southern soul blues
Blues Critic Awards
2006 READERS POLL
Southern Soul Blues
As voted by Blues Critic readers
January 10 2007
Over 50,000 votes! So close were the polls this year! In nearly every category the winner's margin was less than 2 percent!. I'd like to think it was due to the sheer quality of Southern Soul Blues music released in 2006...and it was. There were many releases that were worthy of nominations but didn't make the cut because of scant distribution . I think it's safe to say this was one of the biggest years for the much maligned genre. Nevertheless, mainstream radio, mainstream print & retail are still behind on what's going on with this music. (Props though to Living Blues for publishing Funky Larry Jones' Top 10 singles chart this past year). Bootleggers continue to ruin the business...scumbags one and all. But all the DJs who play Southern Soul mom & pop shops, labels, websites and media people like Jerry "Boogie" Mason, Funky Larry Jones, Gary 'G Ball' Ball, E Norman (and many others- sorry to those not listed) have stepped up their efforts in getting this music in the fans ears and hands. "It takes a nation of millions" to hold it back...
There's a lot of talk about the term "Southern Soul". It's really just good ol' Soul Music period. It's called "Southern" because any fool knows the Deep South is where Soul music was born. I prefer to call the music "Deep Soul, Rhythm & Blues", which covers it all. "Southern Soul" incorporates Blues, Funk, classic R & B, Contemporary R & B etc... but is distinguished from mainstream "R & B" like R. Kelly & Mary J. Blige. Don't ask me why...it just is.
Well enough of that- let's get onto the results!
-Dylann DeAnna Blues Critic Editor
Best Southern Soul/R & B Album
Willie Clayton "Gifted" (Malaco)
We had records by Sir Charles Jones, Mel Waiters, Willie Clayton, Theodis Ealey, Gwen McCrae, William Bell, Betty Padgett, Barbara Carr, Omar Cunningham, Billy Soul Bonds, Donnie Ray, J. Blackfoot, Kenne Wayne & Renea Mitchell...but the winner is? "Gifted" by Willie Clayton! (Runner-up Theodis Ealey "I'm The Man You Need (Ifgam))
Best Southern Soul/Blues Album
Bobby Warren "Pioneers & Legends (KonKord)
Nominees included Joey Gilmore, Jackie Payne-Steve Edmonson Band*, Maurice Davis, Frankie Lee, Clarence Carter, Lee Shot Williams, Trudy Lynn, Preston Shannon, Little Phil, Roy Roberts, Bob Steele & Walter Waiters. This was THE CLOSEST of all the polls. Runner-up Jackie Payne-Steve Edmonson Bands' "Master Of The Game" was ahead of the pack until the last several days when Bobby Warren "Pioneers & Legends" (KonKord) pulled ahead and won by 22 votes! (*Not to worry Payne/Edmonson won "Best Soul Blues Album" in our separate CONTEMPORARY BLUES AWARDS 2006.)
Southern Soul Blues Song Of The Year
"Scat Cat...Here Kitty Kitty" by Billy 'Soul' Bonds (Waldoxy)
It had stiff competition from hits by Willie Clayton ("I'm Going Crazy"), Chairmen Of The Board ("The Blacker The Berry"), William Bell ("New Lease On Life"), Theodis Ealey ("Francine") and more by Donnie Ray, Renea Mitchell, Ms. Monique, Greeg A. Smith, Steve Perry, Bob Steele, Sir Charles Jones, Clarence Carter, Mel Waiters & Betty Padgett but "Scat Cat...Here Kitty Kitty" by Billy 'Soul' Bonds (Waldoxy) was just one of those songs that everybody loved. Runner-up: "New Lease On Life" by William Bell (Wilbe).
Best Slow Jam
"Scat Cat...Here Kitty Kitty" by Billy 'Soul' Bonds (Waldoxy)There was just no stopping Billy 'Soul' Bonds as his "Scat Cat...Here Kitty Kitty" (Waldoxy) narrowly trumped runner up Kenne Wayne's "If The Shoe Was On The Other Foot" (Goodtime) for it's second award!
