Saturday, August 18, 2012

Irma Thomas Sings San Penn and Her Heart Is In Memphis

Here is another older review of another Irma Thomas CD from the September/October 2000 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 247) and likely appeared in the DC Blues Calendar at the time. I likely received a review copy from Rounder.

Irma Thomas, the great singer from New Orleans has a fabulous new Rounder cd in the stores now, My Heart’s In Memphis; The Songs of Dan Penn. Thomas has been such a terrific singer since she recorded such R&B classics as Ruler of My Heart, I Done Got Over It and the original Time Is On My Side. In the seventies she did some sessions in Muscle Shoals, and included a couple songs by Dan Penn. Penn contributed three songs to Irma’s 1997 album, The Story of My Life.

Dan Penn is among the great songwriters, having had a part in such classics as Aretha’s Do Right Woman, the Box Tops’ Cry Like a Baby and James Carr’s great deep soul classic, Dark End of the Street. With collaborators including Spooner Oldham, Carson Whitsett, Marvell Thomas and Irma herself, Penn has provided some wonderful new tunes and he and co-producer Scott Billington has brought together a sterling studio band with Michael Toles guitar, the keyboards of Oldham, Whitsett, and Thomas, along with saxophonist Jim Spake.

Anyone who loves the classic Memphis Sound will groove to the playing here and when Irma sings about traveling all over the world, but her heart being in memphis on the title track, one almost believes she lived in Memphis all her life. There’s a wonderful reworking of the Bobby and James Purify hit, I’m Your Puppet, along with Zero Willpower, which Irma recorded in Muscle Shoals in the late sixties. There are blue laments of love gone wrong and mistreating men, Blue in the Heart and Woman Left Lonely, as well as songs with a more assertive tone, If You Want It, Come and Get It. All these songs display Irma’s greatest strength as a singer, which is her sincerity and believability.

My Heart’s In Memphis is possibly the best classic soul album since the late Johnny Adams’ last album, Man of My Word, another Scott Billington production.

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