Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Southern soul

I've had a moan before about the lack of exposure and appreciation for southern soul singers here in the UK. I'm sure the same is true in most of the US, but in New Orleans last weekend at the UNO Lakefront Arena there was a show that we can only dream about, featuring Bobby 'Blue' Bland (pictured), Marvin Sease, Mel Waiters, Willie Clayton, Latimore and a new name to me, and apparently the new breed of southern soul men, Sir Charles Jones.
Here's a story from
Opportunities to electric slide and slow grind will be plentiful on Saturday night at Blues Festival 2010, with smooth-talking old-school R&B singers Marvin Sease, Mel Waiters, Willie Clayton, Latimore and next-generation inheritor Sir Charles Jones lined up to sweet-talk the crowd at the UNO Lakefront Arena.
Sir Charles Jones, whose list of influences on his MySpace page includes fellow festival performers Mel Waiters and Marvin Sease, represents the next generation of American blues and R&B singers.
The polished, debonair big-band blues vocalist Bobby "Blue" Bland headlines the gig that promoter Rufus Johnson says is far more than a nod to nostalgia.
"I've been producing blues shows for 49 years, " said Johnson, who has worked with acts from Frankie Beverly & Maze and Tyrone Davis to Lil Wayne. "Bobby Bland and Latimore are considered legends of the blues. Right now, Sir Charles Jones is the king of Southern soul. And in Baton Rouge and Mobile, Willie Clayton is like Luther Vandross. If B.B. King played the same night in Baton Rouge, he'd outdraw B.B. King."
Three generations of soul men on one stage will surely be an enjoyable object lesson in the evolution of R&B.
Bland cut his share of wild sides early in his career, but by the late '50s, he was applying his butter-smooth crooner's voice to pop-influenced R&B, with plenty of horns and bass. For artists, such as Waiters, Clayton and Sease -- all just about a generation younger -- his sophisticated style was clearly influential.
Sease, Waiters and Clayton began performing in the '70s, but didn't genuinely emerge until a decade or so later. The three worked with Malaco, the well-known Mississippi label that partnered, for a time, with New Orleans arranger Wardell Quezergue. And most are still actively recording. Clayton's latest album, this year's "Love, Romance & Respect, " sent a single, "We Both Grown, " to the Billboard R&B 100. Waiters' latest album, "I Ain't Gone Do It, " came out this spring.
Sir Charles Jones, a former Sease backup singer in his 20s, put out an album last year of vintage Southern soul covers by the likes of Sam Cooke, Bill Withers and Brook Benton.
Saturday's festival represents a continuity between musical generations, right up into present day, Johnson says. And one doesn't need to look that much further on up the road to see the influence of seductive old-school soul.
The former gospel singer Sease, in particular, made a name for himself with graphic lyrics focused on paying attention to the ladies, with hits including the 10-minute "Candy Licker, " the title of which has become his nickname.
A recent spate of hits from artists young enough to be Sease's sons seem to be taking a page from his ribald book. Female fans cheered the 26-year-old Trey Songz as he doffed his shirt and promised ecstasy to all takers at the Essence Festival in July. While Songz's lyrics are less graphic, the point was the same: Pleasing women, in song, is back in vogue.
Johnson says he does expect the Blues Festival to attract the "30-and-over" crowd, but that doesn't mean it will be a sedate evening. At a recent show, it sounds as if disaster was narrowly averted when the 64-year-old Sease turned on a bit too much charm.
"Sometimes ladies come to the show, and their husbands tag along, " Johnson explained, seeming to choose his words carefully. "In Mobile, a guy got... upset because Marvin was singing to his wife, and it was kind of a problem." Johnson hastened to add that Sease, a veteran with a formidable discography, is capable of performing without raising the ire of husbands.
"Marvin's got enough hits that he can satisfy the crowd and not even get into the X-rated stuff, " Johnson said.
A hot summer Saturday night in New Orleans with Marvin Sease, rated PG-13?
Not likely.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home