Best Dance Song
"Throwback Days" by Mel Waiters (Waldoxy)
The monster club favorite "Mississippi Cha Cha Slide" by Mix Master Lee (Alpine/Team Airplay) seemed like a sure thing in this category but Mr. "Hole In The Wall" Mel Waiters "Throwback Days" (Waldoxy) was Blues Critic readers' "BEST DANCE SONG" of 2006. Runner-up: "Francine" by Theodis Ealey (Make Cents)
Best Vocal Performance FEMALE
Gwen McCrae on "Let's Straighten It Out" (Henry Stone)
It was a fantastic year for the Southern Soul divas! Sheba Potts-Wright, Lacee', Ms. Monique, Barbara Carr, Betty Padgett, Lorraine Turner, Candi Staton, Irma Thomas, Joy, Lady Audrey, Trudy Lynn...but Gwen McCrae is yo' gal on her duet with Latimore for "Let's Straighten It Out" (Henry Stone Music) Runner-up: Betty Padgett "Never Coming Home" (Meia)
Best Vocal Performance MALE
William Bell for "New Lease On Life" (Wilbe)
William Bell was nominated for three awards and nearly won all three but instead he narrowly edged out runner-up Willie Clayton for this award. The Bell is back! He was also a winner in 2005 for his duet with Jeff Floyd. Winner: William Bell for "New Lease On Life" (Wilbe). Other nominees were Kenne' Wayne, Omar Cunningham, Gregg A. Smith, Mel Waiters, Lebrado, Wendell B., Carl Sims, Patrick Green, O.B. Buchana & Sir Charles Jones.
Best Performance By A Duo Or Group
J. Blackfoot & Lenny Williams for "I'm Just A Fool For You" (JEA Music)
2 legends. 1 song. 1 award. Although runners-up Gwen McCrae & Latimore scooped up a large percentage of the vote J. Blackfoot & Lenny Williams "I'm Just A Fool For You" (JEA Music/Right Now) easily won. Other nominees: K Band, Charles Wilson & Shara Scott & Ms. Monique & Millie Jackson.
Best New Artist FEMALE
This must have been difficult for voters with so many great new artists to choose from. Joy, Coco, Ms. Jody, Bertha Payne, Roni, Ms. Peaches, Miz B, Karen Wolfe, Renea Mitchell and BEST NEW FEMALE ARTIST Lacee' Runner-up: Roni.
Best New Artist MALE
Mel ain't the only Waiters on the scene! Walter Waiters is a rising star and BEST NEW MALE ARTIST of the year. Other nominees: Charlie Brown, Bob Steele, Napoleon, Dee Bradley, Larome Powers, El Willie, Spring, Lebrado & Runner-up Patrick Harris
Best Record Producer(s) Of The Year
Willie Clayton & Vick Allen
Man oh man oh man. Tough choices. The JEA Music producer team of runners up James Alexander, Sam Fallie & Larry Dodson brought us music by the Bar Kays, J. Blackfoot, Lacee' & more. Bruce Billups produced Theodis Ealey's "Francine" and Lebrado. Legendary producer henry Stone was back to produce Gwen McCrae. Percy T. Firends, Simeo Overall, Morris J, Tommy Couch Jr., John Ward, Rue Davis & Vernon Webster all produced great music as well but Willie Clayton & Vick Allen would not be denied. Not only was there Clayton & Allen's own music together but separately they also had a hand in projects by Mel Waiters, Omar Cunningham & David Sea.
The BLUES CRITIC staff pick...
SOUTHERN SOUL ARTIST OF THE YEAR
In 2006 Willie Clayton had two Top 5 Southern Soul hits ("I'm Going Crazy" & "Boom Boom Boom"), his CD "Gifted" was voted "Best Southern Soul/R & B Album" of the year, made the Billboard Top 100 R & B/Hip Hop Albums chart,. he produced the Omar Cunningham CD "Worth The Wait", he toured, he made a video, he ruled.
