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* as of June 2023. Subject to change

Is it "Southern Soul" or "Soul Blues"? Mainstream Blues & R&B outlets refer to (dismiss?) all this music as simply "Soul Blues" or "Retro-Soul" but for over two decades now we have this thriving "Southern Soul (SS)" genre- an underground network of labels, artists, DJs, promoters, websites that self-identify as "Southern Soul" rather than "Soul Blues". It resembles more a movement than a genre of music. Complicating matters further is that this music needn't have been and often isn't created in the South. It need only be appreciated and consumed by the network, the "movement" we refer to as "Southern Soul/R&B".

Another term, "Deep Soul", is often used for old school Soul music like that which was recorded in Memphis/Muscle Shoals. While this is a direct descendant modern day Southern Soul/R&B has evolved into it's own species. It's a modernized version of old Deep Soul, Rhythm & Blues, urban Blues, a little Funk and lately a dab of Hip Hop.

We use the hopefully all encompassing "Southern Soul, Rhythm & Blues" to describe this music. The "Top 50 Southern Soul, Rhythm & Blues Albums" list focuses on artists and albums that had the greatest impact on/within this network and the ones that have stood the test of time. Why do we start with 1982 before the term "Southern Soul" gained prominence? We start the modern Soul Blues (one that branched into Southern Soul/R & B, while another branch became modern Soul Blues) era as beginning with the advent and success of ZZ Hill's "Down Home". Hill's album was a watershed moment that seemed to breathe new life to the Blues. In the 70s Malaco/Waldoxy had taken the baton from Stax Records and in 1982 ushered in a new era of Memphis/Muscle Shoals-influenced Soul and Blues with the release of "Down Home". Record labels like Ecko Records, Mardi Gras Records, Senator Jones' Hep' Me and later CDS Records followed and became the main producers of this music for the next few decades prior to the Cambrian-like explosion of new independent labels we have today.

Determining what fits in this Southern Soul/R&B category is far from an exact science and quite maddening when we got down to it. There are plenty of important artists and albums who record Soul and soulful Blues that don't necessarily thrive in this underground community. As if it wasn't complicated enough we must remember there is the modern, mainstream Soul Blues. This is where you'll find your Johnny Rawls, your Lou Pride, your Preston Shannon. Perhaps the prime example is Robert Cray, arguably the greatest and most successful Soul Blues artist of the past three decades. We haven't included his work on this Top 50 because he is not a staple of the chitlin' circuit. In a way Cray transcends it but that isn't meant to be disparaging to Southern Soul. Artists like Cray are children of Stax Records and use all live instruments, which had become a rarity outside of Malaco Records from 1990 onward. In fact one of the common knocks against Southern Soul is it's use of keyboard programming and the often low budget, demo-like recordings it produces.  It's folly, however, to reject the whole Southern Soul tag based on this. Most of today's Southern Soul would not embarrass itself being played back to back with a major label act.

The bottom line on what makes this list is that the artist and/or album must be largely appreciated and played amongst this Southern Soul network described earlier. As opposed to Cray, ZZ Hill, Bobby 'Blue' Bland, Denise LaSalle, Artie 'Blues Boy' White and Little Milton, are staples of both Southern Soul/R&B and Soul Blues. Hill, LaSalle, Bland, Milton in their early days were definitely mainstream Soul and/or Blues artists who later became "chitlin circuit", Southern Soul, darlings in their latter days. Same can be said of other formerly mainstream R&B artists from the 60s, 70s and 80s like Tyrone Davis and Johnnie Taylor. They became part of this network in their later years.

One thing you may notice is the list is dominated by men. I believe a future list will be more evenly divided by gender. Artists like  Big Cynthia, Lacee', Karen Wolfe, Uvee Hayes, Lola, Stephanie Pickett, Sweet Angel & others have made a mark on the genre and it's now just a matter of time to tell if this influence ages well.

We have limited the list to one album per artist. We would like to stress that this Top 50 is not necessarily the "best" artistically but rather the Top 50 albums that made the biggest impact on modern day Southern Soul from 1982-2015. There are many artists that came close or arguably could be on here so we plan to follow this list up with one that constitutes what we consider the very best Soul Blues albums released in relatively the same period soon. And finally this Top 50 is subject to change at anytime as time progresses.




1. Marvin Sease with "Candy Licker" Marvin Sease "Marvin Sease" (London 1986) (was #6)

Marvin Sease went where no one else had gone before. Well, that's not truly accurate (there were other cunnilingus odes or at least mentions like "Soon I'll Be Loving You Again" by Marvin Gaye, "Sugar Walls" by Sheena Easton, etc.) but Sease was certainly not "ashamed" to go there and no one was so unabashed and blatant. It was a stroke of genius. Before Theodis Ealey said you should "stand up in it" Sease hit paydirt with his foreplay forte "Candy Licker". Denise LaSalle signaled out Sease as the only one "that halfway got his sh** together" on her "Snap, Crackle & Pop".  While "Candy Licker" has a gimmicky element going for it this LP proved Sease was also an effective Soul crooner. Gems like "Ghetto Man" and "Double Crosser" portend the greatness that followed. It also wasn't Sease's last commentary on the "what women really want in the bedroom" sweepstakes. He properly answered Theodis in 2004 with "Sit Down On It". 

