used to play with Cameo ("Word Up"!) and sang lead for Larry Blackmon's pet project Cashflow...Every cut is hot. Big booty bottom bass on "Windows". He's singing "We roll roll southern soul soul". The walls are shaking, speakers rumble and the windows are rattling....Alright back to Simeo. "Hottest In The Game"? Maybe. Maybe! Peace.
12. Lenny Williams "It Must Be Love" (Lentom)
As evidenced by his recent records Lenny Williams hasn't lost a step vocally. His "Can't Nobody Do Me Like You Do" spent an entire year on Southern Soul charts... "It Must Be Love" rewards the listener with that classic Lenny yearn and "I Be Missing You" features a modern Contemporary R & B arrangement with rat-a-tat verses and call-and-response backups... Still lovin' Lenny.
13. Fred Bolton "I'm Gonna Get Mine" (Wilbe)
William Bell's Wilbe Records has given us another great sounding R&B/Soul record. Elastic-voiced tenor Fred Bolton makes his presence known... Radio friendly ear candy like "I Can't Lose (With The Stuff You Use)", "Must Be Jelly", "Baby It's You" should all be pulled as singles...Another winner from the Bell camp, which also boasts Jeff Floyd.
14. Floyd Taylor "You Still Got It" (Malaco)
In 2005 Floyd dominated Southern soul airwaves with Cason's "Baby I've Changed" to the point our readers voted it Southern Soul Song Of The Year (2005 Blues Critic Awards). It's late in 2007 and Cason, prior to his passing, has delivered an even better song called "You Still Got It". Perhaps the most truly romantic song of the decade. "Nineteen to twenty-two ain't got a damn on you. You still got it babe" Floyd croons to the wife of his youth who he's grown older with. An absolute genius track and yet a bittersweet swansong to Rich Cason's memorable career. (Cason was voted Record Producer Of The Year in 2005)
15. Big G "Simply Me" (Stone River)
Big G stays true to form on "Simply Me", laidback, downhome Soul in the Roy C vain. Amazingly, considering he's better than his low profile, this is G's sixth LP (excluding two compilations) and again it features almost entirely real instruments (played by G himself). Heavy bass and drum bottom and lots of saxophone (by Lorenzo Brown) permeate these simple songs about love, bopping your booty and gettin' it on. The strongest melody belongs to "1 800" about a lonely guy who sees a commercial imploring him to cure his heartache by picking up the phone. (Good thing he didn't see any 1-900 ads!) The sweet backups by the Babylon Sisters (Tanya, Monica & Michelle) steal the show here. The trio add their talents to most of the cuts- (wish the credits listed their full names).
16. Charles Wilson "The After Party" (CDS Records)
10 brand new southern soul songs (plus the 11th hidden bonus track "Mississippi Boy")...Every song could be a hit. "That Boom!"..."Plumber Man"....On the slow tip we have the super sweet "Broke Into My Heart" ..."Christmas In Memphis"....Charles' best record yet?
17. David Brinston "Here I Go Again" (Ecko)
Now on his fifth record label, Ecko, Brinston delivers the goods with simple melodic bumps, ballads and beach. Though it's heavily synthetic music a singer like Brinston can still make it sound soulful. The set opens with the title track, a sweet dancer nearly ruined by obnoxious background vocals (that goofy "here I go here I go" bit). It sounds like an outtake from the "Hit & Run" sessions! The likely radio cuts though are the bump "Baby Let Me Hit It One More Time" and midtempo "Too Many Women", both have the strongest refrains on the LP. The latter also features a bona fide B-3 Organ part by John Ward, who this time gives co-production credited to frequent collaborator Morris J Williams.
18. Carl Sims "Can't Stop Me" (Ecko)
Though it's only been a year and a half it seems longer since we've had new Carl Sims music. Most likely because his last LP, "I'm Ready", really didn't produce any enduring hits despite having one of the year's best cuts ("I'm A Hustler"). The lone charter, "I Needed A Woman", was an inferior retread of the "Seventeen Days Of Loving" track. "Can't Stop Me" should bring Carl back in the spotlight, however. The first single, "I Like This Place", is a solid "Hole-In-The-Wall"- themed bumper we expect from Ecko Records.
19. Willie Hill "I'm A Man On A Mission" (Ifgam)
The phrase "long awaited new album" is an overused cliché that actually fits the new Willie Hill quite rightly. See, it was all the way back in 2005 when the first single off this LP was released. That track, "Man On A Mission", was a moderate Southern Soul hit that portended a good Theodis Ealey-like batch of tunes...the truly long-awaited new CD by Willie Hill has dropped...and it lives up to the promise. It leads off with the above-mentioned title track, includes the terrific "Friendly Reunion" and a slew of good 'uns. Mr Theodis Ealey has produced and presented an album on Hill not unlike his own output: Keyboard-driven, upbeat bumpers and Blues- not too polished but with a bouncy bottom.
20. Vickie Baker "I Could Show You" (FaLife)
... she still has that sweet Southern Soul voice. "I Could Show You" mostly that trusty Chitlin' Circuit-style of "Soul/Blues" we all love ...witty cuts like the title cut...This fills in the void we've had since Peggy Scott-Adams is taking a break..."Get Me Weak" talks bullshhh or perhaps "the truth" on "Straight Talkin'", ala Millie Jackson, but then gets all soft on the gorgeous slowie "He Say She Say" where she vows "to stand by my man".
To be eligible albums must have been released in North America between 12/2006 to 12/2007. OR albums released in 2006 that peaked in 2007.