Southern Soul Deep Soul Soul Blues Retro-Soul Downhome Blues
1.Stan Mosley "Steppin' Out" (Double Duo)
The 10-track opus "Steppin' Out" is a befitting showcase for his skills. Earl Powell (Public Announcement) is on board to produce 7 tracks like the sublime "Let's Fall In Love", featuring a laidback flow as smooth as fifty year-old scotch. To Stan's credit, he doesn't overpower the melody despite his potent tone. Instead he shows tasteful restraint that guarantees radio play in various formats. Meanwhile, the brooding " I Want You" is gracing radio with it's insidious creepin' groove and Stan's rasping roar. Powell's arrangement is immaculate. Piano, organ, percussion and sharp backing vocals (Theresa Davis & Diane Madison). A masterpiece.
2. Willie Clayton "Gifted" (Malaco)
...The right songs. The right sound. The right performances. 13 tracks of modern Soul gold...Clayton is "gifted" with one of the most elastic, yearning tenors in the business today and he's at the peak of his powers...he reaches his full potential on "Gifted"
3. Donnie Ray "Don't Stop My Party" (Ecko)
...Donnie Ray has arrived...11 cuts of pure cream. Right from the drum intro of track 1 ("Is It Your Place Or Is It Mine?") all the way through the closer the quality is relentless...more hooks in here than Bill Dance's tackle box
4.Gwen McCrae "Sings TK" (Henry Stone Music)
...Working with producers Stone & George "Chocolate" Perry plus some former TK artists Latimore (keyboards), Little Beaver (guitar) and Timmy Thomas (organ), McCrae recorded 15 brand spanking new versions of those classic TK Records smashes...McCrae's voice sounds even better today; deeper, richer.
5. Trudy Lynn with The Calvin Owens Blues Orchestra "I'm Still Here" (Sawdust Alley)
...I had the privilege of hearing Rue Davis' songwriting demos so I was "jazzed", no pun intended, to hear Trudy tear into this fine batch of songs. There was no "blues orchestra" on them demos so I was a bit worried what would be the result of this seemingly superfluous hybrid... they didn't need to be jazzed up with a 24-piece orchestra. Well, it turned out the new backdrop took this project to another level! The arrangements are tasteful, not overblown like I feared, and this is one fantastic band and bandleader (Calvin Owens). As always, Lynn is a dynamic singer and she hasn't lost a hint of her vocal prowess.
6.Bobby Warren "Pioneers & Legends" (Kon-Kord)
... Warren can handle barrelhouse Blues, Soul/Blues & lighter "Southern Soul" equally well and "Pioneers & Legends" is his best outing to date...Having real pickers and players greatly improves this discs odds for mainstream Blues approval. True Blues lovers should flip over the smokin' 12-bar Blues "Early In The Morning" that recalls John Lee Hooker and early Buddy Guy.
7.Betty Padgett "Never Coming Home" (Meia)
...Ms. Padgett has an absolutely fantastic voice. I'm talking in the same league as the Queen Denise LaSalle..."Never Coming Home" concentrates on the usual Southern Soul themes: Cheating, relationships, partying, female empowerment but that urban perspective born form experience lets you know there's no pretense...This is an essential purchase for anyone that loves modern Southern Soul Blues!
8.Barbara Carr "Down Low Brother"
... tough, sassy, sexually-aggressive gal persona of Koko Taylor to the extreme...good ole' Soul singing from Carr. She once again shows the character of her voice...Blues snobs will be happy to note that other than the requisite synth horns/strings there's less programming here than usual
9.Lacee "The Songstress" (JEA Music)
...The gal's got some Gladys Knight in her. Check out her Soul on "Every Days Is A Heartache". Niiiiiiice. She can handle the Mary J. Blige thang too as evidenced by the mainstream-leaning "Straighten Up And Fly Right"...The production is tense...A sterling debut from "The Songstress".