2. Theodis Ealey "Stand Up In It" Theodis Ealey "Stand Up In It" (IFGAM 2004) (was #4)

Four words: "Stand Up In It". Perhaps no song (which peaked at #68 on Billboard's "Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs" chart and spent five weeks at #1 on The R&B/Hip Hop Single Sales Chart!) has had as many answer songs and rip offs as this mega-classic. Ealey claimed an "old lady told him" what "women really want" and it became a song everybody wanted. Interestingly the musical track had it's beginning as a different Ealey track, "I'm The Man You Need", from his first LP for Ichiban Records entitled "Headed Back To Hurtsville". A dozen years later Ealey wrote new lyrics and a slightly altered melody to the track, which was co-written by El' Willie, and it became one of the biggest songs the genre has ever yet seen. Interestingly, Ealey cut a new version of "I'm The Man You Need" and titled his follow-up LP with it.

 3. Z.Z. Hill "Down Home" (Malaco 1982) (was #1)

According to frequent Blues author Bill Dahl Hill's signing with Malaco Records "managed to resuscitate both his own semi-flagging career and the entire [blues] genre at large". The album became a runaway smash, staying on the Billboard R & B chart for nearly two years after peaking at #17. In addition he scored a #19 hit single with "Cheating In The Next Room" but it was the track "Down Home Blues" that set the standard for, well, down home Blues for everything that came after. Three more Malaco albums followed- each equally as good.

  4. Johnnie Taylor Good Love Johnnie Taylor "Good Love" (Malaco 1996) (was #2)

Taylor experienced a career resurgence in 1996 when his single "Good Love" (produced by the late Rich Cason) rose to #39 on Billboard's  Hot R&B Songs chart (his highest placement since 1982's "What About My Love" (#24 R&B)), which propelled the album of the same name to #15 on Billboard's Top R&B Albums chart. Another single, "Slide On", also charted at #87 (R&B) while "Last Two Dollars" has become a favorite. Taylor followed up this success with "Taylored To Please" (featuring "Disco Lady 2000") and "Gotta Get The Groove Back" ("Soul Heaven", "Big Head Hundreds"). Malaco also released the posthumous collection of outtakes, "There's No Good In Goodbye". 

  5. peggyscottadamshelpyourself.jpg Peggy Scott-Adams "Help Yourself" (Miss Butch 1996) (was #5)

Peggy Scott as part of a duo with Jo Jo Benson scored a string of hit singles in 1968/1969 ("Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries" (#27 Pop/#8 R&B), "Lovers Holiday" (#31 Pop/#8 R&B)), "Soulshake" (#37 Pop/#13 R&B) & "I Want To Love You Baby" (#81 Pop/#24 R&B)). She continued on to perform as a solo act for several years before taking a hiatus from the music industry. She married in 1988 and became Peggy-Scott Adams. Master songwriter/producer Jimmy Lewis convinced her to re-enter the game in 1996, which resulted in "Help Yourself". One of the songs, "Bill", a song about Peggy finding out her man was cheating...with another man, became a sensational hit (#87 Pop/#50 R&B). With this Peggy became one of the Queens of Southern Soul. A second track from the album, "Help Yourself" also charted (#87 R&B). The album itself reached #72 Pop and #9 R&B on Billboard's Albums charts.

 6. Mel Waiters "Material Things" (Waldoxy 1999) (was #3)

By the time Mel Waiters released this album he already had some hits under his belt including "Suki Suki Man" and "Got My Whiskey" but it was in 1999 when he unveiled his signature song. "Hole In The Wall", a track that launched countless copycats, connected in an extraordinary way. It very well could be THE song to represent modern Southern Soul. A Bigg Robb-commissioned remix gave the song an extended run as well. The small club in the South where you can go to escape the doldrums and stresses of everyday life. Partying at the juke joint. Waiters continued to be one of the top draws of the genre until his untimely death in 2015. We also could have chosen his stellar 2003 LP "A Nite Out", which featured the "Hole" sequel "Smaller The Club". Other Waiters staple songs include "Ice Chest", "Whiskey And Blues", "Friday Night Fish Fry", "Everything's Going Up", "Got No Curfew" and many others. Waiters' importance to modern Southern Soul cannot be exaggerated.

 7. Sir Charles Jones "Love Machine" (Mardi Gras 2001) (was #10)

A star was born! Southern Soul's first and foremost sex symbol Sir Charles Jones broke free from the pack in 2001 with this monster of an album. Buoyed by now classics like "Friday" and "Is Anybody Lonely?", "Love Machine" managed an impressive #28 placing on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart and reportedly sold in the six figures. Jones' sound brought more of a sexy, silky, contemporary R & B flavor to Memphis-inspired Southern Soul and it paid off.

8. King George "Juke Joint Music" (Ace Visionz Prod. 2022) (debut)

King George spent years as a hardcore rapper under the moniker King George and Yung Holiday before crossing over to Southern Soul and it didn't take long for him to make the biggest impact on the genre since Theodis Ealey took over the game with "Stand Up In It". This is really not much more than an EP (7 songs) but nearly every song has saturated Southern Soul DJ and radio playlists. "Keep On Rollin'", "Leave & Party", "Friday Night", "Too Long" have all become major hits. It's rare that an artist releases his/her first album and rises straight to the top like King George has. As of writing he's the hottest act in the genre.

