Blues to the Bone

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Barnes & Noble - Roberta Penn
Over the past 40 years, Etta James’s career has been revived by soundtrack appearances, jazz ballads, and live sets. But on Blues to the Bone, the big, bossy-voiced singer, who has been performing since she was 13, goes back to the days when she recorded for Chess Records. In addition to James’s hot R&B hits, Chess also released the recordings of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and just about every other seminal artist in the electric blues movement. It is these masters that James salutes on Blues to the Bone. She slinks like a snake dancer through “Lil’ Red Rooster,” “The Sky Is Crying,” and “That’s Alright.” “Got My Mojo Working” and “Don’t Start...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Roberta Penn
Over the past 40 years, Etta James’s career has been revived by soundtrack appearances, jazz ballads, and live sets. But on Blues to the Bone, the big, bossy-voiced singer, who has been performing since she was 13, goes back to the days when she recorded for Chess Records. In addition to James’s hot R&B hits, Chess also released the recordings of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and just about every other seminal artist in the electric blues movement. It is these masters that James salutes on Blues to the Bone. She slinks like a snake dancer through “Lil’ Red Rooster,” “The Sky Is Crying,” and “That’s Alright.” “Got My Mojo Working” and “Don’t Start Me to Talking” are dusted off for a more contemporary blues sound. Driven by the solid drumming of James’s son Donto, these versions are in line with the live shows James has been doing for the past 20 years. Reflecting the acoustic beginnings of the blues are stripped-to-the-bone renditions of the John Lee Hooker signature tune “Crawlin’ King Snake,” Elmore James’s “The Sky Is Crying,” and Lightnin’ Hopkins’s “Honey, Don’t Tear My Clothes.” Though there is a little renovation done to these blues foundations, Blues to the Bone is a sincere tribute.
All Music Guide - Steve Leggett
Etta James has worked in countless styles throughout her long career, and she is equally at home singing gospel, R&B, soul, jazz, and even rock & roll, but her roots have always been solidly planted in the blues, and she is arguably the finest living singer active in the genre. Perhaps because she doesn't sing only the blues, however, when she does, it sticks out as something special, and with Blues to the Bone she goes down to the river and dives in completely, turning out a solid album of no-frills, gutbucket performances. Her voice has deepened and coarsened over the years, making it the perfect vehicle of authenticity and authority as she tackles classics of the genre like John Lee Hooker's "Crawling King Snake," Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom," and Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning," backed by a garage blues combo led by her sons, Donito and Sametto James. James' versions bring new dimensions to each of these hoary old chestnuts, which have generally been sung by men, and her smoke-tinged alto makes each her own, instilling them all with a wise, desperate, and confident intimacy. She gives Jimmy Reed's "Hush Hush" a solid reading, while her take on Willie Dixon's "Lil' Red Rooster" is a tension-filled, atmospheric gem. The most striking track here, however, is James' version of the Elmore James tune "The Sky Is Crying," which emerges as epic and poignant. Much of contemporary blues spins on its own excesses and on a hundred years of accumulative clichés, but when an artist like Etta James comes home to sing the blues, the world has to rejoice and take notice, because in her hands the old clichéd phrases become vital and new again.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/8/2004
  • Label: Rca Victor
  • UPC: 828766064421
  • Catalog Number: 60644

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Etta James Primary Artist, Vocals
Josh Sklair Dobro, Guitar
Steve Davis Background Vocals
Mike Finnegan Piano
Bobby Murray Guitar
Brian Ray Slide Guitar
John "Juke" Logan Harmonica
Donto Metto James Percussion, Drums
Sametto James Bass
Yoshann Rush Background Vocals
Technical Credits
Willie Dixon Composer
John Lee Hooker Composer
Etta James Producer
J.B. Lenoir Composer
Jimmy Reed Composer
Roosevelt Sykes Composer
Josh Sklair Producer
Bernard Besman Composer
Howlin' Wolf Composer
Elmore James Composer
Robert Johnson Composer
Clarence Lewis Composer
Morgan Robinson Composer
Jimmy Rogers Composer
Donto Metto James Producer, Engineer
Lupe DeLeon Executive Producer
Sametto James Producer
Rebecca Meck Art Direction
Artis Mills Executive Producer
Judy Werle Contributor
Preston Foster Composer
Hank Williams Mastering
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    If you could own only ONE Etta James CD...

    ...you could do much worse than to make it this one.

    Like very few singers I can recall, Etta James just kept getting better at her craft. After learning of her death on January 20, 2012, I beefed up my Etta James music library by adding "Blues to the Bone", "Life, Love & the Blues", "The Dreamer", "Her Best", "Tell Mama" and "At Last!".

    She's ALWAYS been good, that much is certain. But, "Blues to the Bone" 2004, "Life Love & the Blues" 1998 and "The Dreamer" 2011 are, to my ears and soul, really special. Her voice is deeper, richer and you'll listen in awe at this consummate pro at the top of her game.

    But like I say, if you could just have ONE, "Blues to the Bone" is actually alive and breathing. Thank God you don't have to choose just one! Long live the Queen!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    ETTA JUST KEEPS GETTIN' BETTA'

    The legendary Etta James has said that she was inspired to record this album after seeing the PBS TV series "The Blues" produced by Martin Scorcese. Referring to the series James said, "What I found was so full of what life is about: being born and dying; joy and sorrow; salvation and sin......As I started reaching deeper I realized that most of the blues of that day was done by men. Women just didn't have the nerve. So I thought it was about time to show them what these songs might sound like coming from a whole different point of view." Surely can't comment on the differences between points of view but I can say this is one terrific album - a must-have for blues aficionados. "Honey Don't Tear My Clothes" is unbelievable, as is "Don't Start Me Talking." Featured on the album are James's sons Donto James and Sametto James; guitarists Josh Sklair and Bobby Murray plus harmonica player John "Juke" Logan. Liner notes are by Martin Scorcese. This one's a keeper! - Gail Cooke

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