10. William Bell "New Lease On Life" (Wilbe)
Leave it to one of the Godfathers of Southern Soul to strike back and show all these young guns how it's done...a perfect summer disc of sweet Soul & R & B..."New Lease On Life" a full course meal- running the gamut on what fuels "Soul" from subject to sound as Bell even connects to 60s roots
11.Clarence Carter "One More Hit" (Cee Gee Ent.)
...Carter scored a hit with the catchy "Are You Ready For The Blues?" and delivered a number of strong songs overall making this his best record in a heckuva long time.
12.Dee Bradley "The Candy Man" (Evejim)
...Helmed by Haywood and Pete Peterson, the ten song set dazzles throughout...Certainly one of the best singers to debut in the last several years.
13.David Brinston "Mississippi Boy" (R & B)
...Chitlin' Circuit veteran David Brinston is back...with the excellent "Mississippi Boy". The disc plays to his strengths- classic Soul...sounds "bigger" than many of the big budgeted music out there now. Good ole' Soul sangin' music.
14.Karen Wolfe "First Time Out" (B & J)
...The Southern Soul Blues realm has no shortage of tough talking disciples of the Queen Of Soul Blues, Denise LaSalle, but some just do it better than others. This now includes Wolfe, who's blessed with a fantastic, meaty voice just like her mentor...For a "First Time Out" this disc is a dynamite showcase that will shoot Wolfe to the upper echelon of female Soul Blues singers
15.Renea Mitchell "The Road Of Love" (Jomar)
...classy promotion and phat production...the runaway smash "Seventeen Days (Of Loving)"...head bobbin', toe-tappin' Southern Soul gems...Mitchell, delivers a pitch perfect vocal on this melodic slow jam imbued with the spirit of Motown. "The Road Of Love" is not two singles and out like much of the competition- this disc holds up all the way through.
16.Reggie P "Why Me?" (Allison)
...superb set of melodic Southern Soul was a huge success, putting Reggie P on the map. The title cut, "Soul Steppin'" and "Droppin' Salt" are the key cuts.
17.Maurice Davis "Backstabbers" (Touring)
..."I'm the king of party blues" sings Maurice on the slick "It Ain't My Hat, It Ain't My Shoes" that kicks off "Backstabbers"...he squeezes out those Albert King-esque tones... Davis has a cult following that's enabled him to release a half dozen records thus far but "backstabbers" may be the one that takes him to the next level.
18.Billy Soul Bonds "Here Kitty Kitty" (Waldoxy)
... "Scat Cat...Here Kitty Kitty" is an above average gliding, understated Billy Bonds ballad buoyed by a brilliant lyric... his knack for composing strong melodies and lyrics places him high (or is it it low- I can never remember) on the totem pole of Soul Blues.
19.Theodis Ealey "I'm The Man You Need" (Ifgam)
...While "I'm The Man You Need" is mostly Soul/R & B, Ealey hasn't abandoned the Blues... a blockbuster sequel to "Stand Up In It"
20.Joy "A Woman Can Feel" (Blues River)
...Joy is a husky-voiced singer with an elastic range to her Soulful palette. This (generous) 14-track debut "A Woman Can Feel" covers all the bases in the Soul Blues/Southern Soul world but slightly better than most...a big welcome to Joy
...This new Delta Groove Productions release, "Master Of The Game", is the epitome of deep-in-yo-gut Southern Soul, Staxy Funk and raucous Blues...Jackie Payne does have it (soul)...and in abundance. A Gospel-hewn, gritty voice that masters both Soul and Blues games.
2. Willie Walker & The Butanes "Memphisapolis" (Haute)
...For all the fans and critics bemoaning Soul music's reliance on machines these days I present you with a pacifier. 100% organic, natural Deep Soul music (and original songs to boot!). We're talking Hammond organ, a horn section, rhythm section with a pulse and an authentic O.V. Wright-styled Soul shouter.