9. Bobby 'Blue' Bland "Members Only" (Malaco 1985)

Bobby 'Blue' Bland is without debate one of the greatest Blues singers of all time. He had an illustrious career that lasted over five decades until his 2013 death. He had a #1 R&B hit in 1957 ("Farther Up The Road") and went on to place 55 singles on Billboard's Hot R&B Songs chart. That final chart entry was the title track to "Members Only" (#54). Like other once popular chart toppers Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle, Tyrone Davis, Little Milton and ZZ Hill Bland signed with Malaco Records, which calls itself "The Last Soul Company", and became one of the mainstays of both the Soul Blues and modern Southern Soul.

10. Bobby Rush Sue Bobby Rush "Sue" (La Jam 1982) (was #9)

Bobby Rush likes big butts and he cannot lie. His career as folksy Funk n' Blues kingpin was solidified by this classic LP that introduced the world to "Sue" (and Rush's appreciation for ample derrieres). Well before Sir Mix-A-Lot bragged that "Baby Got Back" Rush boasted about Sue. While the world told us a women's measurements were best as 36-24-36 Rush said Sue was "a good'un" with measurements 36-24-43. Who are we to argue? (Maybe Dr. Feelgood Potts who obtained a pair of women's "drawers" sized "52"). In today's #MeToo zeitgeist this kind of material might hit a few snags but everyone in the know gets the joke. "Sue", the album, also features the equally funky "Be Still". Rush had found his gold here and has mined it to the zenith up to the present.

11.Denise LaSalle Wanted.jpg Denise Lasalle "Wanted" (Ecko 2004) (was #7)

"Snap, Crackle & Pop" is a hilarious answer song to Theodis Ealey's mega-hit "Stand Up In It" & Dr. Feelgood Potts' response "Make It Talk" (& many others). Leave it to the queen to tell us "what a woman is really all about". It's another shuffle-bumpin southern soul jam with an irresistible hook that you can't help but tap your toes, dance or bob your head to. A smash. Period. The similar-sounding "Wanted Man" is sure to follow. Denise still has a strong, thick, authoritative voice and still has some quality songs in her. "Doormat Woman" is a soulful romp that continues the "equal opportunity" theme. "A Woman Needs Money" tells the players that a woman needs more than sex (similar to label mate Sheba Potts-Wrights successful "I Can Hear Your Macaroni"). Another highlight is the thumping blues of the Little Miltonesque "They Made A Blues Fan Out Of Me" where she cites her influences. "The Thrill Is On Again" is basically "Thrill Is Gone" part 2. As is common with new Ecko Records releases the artist remakes a couple tunes from past Ecko albums like Barbara Carr ("Bone It Like You Own It") and Bill Coday ("It Was A House Until You Made It A Home").

12. Ronnie LoveJoy "Nobody's Fault But Mine" (Avanti 1999) (was #13)

This LP belongs here even if it only had one important song. Why? Because that song is "Sho' Wasn't Me", one of the most brilliant and unforgettable compositions in Southern Soul/Soul Blues history. Lovejoy lies about and dodges accusations better than the slickest politician! "You say your sister saw me/Coming out the Holiday Inn/And the woman that I was with/Used to be your best friend/Well she must need glasses/Because that sho wasn’t me/Your sister's got a bad case/Of mistaken identity". But wait. Someone actually saw you and identified you, Ronnie. But Ronnie sings "If you didn't come up and touch me, then it sho' wasn't me". Yes, folks, maybe what you saw was just an illusion. Others have covered the song (Otis Clay, Tyrone Davis, Chuck Roberson) and Lovejoy himself rewrote it as "Still Wasn't Me" a year later but the original is still the definitive version. "Nobody's Fault But Mine" also contains "A.P.B Out On Me" and "Live In Man". The latter was adapted to "Live In Woman" by Pat Brown.

13. Willie Clayton "Gifted" (Malaco 2006) (was #18)

On the previous ranking (1982-2015) we included Clayton's "Ace In the Hole",  a great snapshot of Clayton in his Bluesy prime. However, the album that has become a fan favorite and standout in his career has proven to be the aptly-titled "Gifted". Clayton is "gifted" with one of the most elastic, yearning tenors in the business today and he's at the peak of his powers on horn-backed ballads like "Beautiful", "When I Think About Cheating" and his duet with Shirley Brown on "Trust". As a footnote, the lilting, melodic Pop ballad "My Lover My Friend" could probably even snatch up some of the that Disney money.  Horns are an integral part of Soul music and Harrison Callaway and the Muscle Shoals Horns add layers of frosting to an already sweet éclair. The production is crisp, full and clean on each and every track either produced by the Clayton/Vick Allen team, Mike Snoddy or Paul Richmond. There's too many highlights to mention but upbeat shuffle-bumpers like "My Miss America", "Sweet Lady" and "She Holding Back" are surefire radio staples. Even the lone two covers are exemplary. The biggest hit from the album was the sultry "Boom Boom Boom".

14. Nellie 'Tiger' Travis "Mr Sexy Man: The Album" (Wegonsee 2017) (was #33)

Nellie's "red album" aka "Wanna Be With You" featuring the hits "If I Back It Up" and "Baby Mama Drama" appeared on our previous list but the huge success of the banger "Mr. Sexy Man" catapults this album high on this chart. The first thing I noticed about this disc (other than the lovely woman on the cover) was that it was produced by Floyd Hamberlin Jr., whose production I've enjoyed on music by Tyrone Davis, Stan Mosley & Charles Wilson to name a few.

