Matriarch of the Blues

Matriarch of the Blues

by Etta James
     
 
For the past decade soul growler and stage prowler Etta James has settled into a smoother, more sedate role, saluting Billie Holiday on Mystery Lady and interpreting standards for Time After Time. But Etta can still rock nearly as boldly as she did in the '60s, as she proves on Matriarch

Overview

For the past decade soul growler and stage prowler Etta James has settled into a smoother, more sedate role, saluting Billie Holiday on Mystery Lady and interpreting standards for Time After Time. But Etta can still rock nearly as boldly as she did in the '60s, as she proves on Matriarch of the Blues. Produced by her two sons, drummer Donto and bassist Sametto, the set opens with James letting loose with a rowdy "Gotta Serve Somebody." Supported by horns, two guitars, and Mike Finnigan's saucy B3 organ, James puts her in-your-face attitude behind each phrase, mirroring the bitter truth in Dylan's lyrics. "Don't Let My Baby Ride," the Stones' "Miss You," Elvis's "Hound Dog," and John Fogerty's "Born on the Bayou" all have a swamp-funk feel, perhaps because Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli joins the six-string lineup of Bobby Murray and Josh Sklair. James takes to the funk like a hunting dog after a fresh scent, growling, shouting and at times even dropping into the teenage sounds on early recordings like "Good Rockin' Tonight." Soul revivals of Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" and Al Green's "Rhymes" are not as energized, but the three ballads in the set regain a luster, especially "Let's Straighten It Out," which opens with Etta talking about the relationship between men and women. And her version of the Ray Charles classic "Come Back Baby" is divine, for here James goes all the way back to church. Matriarch of the Blues is for those Etta James fans who have followed her from the '50s. The set touches on all aspects of the singer's career, each one polished up for today's sound.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Matthew Robinson
Having long ago established herself among the royalty of modern blues, Queen Etta seems rather content to sit back on her throne and her laurels and coast through a collection of classic and contemporary compositions. Unfortunately, her descendant band appears equally happy to sit back with her instead of working to shoot up the standards with another round of youthful vitality. The album opens with a rendition of Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody" which serves more as a sleepy suggestion than a blues-injected imperative. While Al Green's "Rhymes" sounds very much like the Reverend, Etta's version of "Try a Little Tenderness" does phrase the slow dance in some subtly new directions. The real difference shows up about midway through when the Matriarch takes on the Glitter Twins with a raunchy slink through "Miss You" whose draggier pace and intermittent woofs gives the song that much more sex appeal. Otis Redding's "Hawg for Ya" slops with similar raunch. Ms. James does change things up with an educated and edifying stripped "Let's Straighten It Out" which builds musically as Etta lays down lessons of love and the woman's heart. Another exciting change is the funkification of John Fogerty's "Born on the Bayou" which strains the Clearwater through JB's "Hot Pants." After a gentle shout and sway through Brother Ray Charles' "Come Back Baby," the Queen retakes her throne while taking back her royal pet "Hound Dog" from the King with a swampy rendition of the Lieber and Stoller classic that appears to be more born on the bayou than that track.

Product Details

Release Date:
12/12/2000
Label:
Sony Bmg Europe
UPC:
0010058220527
catalogNumber:
582205

Related Subjects

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Etta James   Primary Artist,Vocals,Background Vocals
Mike Finnigan   Hammond Organ
Josh Sklair   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar,Keyboards,Slide Guitar
Bobby Murray   Solo Instrumental,Guitar
Leo Nocentelli   Solo Instrumental,Guitar
Tom Poole   Trumpet
Jimmy "Z" Zavala   Harmonica,Baritone Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Donto Metto James   Percussion,Drums
Sametto James   Bass

Technical Credits

Etta James   Liner Notes
Josh Sklair   rhythm arrangement
Lightnin' Hopkins   Composer
Benny Latimore   Composer
Donto Metto James   Producer,Engineer
Lupe DeLeon   Executive Producer
Sametto James   Producer,Engineer
Jones   Composer

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