3.Candi Staton "His Hands" (Astralwerks)
... "His Hands" is her first secular disc (her awful 1999 club LP "Outside In" notwithstanding) in quite some time. 100% all organic Southern Soul (and a lil' Alt.Country flavoring) comprises "His Hands". Songs of pain and heartache...heart wrenchingly sung and elegantly played. Staton calls these "life songs"
4.Roy Roberts "Sicily Moon" (Rock House)
... Horn-fueled, Hammond B-3, melodic Memphis soul heaven played by musicians not machines...They're all superb and this is the best Roy has ever sounded on the microphone! If Roy Roberts continues putting out music this good we're gonna have to crown him "King Of Soul/Blues".
5.Ike Turner "Risin' With The Blues" (Zoho Music)
"Risin' With The Blues". Turner had already made a mini-comeback in 2001 when his record "Here And Now" was nominated for a Grammy and scooped up honors from leading Blues organizations but said record had it's problems (the drum programming on some tracks was embarrassingly bad) so this new 14-track effort is his true return to form. It's a musician's feast of tight rhythm, Soul & style performed by Ike and his "Kings Of Rhythm". The group is simply indomitable throughout whether swinging on Louis Jordan's "Caldonia" to the late night Jazz of "After Hours". But the show belongs to Ike and his gravelly, snarling vocals feel cathartic throughout. Although perhaps over-the-top his voice here makes Louis Armstrong sound like Norah Jones in comparison! It's raw emotion mixed with obvious contrivance but it adds drama to the songs even on simple funk n' Blues numbers like "Gimme Back My Wig" & "Tease Me". The quality continues on the inspired version of Horace Silver's "Senor Blues". Often instrumental tracks serve as filler on Blues records but their execution and placement here are brilliant. That includes the closer "Bi Polar" featuring some fast fingered piano by Mr. Turner. Will this be the career turnaround he obviously longs for? Ike's redemption? That remains to be seen but whatever the outcome he's made one of the best Blues discs of 2006.
6.Billy Jones "Tha' Bluez" (Black & Tan)
...14 strong original jams comprise the debut CD for Black & Tan Records by Delta-based Blues dynamo Billy Jones. Equal parts Soul-drenched R & B, Funk and Mississippi Blues the immodestly-titled "Tha Bluez" is one of the biggest surprises of the year for me.
7. Frankie Lee "Standing At The Crossroads" (Blues Express)
...with such all star support it's Lee who's the star of the show, nearly cathartic in his gutbucket outpour of raw emotion on each and every cut. After twelve impassioned vocals he saves the best for last in the form of the instant classic "I Ain't Ever Had The Blues (Like This Before)", augmented by icy organ and a canopy of mournful horns. A dynamite closer to a heckuva show.
8. Joey Gilmore "The Ghosts Of Mississippi Meet The Gods Of Africa" (Bluzpik)
...This potent, Soulful set is an inspired session of modern electric Blues with Soul. Opening with "Ghosts Of Mississippi", a brilliant piece written by Graham Wood Drout, with Gilmore and band hitting thick and muscular ala Albert King's "Born Under A Born Sign". Gilmore's pinched, slightly raspy voice and tart guitar licks get All Star support
9. Billy Price "East End Avenue" (Bonedog)
... Pittsburgh, PA's favorite blue-eyed soulman Billy Price has joined the Bonedog Records stable for the excellent "East End Avenue". Co-produced by Price and Jeff Ingersoll, the set boasts 14(!) hard hitting Soul, Blues & R & B numbers lead by a superb group of musicians
10.Preston Shannon "Be With Me Tonight" (Title Tunes)
...heavy Soul Blues rollers with horn blasts and Bluesy guitar...that gritty Bobby Womack-like voice of Shannon's, deep in the throat, just a a hair from a growl! Preston Shannon once again gives you more bang for your buck on "Be With Me Tonight".
*** in no particular order...
To be eligible albums must have been released 12/2005 to 12/2006. OR albums released in 2005 that peaked in 2006.