15. The Louisiana Blues Brothas "Love On The Bayou" (RMG 2014) (was #38)

"Love On The Bayou" is credited to The Louisiana Blues Brothas who consisted of Pokey, Tyree Neal and Adrian Bagher. This is the album that first hosted "My Sidepiece", which is usually incorrectly credited to just Pokey Bear. Pokey did sing the lead vocals so it has since become Pokey's calling card. Bagher left the group and it's uncertain if the other two artists are still active with this band moniker.

16. T.K. Soul "Undisputed" (Soulful 2007) (was #28)

It had become quite rare for an independently-released SS album to scratch the charts in the 00s but T.K. Soul managed to hit #95 on Billboard's Hot R&B Hip Hop Albums chart with "Undisputed". Soul's previous LP "Love Games" had positioned him as a rising star in this market and he delivered his masterpiece here. Three cuts from "Undisputed" still receive steady airplay a decade later ("Party Like Back In The Day", "It Ain't Cheating 'Til You Get Caught" and "Try Me").

17. Carl Marshall "Songs People Love The Most, Vol. 1" (Unleashed/Mr. Tee 2006) (was #20)

"Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry" was ignored when it first came out on a poorly-distributed album entitled "Let's Dance". Marshall in 2006 compiled what constitutes his first "best of" collection and re-issued "Good Lovin'" and this time it took off. Marshall is a master storyteller and philosopher of Soul Blues music and "Good Lovin'" struck a nerve with "grown folks", becoming Marshall's theme song. After dominating the Southern Soul world for over a year Bigg Robb collaborated with Marshall on a fantastic remix, giving the song a second run. In 2010 Marshall cut a sort of follow up entitled "Good Lovin' Testimony" (from the album "Love Who You Wanna Love") featuring Rue Davis that reflected on how far the song had come. This version was also a hit. Other notable tracks on the compilation included his first smash "Ain't No Party (Like A Grown Folks Party)" and "This Is For Grown Folks". The brief 10-song "Songs People Love The Most, Volume 1" has since gone out of print;  having been supplanted first by a deluxe reissue (16 tracks) followed by the definitive Marshall collection "Good Lovin' Will Make You Cry: Greatest Hits" (17 tracks covering his full career).

18. "Dr. CC's Greatest Prescriptions: The Best Of" (Ichiban 1991; Koch Int. 2001) Clarence Carter "Dr. CC's Greatest Prescriptions: The Best Of" (Ichiban 1991; Koch Int. 2001) (was #14)

On the first list 1980-2015 we included the studio album "Dr. CC" but overtime this collection has become the go-to album.  "Dr. CC's Greatest Prescriptions: The Best Of" contains the best tracks from "Dr. CC" as well as all the best from his Ichiban-era albums. Smart song choices make this a tidy compilation of Carter's Ichiban years. 12 songs (plus an extended version of "Strokin'") salvaged from mostly hit-or-miss CDs. In addition to the immortal "Strokin'", there's Southern soul ("Messin' With My Mind", "Slip Away", "Between A Rock And A Hard Place"), contemporary R & B ("Trying To Sleep Tonight"), nasty blues/R & B ("Love Me With A Feeling", "I'm Not Just Good I'm The Best", "Grandpa Can't Fly His Kite"), pop/soul ("Kiss You All Over") & more. A good companion to Rhino's "Snatching It Back" which concentrates on his late 60s material.

19. Billy 'Soul' Bonds "Here Kitty Kitty!" (Waldoxy 2006) (was #16)

Bonds is not the most prolific recording artist in history, only releasing eight full lengths since 1985's "Deep Inside My Soul". That comes out to about one album every four years. Nevertheless, he always seems to have that one clever song that strikes a chord with audiences. 1992's "Baby I've Been Missing You" from "The Soul Of A Man" was Bonds' calling card for many years. That is until 2006 when "Scat Cat, Here Kitty Kitty" began dominating playlists all throughout Southern Soul. It's a simple, winsome song featuring Bonds' warm vocals and plaintive timbre. It tales the tale of a man that neglects and takes his woman for granted. The hook: "When you say 'scat cat' another man says 'here kitty kitty'". The album didn't produce a follow up hit but is chock-full of good ones like "Movin' On Again", "It Took Someone Like You" and "Give Them Their Flowers".

20. tyronerelaxin.jpg Tyrone Davis "Relaxin' With Tyrone" (Malaco 2000) (was #15)

Tyrone Davis' hit single making days were long gone by the time he signed with Malaco in 1996 but his creamy, come hither voice remained as strong and supple as ever. "Relaxin'" was his fourth effort for the label and the one that still stands out 17 years later. The set kicks off with the one-two punch of "Sugar Daddy" (when Davis adopted his older father figure persona) and "Kiss You Where I Miss You" which is just as sexy as it sounds. As if these two hits weren't enough there is also a superb remake of Ronnie LoveJoy's "Sure Wasn't Me" and a tribute to Johnnie Taylor, who had passed just months earlier.