1.Mighty Mo Rodgers "Redneck Blues" (Dixiefrog)
Willie Dixon may have claimed it first but these days Mighty Mo Rodgers is the Blues. Perhaps nobody digs as deep into the art form to elucidate what it means for Black Americans and all humanity in general...Rodgers has wrapped his message within tightly packed arrangements full of that "holy howl" and sledgehammer Rhythm & Blues. Forget KRS-One this is truly "edutainment"...It's to Mo's credit that he doesn't sacrifice song structure for seriousness. The disc is as tuneful as any "party Blues" album. That muscular, rhythmic Soul Blues sound- almost hypnotically tribal- graces "Death Of The Middle Class" and "Gangs Guns And Testosterone". ...This is what "contemporary" Blues is suppose to be about. "Redneck Blues" is uncompromising, defiant, and Southern American to the core. Mo helps each and every one of us be 'afrocentric" if only for an hour. One could never "get" the Blues without such an experience. A triumph.
2. Swamp Dogg "Resurrection" (SDEG)
"Resurrection" is his most provocative (and best) offering in decades ... winding, horn-heavy slice of energetic Soul- that Swamp Dogg sound.... the centerpiece of the record is the twelve minute titled track, an unflinching treatise on the history of Black folk in America.
3. Nappy Brown "Long Time Coming" (Blind Pig)
At age 78 Mr. Napoleon Brown Goodson Culp aka "Nappy Brown" remains one of our best living Blues singers. That versatile voice has always jumped easily from croon, to shout, to wail and that ain't not changed no way. In fact, I think it's improved with age...This Blind Pig Records debut, his first LP since his obscure 1997 New Moon disc "Who's Been Foolin' You", is a sterling addition to his legacy, featuring some of the finest Blues musicians working today...Speaking of vocals you must experience the Deep Soul he exudes on the ballad "Give Me Your Love"...Brown's put out some strong modern day records, such as Black Top's "Something Gonna Jump Out The Bushes" (1987) and Ichiban's "Apples & Lemons" (1990) (both inexplicably out-of-print), but this new disc will have the longest run.
4.Tad Robinson "New Point Of View" (Severn) Tad Robinson is simply one of the best singers in the business. An aching blue-eyed Soul tenor much too strong for generic 12-bar Blues fare (though he does such extremely well) and his latest...is yet another perfectly produced and arranged Soul/Blues disc from Severn Records...Robinson's last opus, "Did You Ever Wonder?", was our pick for Best Blues CD of 2004 and this new one is a delicious followup. With heavy support from Pride...the disc marinates in heavy bass, horns and B-3 glory... the sound of this record is so sublime...
5. Bettye LaVette "Scene Of The Crime" (Anti)
Again, LaVette's latest is hard to categorize with Rock, Soul, Blues, Folk all coming from her unforgettable voice. This is the acclaimed CD that her overrated "I've Got My Own Hell To Raise" wanted to be.6. Thorbjorn Risager "From The Heart" (Gateway Music)
Sometimes a singer's voice just stands out and forces you to listen Take one part Ray Charles, one part Bob Seger and one part Joe Cocker and you may have the vocal instrument of Denmark's Thorbjorn Risager...as auspicious a debut as one could hope for. A crunchy guitar riff introduces "Love Turned Cold", a John Lennon-esque rocker, with Risager bellowing from the back of his throat... Ten tracks without a dud in the bunch, "From The Heart" is sizzling with Soul.
7. Eugene Smiley Sr "Legends" (KCity)
...the kind of Soul/Blues record critics such as myself love to discover. All original songs and real instruments, which in itself is a selling point. Memphis movers like "I'm The Only Man", "You're Gonna Miss Me" & "Holdin On" plus Downhome Bluesers "Straighten Up, Woman" & "Voodoo Woman". Horns, Bluesy guitar and organ Soul music never gets old.
8. Sterling Harrison "South Of The Snooty Fox" (Hacktone)
The late Sterling Harrison never got his due as the exceptional Soul singer he was during his life... Fortunately for us he left a potent collection of tracks aka "South Of The Snooty Fox", that shows Harrison was a cut above the average Soul/Blues journeyman. "Snooty Fox" is the definitive Sterling Harrison moment.
9.Betty Harris "Intuition" (Evidence)
Jagged, unpolished Soul, Blues & Rhythm & Blues for comeback gal Harris. Now three-plus decades since her official 1970 retirement she's returned with a 16-track set entrusted to the prodigious hands of producer Jon Tiven....Add a crack band that plays this kind of music all day and you got a keeper! Featuring a hook big enough for a whale, the opener "Is It Hot In Here?", is simply overpowering in it's sexiness and ripe for Triple A radio..."Intuition" ranks up there with his Pickett album ("It's Harder Now")....a vital new recording that's classic in arrangement but sonically NOW.
10.Ellis Hooks "Another Saturday Morning" (Evidence)
I'd give this record a rave just for the fact it's packed fair and square with 16 new tracks (!) all written by producer Jon Tiven, wife Sally Tiven and Ellis Hooks. A lotta bang for yo' buck. The Tivens have written and produced terrific discs by Hooks ("Godson Of Soul") Wilson Pickett, Sir Mack Rice & most recently the four-award winning (W.C. Handy's) "Think Of Me" by Little Milton. There's a winning formula. We got the same raspy Soul voice, punchy rhythm, real ingredients (organ, horns, guitar) that worked before and while the songs contain perhaps less immediately gratifying hooks (no pun intended) the results show there's plenty fuel left in the tank
*** in no particular order...
To be eligible albums must have been released 12/2006 to 12/2007. OR albums released in 2006 that peaked in 2007.