Etta JAMES – Blues To The Bone 2004

Etta JAMES – Blues To The Bone 2004

Blues

Duke Ellington spoke of certain things being “beyond category”–such a description suits singer Etta James. Since the 1950s, James has helped to set trends and adapted to them, applying her deep, dignified voice to jazz, blues, Southern soul, and pop balladry. BLUES TO THE BONE is James’s tribute to the blues, and it takes on well-worn genre standards and gives them a veritable new lease on life. James alternates between acoustic and electric renditions–“Lil’ Red Rooster” becomes a country-tinged lamentation, and “Smokestack Lightnin'” gets a rare bare-bones treatment, just voice and acoustic guitar. “Got My Mojo Working” is a chugging, loping hunk of bravado, and “The Sky Is Crying” sounds like a storm about to break, James’ voice the virtual definition of “soulful.” Throughout, James sings the blues as one who has lived them, and her accompanists are a lean, mean, well-oiled machine, playing nary an excess note.
**
Californian Etta James decided against accepting filmmaker Martin Scorcese’s personal invitation to sing at The Blues gala in New York in early 2003. The well-celebrated soul and blues queen makes amends here with what is one of the most blues-centered recordings in her expansive discography, bringing her big, no-nonsense voice and her feisty, proud woman’s point of view to bear on classics, many identified with Chicago. The likes of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’,” Jimmy Reed’s “Hush Hush,” and Muddy Waters’s “Got My Mojo Working” may be hackneyed choices, but she seizes each of a dozen as her own, and clearly, as she says herself, these are the blues songs that touch her the deepest. No argument here.
By Frank-John Hadley.
**
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!
By Gail Cooke.
**
Etta has recorded a lot this past decade. She has released more new albums than anyone I can think of. And this woman is in her sixties! Some people moan about her more recent work because she doesn’t have that growl that she used to have (that’s why I refer to this as part of her “recent” work–there are two major styles of Etta). Anyway, Etta has done some great things this past decade. Never a weak track, but some are always better than others. But not the aptly titled “Blues To The Bone”.
This album is 100% KILLER material.
Really, this is one of the best modern blues albums I have heard. She may not growl, but she does soar. Listen to her sing “The Sky Is Cryin'” on this album. She even howls on “Smokestack Lightin'”–the Wolf is smiling in his grave. She still has it, and she can do it better than anyone today.
Now all of the credit does not go to her, of course. She does have a terrific band here. Her sons are still mainstays, and they are very well produced.
This is traditional blues at its best. She could release 10 of these albums every year, and I wouldn’t get bored or less interested for a second.
KEEP IT UP ETTA! We need you more than you know.
By C. Heinrich.
**
Etta James- (Vocals);
Brian Ray- (Guitar, Slide Guitar);
Josh Sklair, Bobby Murray- (Guitar);
John “Juke” Logan- (Harmonica);
Mike Finnegan- (Piano);
Sametto James- (Bass Guitar);
Donto Metto James- (Drums).
**
01. Got My Mojo Working 3:36
02. Don’t Start Me To Talking 2:50
03. Hush Hush 3:34
04. Lil’ Red Rooster 3:54
05. That’s Alright 3:43
06. Crawlin’ King Snake 5:30
07. Dust My Broom 3:35
08. The Sky Is Crying 4:00
09. Smokestack Lightin’ 6:49
10. You Shook Me 3:51
11. Driving Wheel 2:58
12. Honey, Don’t Tear My Clothes 3:33
**


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