21. Wendell B. "In Touch With My Southern Soul" (Smoothway Music 2010) (was #41)

Wendell B(rown) does a very R&B-flavored Southern Soul and by the time this record dropped (simultaneously with the more R&B-leaning "Back To Bidness") Brown was already well-known for his deep, smooth baritone that may remind one of Luther Vandross mated with Will Downing with a hint of Barry White. After releasing one record as Wendell Brown he began being noticed in 1995 as just Wendell B. for "Good Times", then his reputation cemented with "Time To Relax: Love, Life & Relationships" but "In Touch With My Southern Soul" is hands down his most prosperous this far. At least four cuts have saturated the network. These include "Mississippi Girl", "I Can Deal With The Leaks", "Put 'Em Down On The Table" & "Everything Gon' Be Alright". If ever there was an artist that seemed fit to cross over to mainstream Urban Adult Contemporary radio it's Wendell B.

22. Little Milton "Greatest Hits" (Malaco 1995) (was #17)

"The Blues is Alright" is perhaps the second most imitated and revered "down home blues" song since, well, ZZ Hill's "Down Home Blues". It was Milton's second whack at the track when he released his Malaco debut, "Playing For Keeps". As time passed it seems more appropriate to list "Greatest Hits" as THE Little Milton album to own as it has "The Blues is Alright" plus essential tracks like "Strugglin' Lady", "Annie Mae's Cafe", "Catch You On Your Way Down" and "Room 244".

23. Bishop Bullwinkle "The Da Vinci Code" (Music Access 2020)*** (debut)

Singer/comedian Bishop Bullwinkle (Bernard Thomas) is best known for his huge hit song "Hell Naw To The Naw Naw Naw", which became a You Tube sensation and brought the Bishop fame in the Southern Soul market the final years of his life. The only full length album released on Bullwinkle was oddly-named "The Da Vinci Code" by Music Access out of Dallas. Initial pressings did not even have "Hell Naw" on it! Some versions of the album circulating DO have the song so this album deserves an *** depending on whether the album actually contains "Hell Naw To The Naw Naw Naw"!

24. Floyd Taylor "Legacy" (Malaco 2002) (was #12)

Here comes the son! It almost seemed like it took Johnnie Taylor's death in 2001 to open the path for one of his sons, Floyd Taylor, to launch his own career. Whatever accounts for the timing this LP left little doubt Floyd would be carrying on the Taylor legacy. To say his uncanny ability to sound like his father's lower register went over extremely well with fans is an understatement. "Legacy" sounds like a natural follow up to previous Johnnie Taylor albums on Malaco. Horn-backed bumpers like "I'm Crazy 'Bought That Woman In Red" and "I'm In Love With The Girl Next Door", with smoky slow jams in the "Good Love" mould ("When We Touch", "I Love Being In Love With You") are exactly what Johnnie would have been still cutting. Floyd went on to record four more albums (2 for Malaco, 1 for CDS and 1 on his own) before his fatal heart attack in 2014.

25. Tucka "Love Rehab 2" (Juke Joint Music 2012) (was #50)

Tucka refers to himself as the "king of swing", which he describes as a mixture of Sam Cooke and R. Kelly with his Southwest Louisiana roots. Accurate or not Tucka's enormous success with his sound, which I find lighter and poppier than the norm, is impossible to deny. "Love Rehab 2" boasts both "Sweet Shop" and "Forever Swing (featuring Doug E. Fresh)". Two follow ups, "Groove City" and "Long Live The King" have helped raise him to one of the top draws in Southern Soul.

26. Ms. Jody "The Best Of" (Ecko 2015) (was #24)

Now that Queen Denise LaSalle has shed her mortal coil it is safe to say Ms. Jody is the reigning king of (Southern) Soul Blues (although Nellie Tiger Travis is a contender for the throne). Possessing an earthy, warm and familiar singing voice, "Ms. Jody" (a tongue-in-cheek turnabout on the infamous Jody saga) was born with her debut, the unremarkable but solid "You're My Angel" but it was her third LP, "I Never Take A Day Off" that made her a "star". That album appeared on our previous list BUT since then she has released a host of superb tracks so the go-to Ms Jody CD at this point is "The Best Of". It has "Day Off's"  "Energizer Bunny" but also "Still Strokin'", "Just Let Me Ride", "When Your Give A Damn Just Don't Give A Damn No More", "It's The Weekend", etc. A "Best Of, Volume 2" must surely be just around the corner.

27. Omar Cunningham "All My Best The Soul Hits" (Soul 1st 2015) (was #25)

Omar Cunningham has written some of the best songs the genre has to offer from "I Get By" to "My Life" to his breakout song "Check To Check" found on his rookie album "Hell At The House", which was the album representing Cunningham on our previous list. "All My Best The Soul Hits" contains all the hits. The digital version has 23 tracks while the CD boasts 17. He's masterful at creating the workingman's blues. On "Check" he connects with nearly all of us who literally live paycheck to paycheck on a funky, danceable track replete with chicken scratch guitar and insistent programmed drums. Another highlight is the domestic discord-rife title track. Cunningham has also authored gems for artists like Karen Wolfe, Lacee', Willie Clayton, Mel Waiters, Lenny Williams and many more.

