Personnel: 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).
Liner Note Author: Lithoyfayne Pridgon.
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.
Mojo (Publisher) (p.110) - 3 stars out of 5 - "[A]s this new album cogently illustrates, the LA-born chanteuse continues to record with an energetic vigour..."
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.
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