28. Wilson Meadows "Memories" (Ichiban/Bob Grady 1997) (was #27)

Wilson Meadows had a career before becoming a major player in SS. His recording career started with the Zircons, singing Doo-Wop with singles on Federal and Capitol at either end of the 1960's, then continued with his brothers as the Meadows on Radio Records. A LP recorded at Muscle Shoals, scored them a minor Billboard R&B chart hit in 1977 with "I Can't Understand" (#76 R&B). It was credited to the Meadows Bros. After some time away from the music business Meadows signed with record promoter Bob Grady's Bob Grady Records and released the album, "Memories". The track "That's Still My Love" connected big time and catapulted Meadows to the A-list. Meadows released four more albums for BGR ("Dealing Real", "Choices" (#73 R&B Albums), "Back To Basics" (#94 R&B Albums) & "Love Bomb") before teaming up with record man Lee Parker on Brimstone.

29. Vick Allen "Soul Music" (Soul 1st 2012) (was #32)

Vick Allen enjoyed an almost Michael Jackson-like string of hits on "Truth Be Told" and especially the follow up "Soul Music". Just like MJ's "Thriller" & "Bad" delivered Top 10 hit after Top 10 hit in Pop, Allen's two album run resulted in no less than ten songs charting on Southern Soul charts. It's rare for an album in this genre to be rolled out the way "Soul Music" was. While most SS albums boast one or two singles Allen's LP was promoted by six singles in a very organized manner. Most momentous was the the title cut, "If You Can Beat Me Rockin'" (written by Omar Cunningham) and "Forbidden Love Affair (The Preacher Song)", the latter written by the ridiculously underrated Luther Lackey. The album cemented Allen's status as one of Top 10 most successful artists appreciated by the SS network. Unfortunately as of writing there has been no follow up full length. Instead Allen has released a number of digital-only singles. It frustrates a large percentage of record buyers who still wants CDs.

30. Bigg Robb "Showtime" (Over 25 Sound 2015) (was #11)

Bigg Robb has steadily become the best selling artist of Southern Soul with a steady stream of generously-packed albums full of high caliber production and musicianship. On our previous list we had his  16-track collection "Blues, Soul & Old School" featuring guest artists Pat Cooley, Napoleon Demps, Dre T. Turner, R-3 (Robb''s son), Sure 2 B, Special, Sir Charles Jones and most notably, Carl Marshall. Since then the biggest selling and most requested Bigg Robb album has become "Showtime". The hits include "Blues & BBQ" with Denise LaSalle, "Hotter Than Fish Grease", "Please Don't Judge Me", "Sugaa Shack (Extra Long Remix)" and others.

31. Roy-C "Rock Me All Night" (Three Gems 1989) (was #20)

Roy-C has been fiercely independent and defiant ever since he first appeared on the radar. His career stretches back to 1958 where as a member of the Genies he scored a minor hit single with "Who's That Knocking" (#72 Pop). His first triumph under his own stage name came courtesy of "Shotgun Wedding", which stormed the U.K. Top 10 (#6) and was a Top 20 R&B (#14) hit stateside. Later Roy recorded three albums for Mercury including "Sex & Soul" before getting fed up with labels and going independent with his own Three Gems imprint commencing in 1984. It was in 1989 when Roy recorded this modern Soul classic. The record contains the 8 minute epic "Saved By The Bell (Infidelity, Georgia"), a humorous and at times absurd tale of adultery.

33. carl sims house of love Carl Sims "House Of Love" (Paula 1995) (was #21)

Former background singer for Otis Redding and opening act for Denise LaSalle Carl Sims burst on the scene as a solo act in 1988 when his song "17 Days Of Loving" released by Edge Records became a regional hit. He hit again with "I'm Trapped" in 1993. This lead to his first full length on Paula Records in 1995, "House Of Love". The album contained the two hits (still classics today), some cover tunes (Z.Z. Hill's "I'm A Blues Man", Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come", Mckinley Mitchell's "End Of The Rainbow") and some new originals ("Shot To The Curb", "Clever Girl"). Although the album didn't chart with Billboard it reportedly sold over 40,000 copies, a great achievement for an album on a small label. This success lead to his signing with Malaco's sister label Waldoxy and later Ecko Records and CDS Records.

34. Latimore "Back Atcha" (Latstone 2007) (was #22)

Of course Latimore was a household name by the time he released "Back Atcha". A major player in the 1970s on Glade Records then Malaco Records in the 80s, 90s and 00s. Although he never fell out of favor he did enjoy what felt like a serious comeback when he worked with legendary record producer Henry Stone again (Latimore began his career on Stone's Dade label where he notched his first hit, a remake of the now standard Blues "Stormy Monday"). 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".

35. Best Of Barbara Carr.jpg Barbara Carr "The Best Of" (Ecko 2002) (was #26)

Heavily influenced by other tough talkin', sassy, savvy, ribald and bawdy (insert more adjectives here) predecessors like Koko Taylor and Denise LaSalle, Barbara Carr became another Queen and/or Diva of Southern Soul Blues with her Ecko debut, "Footprints On The Ceiling". Bold, rife with double-entendre tracks like "If You Can't Cut The Mustard (Don't Go Licking Around The Jar)" and "Bo Hawk Grind" became Carr's bread and butter for the labell. "The Best Of" features those tracks as well as "Bone Me Like You Own Me", "If The Lord Keeps The Thought Of You Out Of My Head..." and "Juke Joint Jumpin'"

36. Doctor Of Love" (Mardis Gras 2001) The Love Doctor "Doctor Of Love" (Mardi Gras 2001) (was #29)

Before "Stand Up In It" but after "Strokin'" and "Candy Licker" (also Chuck Roberson's "Lollipop Man" for that matter) The Love Doctor told us we need to "Slow Roll It". The song propelled this rather uneven album to number 47 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. This is not the good doc's best album but it was a major breakthrough for himself and the genre. He's often considered a one hit wonder but actually he scored a hit in 2004 with the comical "You Said It, No I Didn't (Lies)"

37. O.B. Buchana "The Best Of" (Ecko 2015) (was #37)

It was apparent O.B. Buchana was going places with this music occupation based on the underground success of his first two LPs but it was his fourth Ecko LP "Goin' Back Home" that took him to the next level. The anthemic "I'm Goin' Back Home" praised his Mississippi hometown because that's where he can "hear Southern Soul music on the radio" and the song and ethos were embraced by likely every town in the chitlin' circuit. As of writing Buchana has released a whopping total of 15 albums (13 for Ecko) not counting compilations since 2001! Due to that fact the go-to Buchana album has to be "The Best Of", which includes the aforementioned "I'm Goin' Back Home" plus "Back Up Lover", "Let's Get Drunk", "You're Just Plain' With It", "Did You Put Your Foot Into It", "I Can't Stop Drinkin'" and more.

38. Shirley Brown "Woman Enough" (Malaco 2004) (was #34)

Big-voiced Shirley Brown's heyday was the mid 70s and like so many Soul and Blues stars of the decade Brown signed with Malaco Records in the 80s where she has remained 'til the present. "Woman Enough" was the album that had the most impact on the SS market. Both "Poon Tang Man" and "(I've Go To) Sleep With One Eye Open" were chart toppers on the SBR (Soul And Blues Report) Top 25. Additionally "Too Much Candy" and "Stuck On Stupid" proved to be popular.

39. Taxi  J. Blackfoot J. Blackfoot "City Slicker" (Sound Town 1983) (was #31)

J. Blackfoot became famous as a member of The Soul Children on the Stax Records roster but it was the solo hit "Taxi" that he is mostly known for. "Taxi" Hit #4 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart, helping the parent album "City Slicker" to climb to #16 on the albums chart.  He never matched these triumphs again but in his later years it was, you guessed, this Southern Soul universe where he enjoyed his last gush of success and acclaim. While "Taxi" and "City Slicker", are bona fide treasures Blackfoot achieved latter day prosperity with the correctly-titled "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over".

40. Various Artists "1st Family Of Southern Soul" (Hep' Me 2006) (was #35)

The late Senator Jones claimed to have coined the term "Southern Soul" and while that is unlikely nobody promoted it and defined it more than he did. His label Hep' Me was highly influential on the whole network and that includes the preference of using programmed keyboard tracks as a template rather than live musicians. Jones' productions were unapologetically low-fi and the buying audience didn't seem to mind. While the snobs outside the network including the mainstream Soul Blues contingent thumbed their nose at this music (and the stigma has persisted even today) it had an audience that kept Jones and so many others afloat. "1st Family Of Southern Soul" is the only various artists compilation on this list. It was released long before the now ubiquitous tradition of Southern Soul "mixtapes". Thanks in part to the long-departed one stop Gonzales Music this disc was a huge seller. It contained many of the label's best tracks by Sorrento Ussery, Monique Ford, Little Kim Stewart, The Love Doctor, Robert Hill, Alfrieda Upshaw, Miz B, Willis Pugh and Jones himself. Due to it's success Jones released at least six more "Family Of Southern Soul" compilations but none of them were as successful as the first. Like all product from the defunct "Hep' Me" physical copies are rare and expensive.

41. Jeter Jones "Trailride Certified" (Jonez Boys 2016) (debut)

Leader and biggest promotor of the popular "trailride" sub-genre of Southern Soul- Jeter Jones has placed a remarkable number of songs on playlists across the SS network. Scanning this tracklist I count no less than five tracks from this record that were hot in one pocket or another. "Dat Country Boy Lovin'", "Then Country Girls", "Single Footin'", "Trailride Certified" and "Watch My Boots" got worn out by jocks this past year and change. Jones' music has a heavy Zydeco influence ("Single Footin'", "Trailride Certified", etc..). Like on Crystal Thomas' album I believe they could boost the bass but no one's asking me so...Anyway at this pace Jones is going to be a threat to the big names in this biz real soon.

42. Jesse Graham "Soul Music" (Ichiban 1994) (was #47)

At one time Jesse Graham seemed destined for a long career as a retro-Soul singer (the term "Southern Soul" still wasn't in heavy use at the time) when Ichiban released "Soul Music" in 1994. "Mr. Mailman" became a classic that is still revered today. "When I Think Of My Baby" was another of the album's aural delights. These songs and the album influenced a whole new generation of up and coming artists doing a modernized version of Soul music. Graham suffered a sophomore slump when he released "Stop The Rain" on Big Bidness, which was distributed by Mardi Gras Records. "Rain" had little of the charm and melodic grace of "Soul Music" and soon after it's release Graham sank below the radar. He still records and occasionally releases music independently but one can only wonder what he could have achieved had the momentum from his first album not been squandered.

43. The Chairmen Of The Board "All In The Family Southern Soul" (Xcel 2006) (was #41)

The "Beach Music" scene of the Carolinas, etc.. also uses the term "Southern Soul" to describe it's music but it's a more restricted style than the Southern Soul represented on this list. The tempo usually must be one you can "shag" to (a swing dance adopted by both North & South Carolina as the state's official dance). The Chairmen decided to expand and infiltrate our Southern Soul with "All In The Family Southern Soul", a re-tooled, repackaged album released first as "Timeless" (2002), then "Timeless 2 R&B" (2003), then "All In the Family" (2004) -each time with new tracks added. The song "Three Women" became a Southern Soul smash, which lead to a further reissue as "All In The Family Southern Soul" in 2006 with another hit, "The Blacker The Berry" added.

44. Jesse James "I Can Do Bad By Myself" (Gunsmoke 1988) (was #42)

Two albums were released in 1988 containing James' definitive song "I Can Do Bad By Myself", which bowed at #61 on the R&B songs chart a year earlier. Both "I Can Do Bad By Myself", the album, and a now scarcely mentioned album on Max Kidd's T.T.E.D entitled "It Takes One To Know One" (credited to Mr. Jessie James). History has been kinder to the former, which was released on James' own Gunsmoke Records. As of writing he has released an additional six new records on his label and has maintained an esteemed level of popularity in SS.

45. Lee 'Shot' Williams "The Best Of" (Ecko 2009) (was #44)

Ecko Records made stars (in this market that is) out of many artists including Mr. Lee 'Shot' Williams. "She Made A Freak Out Of Me" was his second for Ecko and the one that started a string of hits for Williams. Both the title track and "Somebody Blew The Whistle On Me" became part of the successful formula, which would include double-entendre used to a near breaking point. Those two classics now appear on this 14-track collection which also includes "Ease On Down In The Bed", "Juke Joint Slide" and "I'll Take The Risk".

46. William Bell "New Lease On Life" (Wilbe 2006) (was #48)

Like many others on this list Stax Records alumni William Bell got a "new lease" on their career in Southern Soul. Bell started his Wilbe (originally Wilbe Recording Corporation) record label back in 1985 and is responsible for launching the careers of Jeff Floyd and Lola. Bell's own most successful LP was "New Lease On Life" released in 2006. Several songs were pulled as singles including the title track, "Playaz Only Love You (When They're Playing)" and "Honey From The Bee". As of February 2018 Bell has only released one more album of new songs, "This Is Where I Live", a reunion with Stax Records in 2016.

47. Cupid "Time For A Change" (Atlantic 2007) (debut)

Cupid went from just another Southern Soul artist to national fame when his line dance "Cupid Shuffle" became a huge hit. The song reached #21 on Billboard's "Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs" and #66 on Billboard's Hot 100. The album that housed it, "Time For A Change", also has a few more solid dance tracks ("Do Yo Dance", "Work", "369").

48. Jackie Neal "Down In The Club" (Jazzy 2005) (was #39)

The tragic murder of Southern Soul sweetheart Jackie Neal at the hands of a jealous boyfriend naturally stunned the network . Neal, sister of Bluesman Kenny Neal, was about to reach her peak as a bold, strong, fearless performer and recording artist. "Down In The Club" was her most accomplished and confident record of her brief career and while much of it's success was boosted by her death (it was released three months after her death) it was deserving on it's own merit. It is also currently the only cd of hers in print. The album consists of the usual fair of club bangers, cheeky sexual innuendo, relationship drama, etc.

49. Chick Willis "Mr. Blues: The Best Of" (Benevolent Blues 2010)  (was #43)

The "Stoop Down" man (dubbed thusly courtesy of his 1972 classic "Stoop Down Baby Let Your Daddy See") was a long time chitlin' circuit favorite known for his "nasty blues" creations, mostly recorded for Ichiban Records in the 80s. Willis' also garnered mainstream Blues acclaim with albums like "From The Heart And Soul" on Roy Roberts' Rock House and "Hit & Run Blues" on Benevolent Blues. "Mr. Blues: The Best Of...So Far" features "Stoop Down", "I'm The Son", "12345 Shots Of Whiskey", "Jack U Up", "I Want A Big Fat Woman", "Bootie Call" and more justifies his place on this Top 50.

50. Beat Flippa "I Got The Blues, Vol. 1" (RMG/Music Access 2015) (debut)

An album that really pushed the producer-focused albums that have become popular from the likes of Ronald "Slack" Jefferson, Highway Heavy, Ricky White, et al. In demand record producer in Southern Soul at the moment releases his first Quincy Jones-like album featuring a cavalcade of guests. Pokey & Cupid ("If It Ain't The Blues"), Big Cynthia ("I'm Here For You"), Tyree Neal ("I'll Be The Other Man"), Pokey, Vince Hutchinson & Adrian Bagher ("T.G.I.F.) and more from Ms. Portia, Mz. Pat, Rosalyn Candy, Veronica Ra'elle and more.

We have limited the list to one album per artist. We would like to stress that this Top 50 is not necessarily the "best" artistically but rather the Top 50 albums that made the biggest impact on modern day Southern Soul from 1982-2022. There are many artists that came close or arguably could be on here so we plan to follow this list up with one that constitutes what we consider the very best Soul Blues albums released in relatively the same period soon. And, finally, this Top 50 is subject to change at anytime as time progresses.



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